How to Use Surveys in Digital Learning? 5 Examples

Surveys are a common element in the toolbox of many L&D professionals. While we have administered surveys for a long time, technology has certainly made it easier. Nowadays, you can collect insights as you go, deploying questionnaires in an agile fashion. And what’s even better, the data collection and structuring is automatic! There’s no need to spend time coding interviews and manually transferring data. While there are certainly lots of possibilities, unfortunately often the use of surveys in L&D has been limited to post-training evaluations. However, there’s much more that we the tool can be good for. Therefore, we put together 5 examples on using surveys in digital learning. Let’s take a look!

Development & design feedback

One of the most immediate uses for surveys in digital learning exists in design and development. Once you have rolled out a new learning experience, you’ll naturally want to know what’s going on. While you’ll likely do user testing prior to launching, it’s important that you maintain the feedback loop even after the fact. Learners can thus suggest improvements to the design, flow of the experience as well as the content. This enables you to continuously improve the content. While you should always back up anecdotal feedback with quantitative data, quick and easy feedback can nevertheless bring out valuable user insights. Therefore, make sure to include a quick survey to capture development needs in the all the learning experiences you design!

Surveys in digital training needs analysis

Another great place to ask learners for input is in training needs analysis. Conventionally, organisations conduct a training needs analysis to determine what kind of training they should offer. This may often take into account strategic goals of the organisation and involve executives and line managers. However, it doesn’t always reach the end users – the learners – themselves. But thanks to the various digital learning survey tools, lack of time and resources shouldn’t be a hindering factor.

Involving the end user in the training needs analysis can bring a variety of benefits. First of all, the suggestions that come from the “front line” tend to be much more relevant to the jobs at hand. Often, the end users can suggest ways of delivering immediate value – they’ve been doing the jobs themselves! Secondly, the “front line” is often among the first groups to witness changes in the business, and thus better positioned to evaluate how they could improve their performance through training. Finally, involving the users in the process this way is likely to produce higher engagement – it’s a form of co-creation of sorts. Therefore, you should always ask the end users what they’d like to learn and why.

Personal learning plans and goal setting

A third area of potential use for surveys in digital learning is in personalisation. In this case, we’re talking about individual learning paths and goal setting. While the economies of scale still dictate our decisions, the trend is towards more and more personalised development plans in organisations. A digital survey is an easy way to ask employees about their career plans, current skills, things they’d like to learn and areas of interest. As intrinsic motivation is crucial in learning, it’s important to help the employees set their own goals, and not just inform of them of the L&D function’s goals. Individual goal setting at mass scale can help you also to reorganise the normal flow of L&D, by organising learners into groups based on their interests rather than e.g business units. For such personal goals, you can also consider personal learning analytics to support the process.

Performance reviews

On another front, performance reviews are an opportune place for digital learning surveys too. Over the past years, learning has become an important component in performance reviews for many organisations. While performance reviews are an art of their own, there’s one key thing that makes digital questionnaires lucrative. As such, performance reviews should be a two-way process. Not only do you as a manager review the employees’ performance, but you should give them a chance to do it too. This is easily done with a digital survey. While you may collect novel insights into the workings of your organisation, you’ll also get to view the employees’ side, and empathise with their viewpoint. Furthermore, a survey provides structure and a handy template to manage the performance review process itself.

Qualitative feedback on behavioural change

Finally, the fifth use case related to following up on learning in organisations. Too often, learning is very events-driven and employees either forget or do not apply the learning. And if learners don’t apply the new knowledge – if there’s isn’t some kind of behavioural change – learning itself becomes rather pointless. However, evaluating behavioural change isn’t the easiest thing to do. While you’ll definitely need more comprehensive analytics and a process for evaluation, like the Kirkpatrick framework, and you won’t want to over-rely on self-reported data, qualitative surveys can help in the mix.

For instance, you can ask employees to evaluate their own application of knowledge, as well as others. While calling yourself or your colleagues out for not applying doesn’t get you far, it opens an interesting discussion. Therefore, it’s important to frame the surveys in a way to capture ‘why’ people are not changing. There might be many barriers to application that you might not know about! And until you do, your learning interventions won’t have the desired effect.

Final words

While digital learning surveys have been around for a long time, they may still be under-utilised. There’s quite a lot you can do with the tool and the ability to quickly deploy channels for user feedback and input shouldn’t be overlooked in any setting. If you’d like to review and improve your learning processes, and see how you might support your L&D strategy with surveys, feel free to reach out. You can contact us here.

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