(Huh?) eLearning Adoption – No, they don’t really have to finish it

There are some good points made in this post from Rick NigolTailor Your eLearning for Better Adoption … but I do disagree with the foundational premise … namely (from the very first sentence):

Your adoption rate – the percentage of your targeted learners who actually complete the eLearning that you have prepared for them – is a key statistic in determining the overall success of an eLearning intervention. Assuming that there are measurable benefits to be realized from every person who completes the eLearning (e.g. they know more, can produce more, sell more, waste less, serve clients better, etc.), the more people completing the program, the greater the overall benefits to the organization.

I really don’t see how completing something is truly a measure of success in today’s learner needs. This sentiment seems to harken back to the days where fixed courseware and curricula were king.

Why must I design whole courses whose success is in part due to learners completing the whole thing?

Turn this on its head … success is when a learner actually (well .. ) learns something that helps in performing some aspect of the job …

In those cases, then, why bother with making sure they swallow the whole pill? Why not have some short and simple survey popup whenever they click an Exit button (affectionately known by some as the “get me the hell out of here” button)? This popup could ask one or two very simple questions:

  • Did you receive the information you wanted/needed?
  • Do you think this is/was/will be helpful to you?

Of course, compliance training and the like will always have some completion requirement … but the huge majority of real learning no longer needs to be boxed into the course/curricula structure. And it certainly does not have to be completed to be considered valuable. If that is a measure of success, then we’re measuring the wrong thing in the wrong way.

About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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2 Responses to (Huh?) eLearning Adoption – No, they don’t really have to finish it

  1. nkilkenny says:

    I agree, completions means nuthin… it’s just about the same as counting ‘butts in seats.’ For me success is when the end user successfully performs the task or behavior that the training set out to teach. The problem with this is that this takes some effort to assess this accurately. You can do Level 3, and if possible 4, evaluations, but I also have to have the buy in from the customer and managers that I can conduct the Level 3. THey often see training as a one time event… hence the focus on ‘completions.’ Do you have any suggestions for how to convince them or translate the value of assessing the success of learning or performance of the tasks?

  2. Rick Nigol says:


    I came by this blog by accident while Googling for something else.

    Since you’re talking about me (thanks for your interest, BTW), I thought I would take a moment to throw in my two cents.

    I do not think that “butts in seats” is the primary measure of success for any learning intervention. And I do not think that everything has to be a “course.” We work on many projects for clients that are at-the-point-of-need electronic job aids. However, many eLearning resources we create for clients are still in the form of “courses” of one type or another in order to capture a defined body of content and a defined set of learning objectives.

    Note that I said “Assuming that there are mesurable benefits to be realized from every person who completes the eLearning.” This is the real measure of success…..new knowledge and skills that are applied on the job for individual and organizational benefit. If this is not the case, it is better to have lower adoption rates so as not to waste peoples’ time in unproductive ways.

    The problem is that I have seen many great eLearning interventions be under utilized because adoption has not been well managed. Much of the investment of time, money and resources is wasted because there has not been much thought given to how to ensure that as many of the targetted learners as possible avail themselves of the benefits to be had via the eLearning.

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