Thursday, 30 August 2012

Evaluating IT Training

It's impossible to overstate the importance of performance measurement with training, and IT training can have an enormous impact on an organisation. If you're involved in Information Technology training, it's well worth taking the time to evaluate the success of your efforts, so that you can identify any areas for potential improvement and maximise on those areas that are proving to be most productive. If you are an employer, it is of course vital to check the relative success or failure of any IT training programmes you have engaged in for future reference.

IT training comes in many forms, from picking up skills on a day to day basis to formal courses with well defined learning outcomes. There are also a number of key aspects to consider when approaching evaluation of IT training, including both content and quality of the material in question.

Does the Material Cover Enough Ground?

It is naturally the case that an IT training experience is only successful if it covers the topic in question in enough detail and depth. If the course was accompanied by an outline of objectives, this is worth referring to. A questionnaire can be a useful tool in establishing success or failure in this regard. Trainees can be given such a questionnaire, which can be multiple choice or include areas for more detailed feedback. It's advisable not only to check that specific topic areas were covered by the training, but also to ask trainees if the topics were sufficiently explored and illuminated, rather than being glossed over.

Is the Material Produced to a High Standard?

A training experience may cover relevant material but still fail to equip trainees with adequate knowledge or skills. The quality of training content is therefore hugely important. This can include the quality of teaching materials such as written content or presentations, as well as the teaching quality itself where training staff are concerned. Trainees can be asked if they felt the material was effectively communicated to them, in a way that improved their practical skills.

Is the Material Relevant to the Job?

Any IT training course is surely aimed at giving trainees practical skills that will prove to be useful on the job. In some cases this is a difficult aspect to measure, particularly in cases where employees are not yet doing the job, but are undergoing training in preparation for it. For employees undergoing training for an existing job, this can be a useful checkpoint. This issue is particularly relevant to managers making decisions about purchasing IT training products. Employees are also in the best position to determine the accuracy of certain IT training processes.

Measurement Tools

The most basic tool for IT training evaluation is a simple questionnaire. In some cases trainees may also be interviewed for more detailed information. However, one activity that is often neglected is a practical evaluation. IT training is primarily about skills rather than knowledge. For this reason it can be extremely valuable to engage trainees in practical tests following their training. Ideally, this should involve trainees carrying out actual tasks that will be involved in their jobs. A typical example would be using a new software program to carry out a common task. There may also be some value in carrying out this and other evaluation processes after a delay in time following the training, to establish whether the skills have been gained on a long term basis.

Getting General Feedback

It's always worth taking the time to allow, and encourage, employees to suggest future improvements to a training programme. This can include suggestions of additional areas or tasks to include in the training. Successful IT training processes are a continuous dialogue between trainer and trainee, with iterative improvements over time resulting in higher levels of success into the future.

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