4 Ways to Automate Knowledge Validation

One of the quickest ways to get started in e-learning is by automating labor-intensive administration and manual grading of quizzes and exams. And it also happens to be a super-easy way to deliver immediate return on investment (ROI) for an e-learning solution. In this article, we’ll take a look at four ways to use validation tools to check knowledge while saving your company time and money.

Why Validate?

First, let’s get a clear understanding of why you need to validate knowledge in the first place. You spend countless hours and dollars creating fantastic training programs, rolling them out to the field, updating them as processes change, and so on. But how do you know your training is effective if you don’t check knowledge? Without validation that the information delivered was received and understood, you could be throwing good money after bad.

So how can you validate knowledge? It’s all about using the right automated tools.

1) Exams

This is probably obvious, but one of the easiest ways to check knowledge is to ask learners to respond to questions that verify their understanding. Whether you call this a test, quiz, or exam, the intent is the same. The important thing is to make them easy to administer, grade, and track, and that means they must be online. Using a paper-based testing process creates a huge unnecessary burden on your training team, learners, and store managers. And moving this process online is where you can gain immediate ROI, as I’ll demonstrate later in this article.

When selecting an exam builder, make sure you have the flexibility to test in different ways. Simple true/false and multiple choice can become very repetitive and boring to your learners. Look for a tool that has a variety of question styles like:

  • Visual matching
  • Drag and drop matching
  • Sequencing
  • Fill-in-the-blank
  • True/False
  • Multiple choice
  • Multi-select

visual matching exam questionIf you have a lot of exams, another great feature to look for is a question bank. Question banks let you create questions once and use them in multiple exams. When you need to update a question, your changes are automatically propagated to all exams that include it – that’s a huge time savings when you’re dealing with hundreds of exams across your organization. Question banks can include multiple classification levels to make it easier to find and manage your exam questions. You can also randomly draw questions for your exams from a question bank to safeguard against learners sharing the answers with teammates.

question bankWhen constructing your exams, a best practice that is often overlooked is to include remediation. If the learner gets a question wrong, don’t miss the opportunity for another “teachable moment.” Use remediation to explain why their answer wasn’t correct and reiterate why the correct answer is the best choice. You can also use remediation to confirm their correct answer, reinforcing why it was the right choice, or just congratulating the learner on getting it right as motivation to continue on. This isn’t always possible if the exam is required to certify the learner and you need a true test of their knowledge without assistance. But whenever you have the opportunity to extend and reinforce the learning process, remediation is a great way to do that.

A robust exam builder will also include extra features like:

  • Set passing score percentage based on the number of questions in exam
  • Set the number of attempts allowed
  • Set wait time between attempts
  • Allow auto-grading based on the number of minutes the learner is inactive
  • Require manager signoff at the start of the exam, at the end or both

Last, don’t take your exams too seriously. Exams offer an opportunity to inject a little personality into your training program, so try to keep it light when writing your questions. One of our clients, Blake’s Lotaburger, did a great job of that as explained in this blog article.

2) Checklists

Probably one of the simplest ways to validate is to have an employee’s trainer or manager confirm that they learned what they need to know, or even better, confirm actual behavior. Checklists (or observation forms) are a great tool to use for this.  After a course or on-the-job training is completed, it’s a good idea to have the manager confirm that the learner is performing certain tasks correctly or is showing certain behavior.

checklistAlthough checklists can be paper-based, it’s even better if they’re online so you can integrate them with courses, exams, etc. as part of an overall learning program. When used this way, the learner can reference the checklist along the way to see what’s expected of them. Having completion of the checklist items as a goal will help them focus their attention on learning the proper skills. Online checklists also improve accountability, by providing a record confirming that the learner has completed their training.

Features to look for in an online checklist tool include:

  • Ability to add instruction text to the checklist to clarify the process
  • Allowing the employee and/or manager make comments, either to congratulate achievement or to note areas for further improvement
  • Ability to require manager sign-off on a checklist to ensure that the learner was observed performing all of the items on the checklist

3) Workbooks

Workbooks are a versatile observation tool used to direct learning activities that occur outside of the e-learning platform but are related to an overall training program. They’re essentially a group of multiple checklists used to lay out and track the entire training process in one document. But rather than using multiple checklists to track progress of individual aspects of a program, you can see the progress of the whole program at a glance in a single workbook. It’s like checklists on steroids.

