Correlation is an interesting concept when applied to training. In the book “Big Data” the authors state that if action “A” and action “B” take place together then the existence of “B” is a reliable predictor of “A”, even if “A” cannot be observed or even measured.
A cited example was when Wal-Mart looked into past customer purchases in concert with multiple other factors, one of which was weather. What they found was that prior to a hurricane there was a corresponding increase in the sale of flashlights. This was certainly understandable. But there was also a similar increase in the sale of Pop Tarts. So the next time violent storms were forecast they located the Pop Tarts next to the flashlights, increasing the sales of both items.
So what does this have to do with eLearning? Correlations between web-based training activities and student success may prove to reveal the importance of MANY unexpected but NOT unrelated issues in the overall efficacy of our educational efforts. Certainly we expect the attractiveness of the design to impact the initial student engagement with the course, as well as the level of interactivity. But what about factors that we might overlook, and not consider as to how they might influence or predict success as measured by changes in attitude or behavior post-training? Consider the launch date.
How many companies think about the launch date of a course as an indicator of the success or effectiveness of an eLearning initiative? I would be willing to bet that it falls far behind other considerations such as the availability of funding, resource scheduling, audit probabilities and administrative directives. I wonder if it is even considered at all.
It’s a fact that most people/families take vacation from late July through the month of August. Let’s suppose funding becomes available on June 1st to update your annual Sexual Harassment web-based training course. Based on an internal directive to meet compliance all company employees must complete this training by the end of the third quarter. A review of internal development resources shows that the updates can comfortably be completed, with reviews, to allow a launch date of July 15th, giving employees a 45 day window to complete the training. Everyone is pleased from the administration through the developers with the schedule.
The training is launched on schedule and completed before the end of August, keeping the company compliant. During the last quarter of the year harassment complaints reach an all-time high. The competency of everyone from the training developers to the Director of Learning and Development is brought into question. The course is re-reviewed and found to be of exemplary quality, covering all of the issues now plaguing the company from unwanted advances through innuendos. What could have gone wrong? In a face saving move the LOD director is fired to at least demonstrate the company’s concern over the problem.
But the reason the training was unsuccessful may never be dealt with because it was overlooked. The truth may have been that people were focused on their upcoming vacations and their motivation for completing the training was “time based” and not “comprehension based”.
Simple statistical correlation analysis holds the key to identifying those factors, sometimes hidden, which influence or predict the success or failure of training initiatives. If we are going to take online education seriously it’s time to connect the “data dots” – and not rely on simple causation theory.