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ATD Blog

Evaluating Online Learning Programs for the Virtual Office

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

You have your office set up for virtual work and have begun or have already moved to virtual learning for more content than you previously planned on delivering in this format. How do you know that programs quickly converted to or created for virtual delivery are effective? Will you be able to make changes easily to improve your e-learning effectiveness? Here are some tips.

As you begin or continue to convert your in-person training to online:

  • Like in-person training, a virtual best practice is to plan your evaluation strategy before the training begins.
  • Consider an evaluation strategy that smoothly integrates the collection of evaluation feedback for in-person and virtual training delivery methods. Often, traditional in-person training includes a paper survey at the end of the course, while virtual training has an online survey to solicit feedback. Having different survey mediums creates the added challenge of analyzing each data set, often in different formats. This data is not always accessible to those wishing to compare results. Consider using a tool that allows for the integration of feedback collected in either mode or have online surveys even in the in-person environment. In other words, ensure you are not stuck with disparate data pools to analyze.
  • There will be different evaluation questions for virtual versus in-person training (see below for examples of questions for virtual events), but be sure to think of those common learning impact questions that are important, regardless of the training mode.

Questions to Consider When Shopping for Effective Online Learning Programs

Does the online learning program include measures to demonstrate application on the job? Look for programs that have data available showing their past performance in effective training. This means not only whether the current learners react to training well, but did they find it beneficial to apply to their day-to-day jobs. As the Phillips ROI model describes in its Level 3 Application and Implementation measure, “Application and use of knowledge, skills, and competencies, including progress made and implementation success.” This is shown in data such as task completion, frequency of use, actions completed, and success with use.


Does the online program measure learning impact? Look for programs that offer evidence of participants’ application resulting in a positive impact on the organization’s goals. This information can be found in data related to the training that shows “. . . impact of implementing programs and processes expressed as improvement in business measures directly linked to the program or project,” advises the ROI Institute Application Guide of the ROI methodology. The types of data measures for impact could include productivity, revenue, quality, efficiency, effect on incidents, employee retention, and customer satisfaction, to name a few.


Is engagement strong in the program? Since we are looking at online or e-learning programs, it is important to know that learner engagement during the training is strong, given that this is a known concern for training and development leads. The level of engagement during training can be gathered in an end-of-training survey of participants to rate their interest and engagement in the online training experience. At PTG International, we help training organizations develop and deploy training evaluation surveys and other instruments to determine and show the effectiveness of training events and programs.

Contact PTG International if you want more information on these data collection efforts.

About the Author

Denise Madaras is director of evaluation services at PTG International. She joined PTG in June 2014, bringing years of instructor-led and computer-based training development and project management experience to the company. She currently provides training evaluation consulting to clients including HUD, IRS, Census, and HHS.

Prior to PTG, she worked as a math teacher and lead teacher of a STEM program in a middle school, provided training development consulting to the U.S. Department of Energy Health and Safety Services, managed projects and developed training for Lockheed Martin Corporation, and provided training and software implementation support for GE Aerospace.

She has certifications in mathematics education, Kirkpatrick and Phillips ROI evaluation models, and behavioral consultancy.

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