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Mandatory Training: 3 Types of Testing to Motivate Learners

Mandatory training is geared toward keeping your people and your company compliant. It is a key part of being able to demonstrate compliance to regulators and auditors and understanding if your people have learned what they need and, crucially, whether they are likely to change their behaviors as a result.

However, testing can be difficult to do effectively. Historically, end testing has been the default for mandatory training. Nowadays, there are a variety of testing methods that are being used increasingly to engage the learner and create lasting behavior change. Here, three methods are considered and compared—end testing, pre-testing, and inline testing. All three methods are valuable and useful for achieving different outcomes. Read on to learn about all three methods, when you might use them, and how you can make the testing process as engaging as possible for your learners.

1. End Testing

What is End Testing?

End testing is traditionally the assessment type used in most mandatory training. Most people have seen the ten-question test—they must score 80% to pass the test, and they are required to keep taking the same test (perhaps with a randomized set of questions) until they achieve that 80%. The advantage to this type of testing is that your organization can have solid evidence that each of your learners has passed the learning assessment.

End Testing Is Valuable

End testing has a valuable place in mandatory training. For example, when handling sensitive topics such as money laundering, it is vital that your organization can demonstrate that its people are properly trained and that its senior management has complied with external training requirements.

End testing can also be a great form of bite-size training—the assessment can be written to be closely aligned with the learning outcomes, so that the test itself not only assesses knowledge, but reinforces it. Each question, with its feedback, becomes an opportunity to cement in the learner’s mind the things they really need to know.

End Testing That Engages Your Learners

The main consideration when going down this traditional route is that we want to make mandatory training as engaging as possible. End tests can be a turn-off for learners and have a bad reputation.

There are different ways to design end testing that are potentially more engaging and more effective than simply allowing learners to take a test as many times as they need to pass. Just as the whole learning solution should be designed to be learner-centric, the end test should be part of a positive learning experience too.

One key way to do this is to include scenario-based questions as well as fact-based questions in the test. Making the end test more scenario-based helps ensure that the questions are practical, rather than purely theoretical, making it both more useful and more engaging. To make the testing experience even more immersive, the end test could take the form of a continuing scenario, perhaps incorporating branching, in which the learner must make a series of decisions and see how each impacts the next. However, constructing a story like this generally means the questions will not be randomized, so it is important to consider if it is right for a particular piece of training.

Overall, end testing can be an effective way of measuring behavior change in your learners. However, it is important to avoid questions that simply test if a person has memorized a certain policy. Learning should be about internalizing the principles and changing behaviors, not learning by rote and regurgitating information.

2. Pre-Testing

What is Pre-Testing

Pre-testing is asking your learners to complete a test prior to starting their learning. This is to assess their level of understanding on the topics before they begin.

Personalized, Targeted Training

Pre-testing can play a key role in mandatory training. For example, if your people must complete a course on the same topic every year, they may have a great deal of knowledge already. Having to go through the same content could lead to learners becoming bored and feeling that their level of knowledge is disregarded and they’re wasting their time.

If you use a pre-test, a learner takes a test at the start of the learning and will then only have to cover content about topics in which their knowledge is not as strong. By making pre-tests granular and adaptive, learners can receive highly personalized, targeted training focused on exactly what they need to know. This approach respects learners’ time—and the cost of that time—and increases their focus and attention on the training they do receive.

In some mandatory training topics where there is an external requirement for training, there may be a concern that allowing learners to “test out” of some material could be too high risk. In these cases, a similar effect can be achieved by presenting learners who pass a topic with brief key points on that topic, while learners who do not pass receive more detail.

Pre-Testing to Engage and Play

Another advantage of pre-testing is that learners will be made aware at the start of the training that they don’t know everything they need to know. This will encourage them to engage and pay attention during the course.

3. Inline Testing

What is Inline Testing?

Inline testing is a great solution if you want to drive learner engagement throughout training. Rather than clicking through a training course and not paying attention, inline testing requires a learner to follow a scenario and answer questions through the learning journey, rather than just at the start or the end.

Inline Testing to Reveal Knowledge Gaps

Although inline testing lacks the clarity of an 80% end test pass rate, your organization can still foster useful data and statistics. This data will show in which knowledge areas your people are strong and weak and enable you to target additional learning resources at areas where there are weaknesses. Ultimately, this can lead to a stronger assurance of genuine understanding and behavior change than someone achieving 80% on an end test on their fourth attempt.

Inline testing can allow you to create an experience that feels gripping and immersive, while also cutting down on the time needed for training. By integrating content and testing seamlessly, there’s no need for the learner to take additional time at the end of the training to demonstrate their knowledge.

Inline Testing for Storytelling

Inline testing is great for storytelling-based learning solutions and fits the apply-learn approach to learning. A learner is presented with a question, they answer it, and they get feedback on their answer—and these questions are presented regularly throughout the training. This is especially useful if your topic has a large amount of dense content that could become dry and feel irrelevant to what the learner does in their day-to-day role. When using the apply-learn approach, you are better able to streamline the content, and the learner will immediately see how it relates to their job and why it therefore should matter to them.

Inline testing is also a useful tool for behavior change. Using a story can allow your people to engage and see why a topic is important by showing the consequences of making the wrong decisions.

We know that mandatory training is at its most effective when it goes beyond “ticking the box,” while of course still meeting the requirements it needs to. Scenarios, storytelling, video, and gamification are all great ways to drive engagement, and all work really well with inline testing, as the need to assess learning by scoring can be incorporated into a gamified approach.

Create Engaging Mandatory Training Experiences

Mandatory training is geared toward keeping your people and your company compliant. Whatever your learning topic and goals, testing is a crucial element to engage and motivate your learners. If you want help building engaging learning experiences for your people, GP Strategies can help you with all your compliance training needs.

About the Authors

Emma Jourdan

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