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The Way I See It… Technology for the Fourth Level


news_arialmandesk.jpgJohn Gough, of Diabolo Journeys, looks at how the latest evaluation technology is impacting on training assessment.

Is it really goodbye to the happy sheet? Probably not, for many companies it is still the only way training is evaluated. However all that may be changing as technologies begin to emerge that can connect what is happening in the training environment back to the business.

It is standard practice, where possible, to make training material available to delegates via email or shared drives, but now the interactive element can also be captured using web-based mind mapping and group mapping software. The delegates facilitated by their trainer can contribute to a mind map, which is either displayed as a giant poster or on an interactive whiteboard. As the course progresses the team discuss their learning, and the details of their interaction are captured and transferred to a duplicate map, which can be made available to course delegates on a dedicated training working space on the web and linked to their company intranet. Course content is important, but it’s often this interaction between delegates and with their trainer that makes the real learning difference.

Delegates can then access this rich map of interaction back in the workplace and via web collaboration software, can continue to contribute ideas, create discussion threads, and converse with the trainer and other subject experts. As a result the training is sustained, and the training experience continues to live on long after the training event is over.

Sustaining training in this way, perhaps by also adding online personal learning mind maps and an online journal, can provide the delegate with the tools to help them reflect on their experience and plan and act on transferring their new skills into new behaviour, so already we are into Kirkpatrick level 3 territory.

Donald Kirkpatrick defined his four level model for evaluating training back in 1959, but it is still a widely used approach:

* Level 1 - Reaction: Did the delegates like the training, was it valuable?
* Level 2 – Learning: Did the delegates advance their skills and knowledge? Is the learning sustained?
* Level 3 – Behaviour: Is the new knowledge and skill being put into use back in the work environment?
* Level 4 – Results: What is the effect on the business, e.g. increased sales, fewer complaints, increased productivity etc?

If the output from the mapping and post course collaboration is captured in a training database, then we have evidence to gauge the effect of the training from level 1 to level 3.

How then do we collect real evidence from the workplace about how the training is making a difference? How do we get to level 4?

Push and pull
Again technology can help. Online assessments and surveys can automate the capture of information around what the trainee is now doing differently, and precisely what effect it is having on the business. As with any ROI calculation, it is often difficult to separate cause and effect, but often anecdotal evidence can be compelling. The real problem is connecting with the trainee and collecting the relevant information after the training.

Surveys can work, especially if web based, however surveys on the web are essentially a pull technology, relying on the trainee logging on and responding by answering questions weeks after the training event is over. This is not always practical, especially outside an office environment. So enter push technology, prompt the delegate’s mobile phone with simple questions in a text message and watch response rates soar. SMS text feedback is really simple to setup and the survey answers can be routed straight back to the collaborative web workspace and training database, minimising administration, and at least pushing evaluation to a Kilpatrick three and three quarters.

Getting back to the happy sheet, how much of the information captured is really used to develop better courses for the future? Once again it is capturing the information that is the bugbear, but help is at hand via technology with digital pen and paper. The digital pen captures hand written text, converts to data and communicates to a database where the data can be analysed immediately. No more tedious and expensive administration. So perhaps by using technology the happy sheet is not so dead after all!


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