As providers of lifelong learning, what is the single most important issue you need to be concerned with? The answer is one word: impact.
Now, more than ever, it has become critical for organizations to be able to demonstrate that their offerings are actually having an impact on learners. Learning experiences need to create a measurable change that is tracked and shown over time for the benefit of both learners and employers. Wherever there is time and money being spent, people will always want to know if what they are doing is actually making an impact.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa and Jeff discuss why impact is so important right now, various ways to measure it, and how to use it as a way to market the effectiveness of your educational offerings.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:20] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Jeff and Celisa will discuss the critical importance that demonstrating impact plays for organizations in the business of lifelong learning.
[00:40] – A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium, an event designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. The symposium takes place this year on October 24-25 in Baltimore, Maryland.
[01:30] – Jeff and Celisa say that impact has always been a major theme in their work (Jeff wrote about it in his book, Leading the Learning Revolution) but that it has been top of mind lately for a number of reasons:
- They held a recent Webinar on the topic of performance improvement.
- The last episode of the Leading Learning podcast featured an interview with Dr. Will Thalheimer about improving smile sheets to make them more performance-focused.
- It is a theme for the upcoming Leading Learning Symposium where the goal is to help individuals drive the reach, revenue, and impact of their learning business.
[03:14] – A discussion about reasons why impact is so important right now including:
- Increased competition for learners’ attention – and money.
- People want to know that whatever time and money is being spent on is actually moving the dial. Jeff defines impact as a learning experience that actually creates a measurable change in knowledge, skill, or behavior adding that it’s something you should be able to track and show over time – this is important for both learners and employers.
- Many associations/membership organizations have a mission to deliver learning so it is beneficial to be able to demonstrate the impact that you are having on a particular field or industry.
- It’s more possible than ever to measure impact because we now have the necessary tools.
[06:12] – Celisa and Jeff talk about the different ways organizations can measure the impact of the learning they are offering, from less formal to more formal. On the less formal side, Jeff explains that social media offers a lot of opportunities for tracking because you can see what’s being talked about and shared. This is especially easy if you use a social media dashboard such as Hootsuite. It is emphasized that you need to analyze the tweets for quality (not just quantity).
[09:04] – A somewhat more formal way to look at impact is through a return on investment (ROI) question that can be asked in an interview or survey. Jeff says you can initially ask people to define ROI and then have them rate how high a learning experience(s) performed on a scale of 1 to 10. This gives you a benchmark and then you repeat the process over time to find ways to focus on how to improve.
[11:02] – An even more formal way to measure impact is by making sure the learning is being designed for impact from the beginning with specific outcomes in mind and benchmarks to support them.
[13:22] – A discussion about Celisa’s recent interview with Dr. Will Thalheimer where they talked about research from his book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form and ways evaluations can be designed to support impact more effectively.
[14:08] – It is important to note that asking learners whether they like something doesn’t give you data on whether something was impactful. Jeff also says there’s a need for both a culture and leadership shift around this because as mission-driven organizations, we often need to give learners what they need, which is not always what they want.
[16:34] – A further discussion about how to design evaluations to better measure impact. Celisa suggests simply being more careful in how you structure evaluations. For example, rather than being self-reporting, you can ask an assessment-based question with a scenario to give learners a chance to test their knowledge. There seems to be reluctance to give assessments but most adults likely appreciate knowing them, especially if it they are designed well.
[19:08] – The number of evaluations can help also measure and impact change. You can give pre and post learning evaluations, to include different points post learning (i.e. days, weeks, and months following).
[20:09] – Jeff adds that you don’t need to do this for every learning experience but that it should be a priority for at least a subset of learning experiences to take a targeted effort at measuring impact. Learners like to know whether there has been a proven record of impact in the past for an offering so it also helps from a marketing perspective.
[21:40] – Celisa and Jeff drive home the point that impact data is embedded in everything and feeds into many different avenues, all essential for your organization.
[22:20] – Wrap-Up
A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium, an event that includes impact as one of the major themes. It is designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. The event will help you maximize the reach, revenue, and impact of your education business and takes place this year on October 24-25 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Thanks again to CommPartners for sponsoring this podcast episode.
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[24:36] – Sign off