Evaluation is an important component of delivering any type of training, and online learning is no exception. Evaluation does not always have to involve a formal process, nor do you have to wait until the course is complete to begin to gather feedback. If your online course is just getting started, for example, you can use informal evaluation methods such as tracking unsolicited email or comments from participants. You could also ask content reviewers or advisors for their impressions of the training you are offering or planning to offer.
Another way to get a sense of the success of your online training is by its popularity. If you get a large number of people interested in taking your course, you have likely chosen to deliver training on a popular topic or in a way that appeals to your target audience. Of course, this initial response is not enough to evaluate the success of your training in and of itself. You will also need to monitor how many people actually complete the course and how they rate the training content before knowing if it is actually a success. If you offer your online training a second time, you might want to compare how popular it is compared to the first time you ran the course. Often, word of mouth can generate interest, especially if people found your training useful. For more information about evaluation, be sure to visit our Online Content module.
The GO research discovered that approximately 90% of organizations delivering online training were engaged in some type of evaluation.
Most of those organizations used a formal evaluation process. (Evaluation was considered formal if concrete data was gathered using some kind of intentional, deliberate and structured process.) The type of formal process used ranged from assessing student success rates to engaging an external evaluator. However, the most commonly used method was gathering feedback directly from participants. Participant feedback can be gathered in a number of ways including anonymous online surveys, telephone interviews or print-based surveys. Some software and learning platforms let you build surveys directly into a course which is a very convenient way of conducting an evaluation.
Along with discussing the results of their online training, a number of organizations noted the need for continuous improvement of online courses by improving the curriculum, technology and delivery methods. By using evaluation results and learner feedback, organizations can fine-tune and improve their online learning and continue to offer quality training. One suggested method of doing this is to pilot your course to a small group of people before offering it publicly. This is exactly what the GO Team did when delivering our online learning courses.
The GO research discovered that the majority of evaluation results were positive. This corresponds to research done around the world about online learning that reveals that it can and does deliver excellent results and that learning can be delivered effectively online.
It is also interesting to note that some of the GO Project research findings appear to be contradictory. For example, some evaluation results indicate that online learning is more interactive than face-to-face training while others report that it is less interactive. Some report that it is more in-depth while others say that it is less in-depth than face-to-face training. These types of apparently contradictory results indicate that results are often based on personal preference, experience, the capabilities and features of the online technology being used, and the skills of the facilitator. For example, participants who describe a lack of ability to see or hear participants may not have had the opportunity to experience online learning that incorporates synchronous audio or video capabilities. On the other hand, some people feel very comfortable interacting through writing and may even prefer this mode. If they are not natural talkers in a face-to-face setting, they may find that they have more opportunities to interact with others through writing and may find the discussion more in-depth.