Assessments have undergone the ultimate makeover. At one time, the dreaded final assessment marked the end of a course for the learner and, usually, the end of planning for the trainer or instructor. Technology and e-learning have changed that, elevating assessments as a powerful tool for modern learners.

Today’s assessments can increase engagement and change behavior. They measure the knowledge and skills mastered, and, at the same time, training leaders can use the data they gather to precisely identify areas of strength and weakness within a learning program. This data helps them direct personalized learning paths — an underused tool in most fields. Perhaps the most benefit is realized in non-traditional or specialty industries that previously could not deliver interrelated assessments, offer custom certifications or easily modify their learning programs.

3 Unique Use Cases

For example, can e-learning and online assessments help train judges and exhibitors without their even being near a horse? Yes! American Paint Horse Association (APHA) leaders recognized that they could more efficiently educate exhibitors, judges and show managers using cloud-based technology. To that end, they created an online learning solution called Horse IQ. A series of courses with engaging videos, simulations and assessments demonstrates the characteristics of each discipline better than the static pictures and text found in a traditional rulebook, resulting in greater retention of information. Horse IQ enables learners to hear actual instruction from a panel of professional judges and then view simulations containing video from real competitions. This approach puts learners into the ring with the judges and compares their assessments of the show horse simulations against the judges’ actual scores.

A second example is the online assessment from the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA). Widely used throughout Catholic dioceses by teachers and parish catechists, NCEA offers the Information for Growth (IFG) program to measure the effectiveness of youth and adult religious education programs. Adults (teachers, catechists and self-driven learners) use the assessment tool to identify ongoing formation needs and receive recommended courses in a dynamic individual learning pathway. The assessment enables parishes and dioceses to widely measure knowledge and autogenerate reports on progress. Using these reports, leaders can make changes to improve the continuity and quality of their formation programs and more successfully deliver them to future generations.

A final example of specialized assessment use is OnToCollege’s ACT, SAT and PSAT preparation for individuals and schools. When students take a prep course for the assessments, it’s critical that the course simulates their chosen test environment (in person or online). An accurate simulation puts students at ease through repetition and familiarity, reducing test anxiety in a high-stress environment.

The evolution of learning management systems (LMSs) into robust training platforms with built-in authoring and easy customization makes it possible for organizations to maximize their assessments. One area of increased potential is the development of talent through personal learning paths. Through pre-assessments, frequent measurement and customized learning, users can share responsibility for their learning journey. The training organization sets learner-specific goals and offers data-driven recommendations to help them achieve those goals. Real-time analytics provide administrators access to each learner’s progress and allows for timely adjustments as needed.

Delivering Online Assessments

What can organizations do to deliver e-learning assessments and best take advantage of the benefits? It starts with the technology. Mobile platforms offer opportunities for a variety of immersive, interactive, gamified learning and generate important data. Because the existence of a variety of learning preferences necessitates a variety of assessment techniques, look for a platform that has the capabilities and tools you need to deliver functional assessments:

  • Will you be able to create a variety of assessments in different formats as appropriate (e.g., game- or simulation-based assessments)?
  • Can you develop and manage large banks of assessment questions?
  • Is there a built-in tool to conduct quick or in-depth assessments, polls or surveys?
  • Do you have the ability to set a time limit on the assessment?
  • Can you scramble answers at the question level to maintain reliability?
  • Will you receive item analysis for each assessment question over time to help your instructional designers analyze question effectiveness?
  • How easy is it to update and change the content of your assessments?

Next, develop a plan to include assessments throughout the entire the learning process. Place them at the beginning and end of your training as well as at checkpoints during it. In fact, start using assessments before hiring as a recruiting tool. Using real-world scenarios from your organization, you can assess candidates on simulated tasks and situations. This approach can identify top talent and assist in evaluating potential employees’ abilities.

Onboarding is also a great time to use innovative and engaging assessments. Do your learners understand the essential introductory information you need them to know? Can they demonstrate how to use it? And do you have proof that they’ve achieved mastery? This knowledge is powerful!

So, true or false: Technology has transformed the way learning is delivered, consumed and assessed.

True! Online assessments improve learner engagement; provide increased tracking and reporting, improve learning and performance; and, ultimately, deliver a more effective way to develop your team, your customers and your business.