Companies who want to uncover the return on investment (ROI) of a newly launched training program shouldn’t have to wait six months or a year before the business impact can be determined. There’s another, more immediate, training metric available: the course assessment.

Course assessments are built into the training course and are used by facilitators to ensure knowledge transfer. Thoroughly developed assessments can provide proof that a learner has acquired the necessary knowledge and understands how to apply it to their job. Let’s take a look at how course assessments can help prove training’s ROI.

What are Course Assessments?

An assessment evaluates the capabilities of a learner after instruction has occurred and strives to measure more than recall or rote memorization. Learning leaders can use methodologies like task scenarios, role-playing, observation, short answers and multiple-choice questions in the classroom to determine if learning objectives have been fulfilled or if knowledge gaps still remain.

In this way, assessments can predict what behavior changes learners should have. With course assessments, learning leaders should avoid using trick questions since they often fail to provide helpful data on learner retention. According to research, a poorly formatted test question can disrupt learner recall and thus reinforce memories of inaccurate answers. On the other hand, assessments should never be an easy check-in-the-box question. In this case, the assessment only functions as proof of participation.

Case Study: Assessments Link to Learning Outcomes

Consider this example:

A fictional, medium-sized organization is undergoing a period of high growth. New hires in the sales department report having a lack of support from their recently promoted managers. A needs analysis uncovers significant skills gaps in the management teams’ coaching abilities. Addressing this skill gap can benefit the organization by reducing employee turnover, increasing sales due to effective coaching and feedback and decreasing the length of time from identifying a sales lead to closing it.

To fill this gap, C-suite tasks the training department with upskilling management’s coaching abilities using eLearning and a learning management system (LMS). Throughout the course, the training department deploys a course assessment to evaluate training’s effectiveness.

Consider the actions sales managers will need to demonstrate to prove they can effectively coach employees.

A manager’s ability to recall definitions taught in the course will not demonstrate the needed behavior change, and neither will their ability to list three reasons why coaching is important. Instead, course assessments must uncover if the training addressed the specific problem identified during the needs analysis.

Since the problem is a lack of coaching skills from new managers, the assessments for this course might ask learners to:

  • Match coaching strategies to written scenarios.
  • Write a coaching plan for a fictional employee.
  • Identify when coaching interventions are needed.
  • Role-play a conversation with an undermotivated employee.

These questions and scenarios should always relate back to the job, allowing the learner to envision themselves in the situation or completing the task. This enables real-world practice in the safety of a training environment.

Early ROI Indicators

If a learner passes the assessment, then it’s reasonable to determine that they’ve acquired the necessary knowledge and can apply it on the job. In this way, learners’ assessment scores can be the first to demonstrate the future impact of the business.

Early indicators of a training program’s success, in the form of assessment scores, can provide C-suite with immediate feedback to allow them to extrapolate future gains. Rather than waiting for a fully developed ROI study covering six months or a year of the program’s impact, the data generated by course assessments can give learning leaders a head start.


ROI is considered one of the strongest methods to prove training’s impact to an organization, and the level all training managers strive to prove. However, a downside to ROI is the time needed to gather the data. When business needs trigger the creation of a training program, time is of the essence. Well-developed course assessments can provide early feedback to training managers and C-suite alike.