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Why and how to measure engagement in your eLearning programs

In the boom of online learning, one of the top priorities for HR and L&D leaders is driving learner engagement. But, what exactly is engagement? And how can you measure it?

In this blog post, we'd like to shed some light on these questions. In addition, we will provide you with a list of metrics to consider in terms of student engagement beyond the typical ones (aka course completion rates).

Sound interesting? Continue reading.


What does "Learner Engagement" really mean?

Engagement refers to the "psychological investment" that students make in the learning process. This "investment" contemplates the dedication and will of each student in their desire to learn.

From the above, we understand that committed students do not learn only because they are forced to do so, but they do so because they enjoy the process and the results. This type of student value the learning experience because they understand how it will impact their skills at the job and their growth throughout their careers.

Now, why is it important to measure engagement? The answer is simple. An engaged learner means an employee is more likely to achieve the desired results, which translates into better job performance.

Also read: The Simple Science of Creating Engaging eLearning Courses

The challenges 

According to the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI), one of the biggest challenges L&D leaders are facing today is learner engagement. Despite this, the 2020 LinkedIn Workplace Report found that only 35% of L&D professionals are looking for new ways to increase learner engagement levels. Not only that, but many organizations don't even have systems in place to effectively measure learning activities effectively.

For L&D professionals who do measure student engagement, LinkedIn research found that 24% of them do not really take online usage data into consideration. This is a waste since remote work is gaining increasing prominence, causing online training to increase significantly. In general, in face-to-face training, commitment can be measured in some way through the participation of each individual in the classroom. But online is an entirely new dynamic with a new set of challenges... making it necessary to figure out other strategies - that includes having a solid measurement system in place!  

Also read: Are You Measuring The Impact of Your Online Training Programs? Start here

How to really measure engagement?

Measuring student engagement is equivalent to measuring an employee's participation and interaction with a given training offering (whether online or offline) in terms of quantity and quality. However, there is no SINGLE metric to measure student engagement. Rather, student engagement can be seen as a goal to be achieved. And there are several metrics that can help determine if you're on track to reach that goal.

According to LinkedIn’s latest report Workplace Learning, training and development leaders are currently assessing student engagement based on the following parameters and in the following order of priority:

  1. Completion of the course.
  2. Student satisfaction survey.
  3. Learning minutes invested per month.
  4. Repeated visits per month.

You'll surely want to measure completion rates and progress with your compliance eLearning courses. However, those alone will not give you a real assurance of student engagement. Your students must complete the courses, so they really have no choice. For this reason, this blog is focused on those courses that are NOT mandatory.

Engagement Metrics By Stage

It is not the same to measure the level of commitment of your employees before, during, or after a course. Different levels of commitment may appear at each of these stages. Therefore, it is important that you make a distinction between them and measure the corresponding parameters according to each phase. Here are some strategies you can implement to measure your employee engagement before, during, and after a learning experience:

1) Engagement PRIOR to the learning experience

Measuring pre-learning engagement will help you assess what will be most interesting to your learners.

Measure overall registration fees. This metric is a great option to learn more about your employee's motivation towards learning experiences. In addition, it works as an excellent indicator to see how well your learning programs are promoted and what internal marketing measures work best to market them internally.

To measure registration rates, you can start asking the following questions:

  • What percentage of your workforce enrolls in an eLearning course voluntarily?
  • Do they sign up right after announcing a new course offering?
  • Or do they need a couple of reminders?

2) Engagement DURING the learning experience

There are many variables that can be assessed while your students are taking a course. All of them provide valuable information about the levels of engagement of your employees.

Measure completion and abandonment rates on a regular basis. This measurement is useful to inform about whether the learning content was attractive enough or left the student unmotivated and confused, causing them to drop out of the course.

Equally, it is important to note that measuring course completion rates is NOT enough to assess your employee engagement levels.

Despite being one of the most used metrics to measure the level of engagement of a course, the truth is that it does not consider the fact that learning can occur non-linearly and at different times. For example, if one of your employees learns how to create a Facebook Ad in10 minutes, without doing the complete course, it's still a learning experience, right? That employee would highly rate that learning experience, as they learned what they needed without having to spend 30 minutes to complete the entire course.

Also read: 4 Reasons That Your eLearning Course Isn’t Working, But Still Can

Learn about weekly and monthly active users. This measurement evaluates the number of times students visit a specific site/course. How does this work? When a user constantly visits a website, it means that they have found value in the first experience and in all subsequent ones. In marketing, this is called a "sticky experience." L&D can also use this concept, using repeat visits and a "sticky learning experience" as a valuable metric for measuring if students resonated with the content and their level of engagement. In addition, this metric allows you to understand other interesting issues:

  • Evaluate the success of campaigns to promote internal learning. How does activity change after a certain campaign?
  • Test the number of employees who developed a "learning habit." What percentage of your employees continue to learn on a regular basis, either on a weekly or monthly basis?

Measure the level of collaboration and interaction between students. This is one of the best metrics to measure learner engagement.

If learners are engaged, they will want to share their experience with others so that they can enjoy it as much as they did. Through modern learning solutions, L&D professionals have access to valuable questionnaire and content sharing data that allows them to inquire about employee engagement with other users by sharing or recommending courses to others after they have completed them.

Also read: Five Rules of Engagement All eLearning Designers Should Live By

Track the time your students spend on learning and ask yourself,

"Are your employees learning as much as you would like them to learn?"

"Is it possible that they are spending more or less time learning from what you initially planned?

And finally, how much time should your employees invest in learning approximately?

The answer to the latter is that it "depends." What really matters here is the student's goal. If they want to learn a completely new skillset, then the time spent metric really matters. Conversely, if the learner is just trying to take some refresher courses, then the total time learned isn't going to be that important.

At the end of the day, it all comes back to the student's goals and how they can apply that knowledge to improve performance in their current job or boost their professional growth.

3) Engagement AFTER the learning experience

Don't forget to measure employees' level of engagement after a course is over. This will give you more information about the success of the experience and if there are things to improve.

Measure the percentage of employees who use their new skills. One of the most important objectives of any learning strategy is for employees to be able to apply the skills acquired during training. Can you notice higher productivity or quality of work after a course? Ways to measure this parameter are, for example, 360-degree feedback, self-assessment questionnaires, or analysis of specific job performance KPIs. Compare KPIs at the individual, team, and organizational levels prior to a course offering with the results observed after completing that learning experience.

Find out how many courses are taken independently by your employees after the course is over. The pursuit of continuous learning in the workplace is on the rise within L&D, and this is perhaps the most important indicator of how committed your employees are to this learning culture. Also read: Learning Is Not a One-Time Event! How to Promote Continuous Learning In Your Company

Use satisfaction surveys. One of the most traditional ways to measure learner engagement is to simply ask those who are taking their courses. .

While there are several ways to measure learning engagement, one thing needs to be kept in mind: Data is key. Therefore, L&D professionals should try to gather as much as possible to continuously optimize.

Have you implemented in your company any of the ways we measure the engagement of your employees? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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