A test to test whether you need testing

Some of you will have no idea what I am about to talk about considering your lack of experience in e-learning.

Don’t you just hate condescension? Well, learners do too, and that’s exactly how you may come across if you start treating experienced learners like they’re at their first day at school (I don’t think grandma would be happy receiving an egg-sucking lecture!).

Here’s a simple way to avoid this common pitfall. We all too often forget the value that a pre-test can provide when designing a learning experience. Your learner may be an experienced employee looking for ways to increase their performance in their job, so, the learning experience should focus on helping them to achieve just that! If you’re unsure how much the learner already knows, use a pre-test!

A well-designed pre-test, combined with a strong ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ statement can make the difference between aggravating learners and actually making them realise where they stand in relation to company requirements.

A pre-test can also be a valuable tool that can help reach common ground between finicky Subject Matter Experts (SME) and diligent Instructional Designers (ID). If the SME is of the opinion that an extra bit of information is vital enough to devote two screens to, whereas the ID is confident that it may be something most employees are already familiar with, all you need to do is include questions from the information theory in a pre-test for the learner. If the learner answers correctly, don’t bother them with the screens! It’s a win-win.

I feel pre-tests should be used to provide employees with an option to skip the training and subsequent assessment, should they pass. In this case, what you’ve done is help the company (hopefully) save a few training hours that can be used in their daily tasks.

And have you ever thought about the effect it has on staff morale? Employees that obtain a good score are automatically more confident, and will be even more so if they are allowed to skip the e-learning. For the few who do not pass, it could be a signal that they overestimated their knowledge on the subject, and are therefore better off taking the training.

And for those of you who didn’t quite get the ‘sucking-eggs’ reference, it is an old English phrase used to describe people who try to give advice to others about a subject they already know lots about. The actual process involved sucking the content out of eggs to keep the shells intact so that they could be used for other decorative purposes.

Little boy: “You see, Grandma, before you extract the contents of this bird’s egg by suction, you must make an incision at one extremity, and a corresponding orifice at the other.”
Grandma: “Dearie me! And we used to just make a hole at each end.”
Punch cartoon (circa 1980s)