If you're like most learning professionals, you've relied on course completions as the primary indicator of success. This has been good enough. Good enough for your company, good enough for our learning industry. SPOILER ALERT: COMPLETION REPORTS AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH ANYMORE.
For the past few decades, we've made our courses, and after they're launched, we run completion reports to see which workers have finished it. Our focus has been compliance, in other words, we’ve asked, ”Has everyone completed the required training?” It's an essential question to ask and something that must be documented to stay compliant with certain regulations. If this isn’t tracked correctly, your company may face severe penalties.
But as learning professionals, we know that course completions are just one very small aspect of learning that we could be focusing on. It’s like saying that AA batteries can only be used to power flashlights – nothing else. No entertainment players, no remote controls, no handheld personal devices – just flashlights. Likewise, if we say that the only thing we track in learning is course completions, then we are missing out on a lot of other possibilities.
Beyond Checking the Box
Until very recently, there were no other possibilities. Our Learning Management Systems (LMS) typically only gave us limited data, such as completions, and made digging in any further into the data difficult, time-consuming, or sometimes just impossible. Most LMS platforms offer some downloadable data reports but don’t provide dynamic online dashboard analytics that present the data in a way that’s readily actionable. Having real-time data would create the possibility for a new learning paradigm – one that substantially changes the value of learning and its impact to business outcomes.
So What's Changed?
In short, technology has changed. The explosive growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics in the past couple of years have been changing the learning landscape. Powerful new tools and systems now exist that fundamentally change what learning is and how it will impact business outcomes. These tools are ushering in a new paradigm in which:
- The cost of implementing training can be reduced by 50% or more, saving hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars per year
- The learning experience ADAPTS to learners in real-time, providing the right level of learning on the right topics at the right time
- Actionable analytics of learners' real-time performance help managers support their team as well as guide their strategic planning
When learning incorporates real-time data analytics, it adapts to the needs of each learner. The simplest form of this is Adaptive 1.0, which has been around for a few decades. It uses a branching scenario or a pretest to determine an outcome based on the learners’ responses.
- Branching Scenarios: Learners make choices within a prebuilt scenario that lead them to a predetermined outcome
- Pretest: If learners pass a pretest, they can skip certain learning modules
Learners can go on different learning journeys based on their individual performance in a course. This design increases engagement because learners have more choice. It also reduces the cost of training because learners can test out of content they already know, and not spend work time taking it.
In Adaptive 2.0, learner data is analyzed by simple algorithms to further refine the experience. Different learning paths or learning objects are provided to learners based on these algorithms to adjust difficulty or deliver specific content. Where these choice points are and what the options are limited in scope, based on the simple nature of the algorithms.
Adaptive 3.0 Learning
In the past couple of years, this design has evolved into Adaptive 3.0, which leverages AI. AI uses machine learning to dynamically adjust a course to match the workers’ performance using advanced algorithms. An Adaptive 3.0 learning design benefits the learner, business, and designer.
- Workers stay within the optimal flow of learning by dynamically receiving questions that are at the appropriate level of difficulty, based on their previous responses.
- Workers take as much time as needed to master the content. Completion is based on proficiency, not time spent in the course.
- Significantly reduce training costs by having learning that is performance-based. Workers only take the learning they have demonstrated they need- instead of taking everything.
- Beyond course completions, companies can identify workers that show high proficiency and those that struggle with the concept. This provides an opportunity for targeted interventions specifically for workers who are struggling.
- Online dashboards provide actionable analytics in real-time to frontline leaders so they can actively provide the right support to the right worker at the right time.
- Learning designers can use real-time analytics to identify which questions are problematic and then adjust them to increase validity and reliability.
Is Your Learning Design Safer or Better?
A safe, traditional learning design is one-size-fits-all, where everyone takes the same training and completions are reported. It is something that is familiar to everyone: learning designers, program owners, executives, and learners. The problem is that this “safe” approach is actually not that safe. Although it has worked well enough in the past, companies that stay with this approach will find themselves outperformed by companies that train their workers better.
Companies that use Adaptive 3.0 learning designs are doing it better. They are slashing their training costs, increasing learner engagement, and leveraging real-time learning analytics to guide and support additional learning interventions. This targeted approach delivers answers to more questions beyond “Has everyone completed the required training?” For example, with Adaptive 3.0 we can now ask:
- Who needs additional support and on what topic(s)?
- What content areas are workers proficient?
- Which workers are high potential – that show high accuracy and fluency in mastery of the content?
- Is there any content that is problematic – that shows low reliability or validity?
Switching to a Better Learning Design
If you are ready to move beyond course completions into something better, then it’s time to explore more and start a conversation. Read other blogs in the series. Then reach out to our team to explore this new landscape so you can stay ahead of your competition.
Article by Johnny Hamilton
Johnny Hamilton recently led project teams that resulted in being ranked #7 in the US for learning design in innovation by eLearning Magazine (2019) as well as winning Brandon Hall silver awards for Best Approach to Innovation (2018) and Best Advance in Leadership Simulation Tools (2017).