The working world is becoming more diverse and the need to remain competitive means candidates and working professionals are expected to keep learning and performing in their role.
As a result, the education sector must respond to the market, adapting to how students learn in order to prepare them to enter the workforce.
Understanding the Return on Investment (ROI) of learning programs is increasingly important, to educators looking at the value of their own programs along with those offering or exploring corporate training.
But, how can we truly see the impact of higher education in today's world? In this article, we look at 5 ways to effectively measure the ROI of learning programs.
1. Graduation and Retention Rates
The most important metric worth measuring is also the easiest. Education institutions can use graduation rates and retention rates to assess a few key aspects:
● Which programs are performing well?
● Which programs are lagging and need attention?
● Student engagement rates across the board
Higher education offers economic mobility, especially when adults can learn while working through an online or blended model.
This also presents companies with big benefits. Businesses who can offer employees education assistance will stand to gain a better-educated workforce that will boost productivity going forward while fostering loyalty.
For this reason, college retention is linked to employee retention. Keeping employees in education helps businesses retain them at work.
In most countries where higher education is the norm, taxpayers benefit from the career outcomes of graduates. Typically, taxpayers reap up to $200,000 more than what they invest in every college graduate.
When students are considering career development, being able to see the career outcome is a crucial factor in their decision-making process. This metric isn't easy to track, but it is a vital one in understanding the ROI of learning.
Education providers must engage with alumni, creating a network that breeds a culture of sharing and interaction between students, old and new. By staying in touch with graduates after they move into the workforce, it will be easier to see the long-term gains of learning.
Hard data like a salary increase is useful, but colleges can go further with qualitative surveys. By asking alumni how effective and practically useful they find their education to be in their job, education institutions can gather data insights that allow them to prove the value of learning programs and prove value to corporates seeking out training.
3. Feedback on Learning Programs
Over 90% of education providers conduct surveys that help them calculate the ROI of their training.
Getting input from students, alumni and faculty members is key to tailoring courses for success. It provides feedback on what is not working but also can offer solutions as to what may make programs more effective.
Using Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluation educators can use 4 levels to gauge ROI.
● Level 1 – Learner Reaction – Was the program material relevant and useful? Was it worth the time?
● Level 2 – Learning – Did it contribute to an increase in skill and knowledge? Did it meet the required cognition level?
● Level 3 – Application of learning – Did the learning cause an improvement in performance or change in behavior?
● Level 4 – Business impact – After the training, was there a tangible, demonstrable value?
In a corporate setting, an effective ROI is the monetary gains based on the impact of the training, effectively using this same model for measurement.
4. Soft Skills Development
In today’s job market, having a higher education certificate that is not continuously updated is no longer enough. Employers want to hire individuals who are prepared for the fast-paced world of today.
Soft skills like communication, problem-solving, strategy and creativity are integral to success in many industries now. Educators must make a concerted effort to nurture these qualities in their students, so they produce working professionals that are ready to enter employment.
Due to these new market demands, adult learning is quickly changing the makeup of student populations across the U.S. Projections from the National Center for Education Statistics estimate an 18% increase in students over 25 by 2025, compared to just 13% for students under 25.
Educators should look at ways to nurture these type of skills and measure ROI by gauging developments at different points of the program. Such skills include:
● Confident communication
● Time management
5. Data-Driven Insights
One great benefit of the digital age is the easy access to online learning. Many working professionals are taking advantage, upskilling when needed.
Online learning programs provide valuable insights, showing student engagement rates among other metrics, like time spent on modules and the results of practical exercises.
These offer educators a wealth of practical information, allowing them to see how effective their current learning programs are, and where adjustments and improvements are needed.
Data insights wield a lot of power, but to get a full picture, it is important to consider both activity and performance measures.
Activity measures are all about the student’s participation in the course materials. Some examples include:
● Average number of students per module
● Course completion rates
● Revenue generated per course per quarter
● Quality of responses provided by course instructors
For working professionals today, education doesn’t end in college. Indeed, if graduates and working professionals want to fulfill ambitions of promotion and advancement, education must be continuous.
By working together, students, companies, and education providers can develop a people-centric learning environment. This will be supported by a flexible, innovative culture that caters to the demands of the modern market.
Ultimately, college students and adult learners alike will stand to improve their own personal career development, and educators can provide learning in a way that suits schedule, learning type and skillsets.