Learning Audits

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The world’s best writers use editors to improve their work. Architectural engineers have their calculations reviewed to ensure structural integrity. Doctors seek second opinions on complex cases.

Unfortunately, we in the workplace learning field–and often in the education field–are often left in the dark about the strengths and weaknesses of our learning interventions. Mostly we use smile sheets (learner response forms) to get feedback even though hundreds of research studies show that smile sheets are not correlated with learning results. When we measure learning, we often do it in a way that incorporates severe forms of bias, providing ourselves with false data that pushes us into faulty decision-making.

Learning Audits enable learning professionals to get valid feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of their learning interventions. With the feedback they produce, learning audits help organizations maximize the benefits of their learning.


What is a Learning Audit?

“A learning audit is a systematic review of a learning program to determine the program’s strengths and weaknesses—with the aim to guide subsequent improvements of that learning program and/or other learning programs. Learning audits are conducted in a high-integrity manner to ensure validity and limit bias.”

Learning audits can examine classroom training, elearning, mobile learning, on-the-job learning, self-initiated learning, and academic learning. They can be relatively quick-and-dirty or they can be highly exhaustive. They can cost a little or cost a lot.

Learning audits can utilize the following data-gathering techniques:

  1. Interview learners, learners’ supervisors, learning designers, learning developers, learning deliverers, and other organizational stakeholders.
  2. Focus-group learning stakeholders—most likely in groups of similar individuals.
  3. Survey learning stakeholders.
  4. Job-shadow people as they learn and work on the job.
  5. Research-benchmark the learning program or prototype (or design intentions) based on a validated list of key learning factors (such as the Decisive Dozen).
  6. Analyze organizational artifacts (like company newsletters and bulletin boards) and other communication devices from a learning perspective.
  7. Create a list of the learning media that have been utilized.
  8. Create a list of the available learning media.
  9. Analyze the learning measurement approaches utilized.
  10. Review smile sheet results.
  11. Review results of learning assessments—especially scenario-based decisions, case studies, simulations, and realistic hands-on exercises.
  12. In addition to reviewing results that are assessed during or immediately after learning, seek to review results that assess learning after a delay of a week or more.
  13. Review on-the-job performance results that are routinely captured.
  14. Review business results, especially those that are linked to learning.
  15. Review the quality and use of prompting mechanisms (like job aids).
  16. Review the quality and use of on-the-job learning affordances, including coaching, social media, knowledge-management systems, team learning, etc.
  17. Review the supports in place for creativity-based insight learning.
  18. Review the supports in place for after-learning application.
  19. Develop and deploy improved smile sheets, learning assessments, and performance assessments.
  20. Conduct A-B testing on different versions of the same learning program.


What is Research Benchmarking?

Research Benchmarking is the process by which your learning interventions are benchmarked against research-based best practices.

Work-Learning Research excels in research benchmarking because of exhaustive work we’ve done over more than a decade compiling scientific research on learning, memory, and instruction. By combining research-based knowledge and practical wisdom, our learning audits lead the world in providing leverable recommendations for improvement.

Your learning programs will be benchmarked against the Decisive Dozen, the 12 most important learning factors. In addition, your learning ecosystem will be reviewed to look for learning and application support, learning measurement issues, and business or organizational considerations.


Want to Know More?

If you’d like to discuss learning audits further, contact me, Dr. Will Thalheimer, at 1-617-718-0767 or email me by clicking here.

If you’d like to consider conducting your own learning audits, I encourage you to view this web page.