Why the Assessment?

So, you want to build an eLearning module with an assessment at the end. Great!


Before getting started, let’s take a few steps back and look at our users.

Is it required of our users to memorise certain information at the end of their learning to be able to do their job? Chances are, most of the information that you are delivering via the learning module and subsequent assessment can be found on the company intranet among policies and procedures.

So why the hang-up on creating an eLearning module with a bunch of questions to conclude and a required 80% pass mark?

We can trace this tradition back to the “Compliance Module” that came to prominence in the early 2000s and continues to thrive in the modern world.

The Compliance Module was invented to ensure that organisations and their employees were compliant with government regulations. This also ensured that if an organisation was hauled before the courts, the organisation could prove that its employees were “trained” in line with said regulations, and thus escape any legal ramifications.

The actual learning wasn’t considered when designing and building these modules because it was all about “ticking the compliance box” for the organisation. This is all very well, but why do compliance modules still exist and why are there still assessments at the end?

Is this information that could be easily found on the company intranet? How about teaching and assessing on where to find the information as opposed to the information itself?

Great question. This could come down to laziness more than anything. It’s also important to note the origin of the information you are provided with – it normally comes from legal, HR and compliance departments. They decide the information that the employees should know. They then hand over the information to the learning team, who are then tasked with creating a learning module that is “engaging and interactive”. This learning module will usually have some “drag and drop” exercises (sorry if you can’t use a mouse due to physical impairments) and some “click-to-reveal” activities. Click-to-reveals essentially force the learner to click things to reveal information, thus keeping them engaged as they move through the experience.

Finally, we need to test their knowledge at the conclusion, so this is where the assessment comes in. Usually, the questions are multiple-choice with a couple of “all of the above” answers thrown in to make it easier for our users to get the question right. There is often 80% pass mark, but here’s the twist. Most of the time, the user is stuck on the question until they get it right. So not only do they get unlimited attempts to answer the questions, they usually get to the end of the assessment with all the questions right, and thus achieve the 80% pass mark.

Here are some questions to consider.

  • What did the employee need have memorised at that point in time to do their job properly?
    • Is this information that could be easily found on the company intranet? How about teaching and assessing on where to find the information as opposed to the information itself?
  • Is this method of designing and building learning an effective and engaging way to empower our users?
  • Are we stuck in these ways because it’s easier and it ticks the ‘compliance’ box, which is the ultimate goal of these exercises?
  • Has anyone gone to the user and asked them, “how would you like to learn this?”

If we want to include some questions to keep users on thier toes, perhaps we could sprinkle questions throughout the learning experience to allow then to reflect on what they have just learnt. If they don’t succeed in answering the question correctly, we could nudge them back to the content to review, and then they can have another go. This helps to reinforce the learning as opposed to force the learning.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and how you may have been able to move on from the “assessment at the end” approach to designing learning as we find ourselves well and truly in the 21st century.

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