You’ve spent hours, days, maybe even 12 months or more creating online learning content. It’s only natural that you want learners to view every last screen and complete all the activities you built. Even more, you want them to reap the rewards of their newfound knowledge. So when someone suggests the idea of a test-out option, you silently scream, “No! No! No!”
Does testing-out mean all your eLearning design efforts were for nothing? No, it means the opposite. When you provide a test-out option, you’re meeting learners’ needs, and that’s a good thing. According to data from the Association of Training and Development (ATD), only about 35% of instructional designers felt they were meeting learner needs. In some cases, that might be because designers believe that their courses provide unnecessary information, or focus on topics in which learners already have a demonstrated proficiency.
The truth is, whether it’s from another course, or skills they learned on the job or in school, learners don’t come to your content as a blank slate. It’s possible they may be able to pass the exam before they’ve even opened your course.
Including a test-out option saves time.
Forcing participants to complete an entire course that covers information in which they are already proficient wastes their time. In those situations, they’ll often become disinterested before they click the first “Next” button. (Time to check Facebook or Instagram, anyone?) In our hectic world, it’s better to help learners save time by allowing them to demonstrate their understanding. If their knowledge is sufficient, mark them as complete and enable them to move on to their next task. If they aren’t able to successfully pass the test, they can complete the full course and gain the knowledge they need.
Test-out options honor learners’ abilities and make room for necessary content.
By acknowledging what learners already know, they can enroll in other courses which contain information that’s new to them. If a participant has the understanding required to pass level one, two and three… allow them to do so with a test-out option. Then they’ll be able to get started on level four, where they’ll learn something new that’s of value to them.
There may be instances when learners are required (by federal or local regulations) to complete an entire course. However, there are many cases when testing out is an appropriate option and one which will help you earn learners’ trust. And, if you’re still concerned about the amount of time and effort you used to create the course, don’t worry. Not everyone will test out of the course; those who complete it from start to finish will reap the benefits of your hard work.
Liz Sheffield is a freelance writer with a background in training and development. She specializes in writing about everything related to the human side of business. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.