If you're thinking for the first time about working with an outside curriculum development company to help you build an online or in-person training program, you may feel lost without a clear direction to start moving. But have no fear! In this series of blog posts, we're outlining what it takes on your part by breaking it down into five simple steps. This is the fifth post.
Our first post gave a high-level overview of all the steps. The second post focused on getting your curriculum and/or source material together. The third post helped you focus on the scope of the training. And the fourth post covered what the user experience is and how the training looks and feels to learners. If you haven’t read the four previous posts yet, we highly recommend that you review them before beginning this one.
In this post, we'll begin to consider how to measure, or at least verify, knowledge transfer. So, how can you determine what, if any, information was passed effectively to the learners and absorbed by them in a lasting or meaningful way?
Tool 1: The final test
Probably the most familiar verification of knowledge transfer is the final test (or exam). For most people, training and testing go hand-in-hand. If you have training, you give a test. Most learners will even go through training by filtering the information based on how likely it is to be on the test.
Now, this model of "training for the test" isn't necessarily a bad one. In fact, testing can be a powerful tool to both incentivize engagement and ensure that those who pass have an established understanding of the new information or a competency with the new skill. And, let’s face it, having a test that everyone in the class must pass is one of the best tools a trainer can wield.
But using the test as an end-of-training expectation can limit your effectiveness to ensure lasting or meaningful knowledge transfer. Studying the material or going through the training with the sole purpose of passing the test at the end causes the information to be stored in short-term, rather than long-term, memory. It can make the information or skill feel like it’s for one-time use only, not something that will be needed regularly after training is complete.
Tool 2: The knowledge check
The best way to rid yourself and your learners of this singular focus of "training for the test" is by using a variety of knowledge checks to help reinforce the information that will need to be recalled and utilized regularly. Consider expanding your knowledge verification toolbox by using:
Pre-assessments to prime the learners for what they will learn, often based on the learning objectives;
Periodic quiz-like checks as learners progress through the training, covering key information to remember; and
Interactive elements like activities, scenarios, role-plays or challenges to help learners convert information into practice.
Tool 3: Ongoing reinforcement
Then, you might want to provide more reinforcement measures on an ongoing basis after training is complete. These can include an email "question of the day," quick video reminders of key information, graphics or charts placed in strategic physical spaces of your building, or brief in-classroom refresher training. Remember that these reinforcement tools will quickly be discarded if there's not some incentive to complete them.
But determining the best way to verify knowledge transfer may be somewhat decided for you, especially if you're building a course to meet the criteria of an outside entity like a government agency or an industry association. If that's the case, you’ll want to find out if that entity has an exam of its own that learner must pass. Even if it does, you may also consider adding other knowledge checks and reinforcement.
Spreading effective, frequent knowledge checks throughout the course (and beyond) can make or break the long-term success of your training. However, it can be too easy to push these to the end of the timeline and then feel rushed to create something at the last minute before your deadline.
So talk to your training development partners about getting assessments prepared at the beginning of your development process. In that way, you can be confident about the quality of your knowledge checks and, consequently, the lasting and meaningful retention of training material.