Printed workbooks are often used for longer training initiatives, like Manager-in-Training (MIT) programs. But think about the advantages of bringing that into an online format. Not only is online workbook never lost, but managers can track progress of their trainees remotely, providing flexibility in administering the program.

Workbook screen shotFor development programs that can span many weeks or months, an online workbook helps learners navigate the online and offline components of a program seamlessly. They perfectly embody the concept of blended learning by requiring the learner to check off, and optionally comment on, offline training activities performed in conjunction with online courses, in-person training, and exams or quizzes.

Here are a few features to look for when selecting an online workbook tool:

  • Set up by competency to make progression through the program logical and organized
  • Provide overall instructions for the whole workbook, for an individual competency, or for a specific checklist item
  • Allow learner comments for each checklist item, supervisor comments for the competency, and overall supervisor signoff
  • Ability to make some items optional in a workbook and still allow signoff for completion. This allows you to require a learner to “complete any 3 of the 5 items” or use similar approaches providing more flexibility in program design.

4) Surveys

 Sometimes the best way to validate comprehension is to ask the learner if they got the training they needed to do their job. Surveys are a great way to accomplish that, and if they’re integrated into your learning management system, giving and getting feedback can become a regular part of the learning process. From one-question “Did this help?” surveys, to evaluations of in-person instructors, to GM polls about training effectiveness, to full employee engagement programs, surveys are a versatile tool in your training program toolkit.

surveySurveys can also be used as a pre-training assessment tool to find out where your learner’s skillset is before they start their training. You can also surveys as a checkpoint opportunity to assess knowledge retention across the organization. You can review aggregated survey data for specific locations or the organization as a whole to see if refresher training is needed or to determine if you need to make changes to existing training programs.

Similar to exams, it’s good to have some variety in the structure of your surveys, so look for a tool that offers a good choice of question styles, including:

  • Yes/No: An either/or-type question that you can customize to use any two words as options
  • Date: A calendar tool for single date or date range selection to easily capture when the subject of the survey took place
  • Multiple Choice: Choose one response
  • Multi-Select: Choose multiple responses/all that apply
  • Pick List: Choose from a list of stores in the LMS or manually enter a custom list
  • Rating: A Likert scale with customizable labels and an N/A option
  • Rank Order: Drag and drop ordering of items in a list with a choice of label types
  • Open-ended: An essay-type question, with a definable character limit
  • Instructions/Background: Use for opening instructions, for context about a group of questions, or for closing comments

Easy E-learning ROI

As you may have surmised, the ideal situation is to use a learning management system (LMS) that has all of these features built-in, like DiscoverLink Talent. Those who are new to e-learning may be concerned about justifying the cost of an LMS, and that’s where ROI comes into play. Many of our clients have gotten started with e-learning simply by putting their exams online. And believe it or not, the savings from that step alone can often pay for the LMS.

Let’s look at a simple example of a 50-unit chain that has an average of 75 hourly employees per location. If the average new employee must take 5 exams to be certified in their position, and the chain has 100% turnover, then each store must deploy, grade and track 375 exams every year. Now assume it takes a $12 per hour trainer or supervisor 10 minutes to administer and grade every test. That’s $2 of non-productive time that could otherwise be spent interacting with guests or coaching employees. By automating exam administration, grading and tracking, the business could save $750 per year, or $37,500 across all 50 units.

validation ROI

That doesn’t event take into consideration the cost of printing all that paper. And just think what additional savings could be realized by bringing checklists, workbooks and surveys online. Before you know it, you’ve paid for that LMS, and you’ve made the whole process a lot more efficient.

Bottom Line

When all is said and done, validation tools are critical to ensuring your learners are gaining the knowledge you expect. They provide an easy way to get started with e-learning and can often deliver significant ROI on your LMS purchase.

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