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Evaluation – Any Time, Any Place, Any Where

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Michael Brannick, president of Thomson Prometric, explores how the latest online assessments can help companies hone training strategy and employee development.


Assessment of learning is a regular occurrence in the education world where results of exams such as GCSEs are used to determine the effectiveness of a school’s syllabus, the efficiency of the teachers in successfully transferring skills and knowledge, and the school’s subsequent position in league tables.

It therefore amazes me that this same approach is not commonplace in the corporate world. There are still some organisations that fail to assess employees’ knowledge following learning in order to measure the impact of company learning programmes.

The Case for Evaluation

Continuous testing is critical in assessing how well an organisation’s learning programme is working and to ensure knowledge retention. No organisation would dream of sending a product to market without testing its efficacy and suitability for its audience. In the same way, testing provides the opportunity to evaluate, evolve and fine-tune training to ensure it continually meets business and individual needs.

One of the main reasons that training and HR professionals have a difficult time proving the value of a corporate training programme is that testing and assessment are not fully integrated into the programme.

When you are able to effectively assess, manage and evaluate your organisation’s learning system, you can spend your training investment knowing, not hoping or guessing, that you are getting something in return. Good assessment results can demonstrate that your learning programme is a critical tool in helping your organisation meet its business goals, and therefore enabling you to secure further funding for training and development.

Assessment is often mistakenly viewed as costly and time consuming to implement. However, the cost in both time and money, and possibly your reputation within your company, of not assessing the impact of training on the business can work out far greater than the initial outlay if your training programme turns out to be ineffective.

If you want employees to walk away from a training programme with actual job skills that can translate into benefits for the employee and the organisation, not just a certificate and the satisfaction of a day out of the office, you need to provide proof of its effectiveness.

Morale

Assessment sheds light on where each individual’s strength and weaknesses lie, and therefore outlines areas for improvement, which can be used as part of the appraisal process.

Every person needs to know what is expected of him or her and what abilities are needed to be successful on the job and employees must know that they will be held accountable to these expectations. Assessment can therefore be considered as an instrument that is used to get learners thinking about how they personally can help the business and it also helps outline your expectations of your organisation’s employees.

Staff can then return to their jobs with added skills, increased morale and the knowledge that their employers value them enough to invest in their development.

Online Assessment

In the same way that e-learning offers increased accessibility and flexibility, e-assessment opens up testing to anyone regardless of location or time of day, as long as access to a PC is available.

Imagine your organisation has implemented a new IT system and you need to get every employee up-to-speed with the new applications within six months, and prove that skills have been learnt. Online assessment would allow you to simultaneously test all your employees across all locations nationwide or even worldwide in different languages.

Or imagine you work in the finance sector and have to show proof that your employees have carried out critical training to meet the requirements of the Financial Services Authority (FSA). An online test would enable you to quickly and easily provide evidence to FSA auditors that your staff have undertaken training and that critical competencies have been met.

E-assessment also facilitates instant feedback on learner progress. This means your staff can review their performance as they learn, identifying strengths and weaknesses and enabling them to work on any areas of weakness straight away. Formative assessment then becomes part of the educational experience. And as the training administrator, you can review the online tests to see where there may be faults in your training programme so you can address any shortcomings sooner rather than later.

Wider Use

Formal testing can be used as part of the recruitment process. Ensure your interviewees have the skills they say they have by running online tests during interviews. Testing can even be carried out remotely if you are recruiting from overseas. Assessment can also be carried out before promoting employees or changing their job roles providing a logical, consistent and fair way to determine where to deploy resources that provide a return.

It’s not just online assessments of internal learning programmes that look set to increase in popularity. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority recently announced that it requires all awarding bodies to offer the option of onscreen assessment by 2009. This means online external exams will soon be commonplace.

Online examinations can also be arranged around work commitments. This means that your staff can sit an exam at a time convenient to them. There is also no paperwork required and very little manpower which cuts bureaucracy and costs – a benefit that can also be applied to online assessment of corporate learning programmes.

Testing solutions available on the market today also offer multiple levels of security for both the examination data and the candidate. For example, there is often the option to use digital photos or fingerprints to authenticate candidates.

Learning Strategy

Your corporate learning programme must evolve to keep pace with your corporate strategy. A solid learning assessment design is therefore fundamental to ensure your learning programme is continually in line with your organisation’s business objectives and core values.

It also helps you to prove return on investment. The more effectively you can measure and prove knowledge, the more likely you can turn learning into a tangible corporate benefit. This ensures business advancement and allows for preparation for future success. If you fail to assess your learning programme to ensure it produces business results, the only thing you are guaranteeing is a lower return on investment of your human capital.

* Michael Brannick holds a master’s degree in industrial psychology from California State . He can be contacted at [email protected].

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