Diagnostic Assessment In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know

Diagnostic Assessment In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know
Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock.com
Summary: Filling the all-important learning gap is the goal of any eLearning course, but you must first have a point of reference. After all, how else can you track the progress of your learners and determine if their eLearning experience was truly effective? In this article, I’ll highlight 6 types of diagnostic assessment you can use to gauge learners' knowledge before beginning an eLearning course, as well as I will reveal 4 tips to help you incorporate diagnostic assessment in eLearning.

Diagnostic Assessment In eLearning

Diagnostic assessment, which is often referred to as pre-assessment, is designed to test a learner’s knowledge BEFORE they begin an eLearning activity. These assessments can also identify incorrect learning behaviors, misconceptions the learner may have, and skill sets that need to be developed. At the end of the eLearning course, the results can be compared to the final summative assessments to see how far a learner has progressed. A diagnostic assessment also gives you the opportunity to learn as much as possible about your audience, so that you can create more meaningful and memorable eLearning experiences.

6 Types Of Diagnostic Assessment

  1. Online journals.
    Learners begin a reflective online journal in which they write down their expectations for the eLearning course and their goals. They can then jot down insights and ideas after completing each one of the eLearning activities or exercises, detailing what they learned and how they felt about the overall eLearning experience.
  2. Online quizzes.
    A brief online assessment that serves as a diagnostic tool before the eLearning course or lesson. The instructor can choose to create questions that determine how much a learner currently knows, or questions that they should be able to answer by the end of the eLearning course. They can then repeat the quiz after they complete the eLearning experience to track their progress.
  3. Online scenarios and simulations.
    While online scenarios and simulations are often associated with performance assessment, they are also invaluable diagnostic tools. Participating in a branching scenario or a simulation before the eLearning course begins, gives learners the chance to identify which skill sets they may need to improve, as well as what key pieces of information they will need to acquire. It also provides instructors with a better understanding of how they can fill their knowledge gap.
  4. Mind Mapping.
    The instructor gives each learner an online mind map activity, which features a topic in the center circle. The learners are encouraged to add as much as they know about the subject, using short words or sentences.
  5. Surveys.
    Learners complete an online survey prior to taking the eLearning course that determines their level of interest, expectations, and their current knowledge base. eLearning professionals can use the results to create eLearning courses that cater to individual learning needs and achieve learning goals.
  6. Focus groups and online interviews.
    The facilitator meets online with learners using a web camera, either in a group setting or one-on-one, to learn as much as possible about each learner’s background and learning needs. The learners are also given the opportunity to provide their input and discuss their expectations for the eLearning course in advance.

4 Tips To Use Diagnostic Assessment in eLearning

  1. Use diagnostic assessment to conduct periodic “knowledge checks”.
    While diagnostic assessment in eLearning is typically associated with the beginning of the eLearning experience, it can also be used to determine learners’ level of knowledge in between eLearning lessons or modules. Ask your learners to complete a diagnostic quiz before they move onto the next eLearning module, so that you are able to make necessary changes to your lesson plan accordingly. For example, if they are heading into an eLearning module that may be particularly challenging, or requires prerequisite knowledge, a quiz can give you a good indication of what they already know about the topic and how you may want to present the new information.
  2. Timing is everything.
    If you are planning on using diagnostic assessment to polish your forthcoming eLearning course, you need to be sure that you have plenty of time to make the necessary changes. For instance, if the eLearning course is going to begin in the summer, you may want to send out quizzes or surveys in the early spring to give yourself plenty of time to modify the eLearning content and online materials. You also have to bear in mind that some learners may need more time than others to complete diagnostic assessments.
  3. Fine tune your eLearning strategy based upon the findings.
    The primary purpose of a diagnostic assessment in eLearning is to give the instructor the learner data they need to provide the best possible eLearning experience. If you notice that many of your learners have pre-existing knowledge about a particular topic, then you may want to modify your curriculum to make it more challenging. On the other hand, if the diagnostic assessment reveals that your learners are not as advanced as you thought, you will have to cover the basics in the beginning of your eLearning course to bring them up to speed. Try to identify trends or a common thread that can help you design a powerful and memorable eLearning experience for every member of your audience.
  4. Create an action plan for your learners.
    The data that you collect from diagnostic assessment can also be used to help individual learners as they progress through the eLearning course. For example, if a learner is lacking a necessary skill set, then you can encourage them to create a plan of action that allows them to develop that skill throughout the eLearning course. You can also identify strengths and weaknesses that may need to be addressed, as well as learning behaviors that the learner may need to work on in order to get the most out of the eLearning course.

Take advantage of diagnostic assessment in eLearning to create an online learning strategy that fills the gap and offers your learners the chance to monitor their progress by using it as a powerful source of eLearning motivation. Remember, diagnostic assessment in eLearning is only helpful if you know how to use the results to your advantage.

One of the most effective diagnostic assessment tools you have at your disposal is an eLearning focus group. The article 5 Tips For Running A Successful eLearning Focus Group features 5 top tips that can help you run a successful focus group for your next eLearning course.