Tracking course completion rates through the LMS is one of the most widely used methods to verify if the training content was consumed by employee(s). While this seems logical and necessary, it is high time we take a step back and ask some fundamental questions about course completion rates.
Been There, Done That!
Certain courses invariably tend to have 100% completion rates. These scenarios are typically seen with professional certifications and compliance courses in regulated industries. I have personally seen that, in an environment where budgets are constrained, compliance courses are accorded the least importance when it comes to the time and effort that goes into creating the course. The focus is on launching a course quickly and making sure everybody completes the course. On the other end of the spectrum, compliance courses become extremely important and lot of money is poured into such courses as a direct result of adverse litigation and external pressures (i.e. Government or regulatory fines). In any case, 100% course completion is a great first step in meeting the business objectives and is by no means a reflection of the usefulness of the course.
Ferrari on a Cart
Access to online courses through the LMS is a major factor that can impact course completion rates. Poorly designed LMS interfaces and poor connectivity infrastructure can also impact course completion rates adversely. I have encountered situations where the training department rolls out a very interactive and instructionally sound course only to find that a majority of the user population has a tough time accessing all the features of the course or it takes a long time to even get access to the LMS due to IT bureaucracy.
Who pulled the Trigger?
What triggers an employee to take the trouble of logging into the LMS and sitting through, say, a 20-minute course followed by an assessment? An email that announced the launch of the course or a reminder email, forgetting key concepts needed to complete a task, reminder by the manager are some of the triggers. But, as identified by BJ Fogg, ability and motivation are two other elements that impact course completion in addition to triggers. Focusing just on the triggers without paying attention to ability and motivation will invariably result in poor completion rates or it gets to a point where people are completing the courses to stop the triggers! Ability denotes how easy it is to access the course (having the time to access the course and the infrastructure to access the course). Motivation refers to fear, urge to do better, peer pressure among others.
Does Course Completion Rate Matter?
Yes, it does. However, course completion rates should be analyzed in the context of the employee’s work and the business objectives. It is more important to see how course completion rates are related to behavior changes, performance improvements and post completion course access rates. It is also important to see how course completion translates into engagement on the topic by tracking the company’s social collaboration platform (if available) or even tracking offline conversations on specific topics through formal or informal surveys.