Kirkpatrick’s Approach To Measure The Effectiveness Of Online Training

The Effectiveness Of Online Training: Kirkpatrick Method
Summary: Donald Kirkpatrick devised a system to help training teams measure the effectiveness of their courses and fix any shortcomings in delivery. In his book "Four Levels of Training Evaluation," Mr. Kirkpatrick used a four-level approach to assess training outcomes.

Using Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Approach

The goals of every training effort are either transformative or assistive. Educators transform the behavior of the learner or attempt to bridge any gaps in the learner's knowledge. When creating an online course, the aim of Instructional Designers should be to give the learner all the necessary content they need to achieve these goals in an environment conducive to learning, whether it is for decreasing expenses or to perform a stronger customer strategy based on their background information. However, not all training courses deliver on this promise, rendering them ineffective as learning tools when combined with the inherent problems of traditional lecture setups.

When students or faculty don't experience the results they were expecting, the blame falls squarely on the training course. The question now is, how do educators pinpoint which parts of the course need improvement? Doing a guesstimate on the definite enhancements can be a frustrating experience.

The Kirkpatrick Method

Donald Kirkpatrick devised a system to help training teams measure the effectiveness of their courses and fix any shortcomings in delivery. In his book Four Levels of Training Evaluation, Mr. Kirkpatrick used a four-level approach to assess training outcomes. This tiered measurement method has applications in all types of training, including online.

The Kirkpatrick Method uses 4 levels to test a training course's viability.

 1. Learner Reaction

The first level assesses how students respond to the course, measuring adverse or favorable reactions. After level 1, training teams should be able to highlight the functional aspects of the class while correcting areas that need improvement.

Key points:

  • It's important to note what participants think about the course, what aspects they liked, and what parts they didn't like.
  • Educators also need to know if participants would recommend the course to their peers or colleagues.

2. Learning

Level 2 is the evaluation phase, where training developers find out how practical their course is. Here, educators measure whether the students picked up the skills and knowledge they were expecting to learn. Level 2 is all about measuring a course's impact. Learners need to undergo testing before and after the session for proper benchmarking and goal tracking.

Key points:

  • Training developers must know if their students learned anything from the course.
  • Educators need to test for improvement in skills, attitudes, and confidence among learners.
  • It's also essential to determine if the course provided all the resources the trainees were looking for.

3. Behavioral Application Of Learning

The third level measures the transfer of course knowledge from the class to the students. Appropriate environmental support, such as performance reviews or a well-defined organizational structure, helps measure behavioral changes.

Key points:

  • Training teams need to determine if learners can use and share their newfound knowledge in their daily work environment.
  • Educators also need to check if trainees show positive behavioral adjustments.
  • Support systems help post-training behavioral changes in students. The lack of support can have adverse effects if students don't see tangible results or if they believe they are under-appreciated.

4. Impact And Results

The last metrics measure the results of training and if the course had any impact on the planned outcome. For instance, if an organization trains employees on data privacy, managers can measure course success by checking if everyone follows the rules and if the number of incidents has been reduced.

Key points:

  • To accurately measure training outcomes, educators must establish pre- and post-training benchmarks.
  • Training managers can check for measurable results, like productivity, and reduce adverse outcomes.


Since the Kirkpatrick Method is a complex and graduating scale of precision, training teams need to start at level 1 and work their way up to level 4. Beginning at the necessary level of measurement will allow organizations to become familiar with the process. The first level also lets everyone on the team experience the effectiveness of the system, making it easier to adhere to.

Level 1 will also give teams enough time to get used to more complicated metrics and pre/post-training measurement benchmarking. Course developers should provide enough time between measurements so that changes can be more evident. This four-level approach to measuring course effectiveness only showcases the results of training. Corrective suggestions to bridge any learning gaps are not its intended purpose. Teams will need to take the necessary steps to fill gaps based on the results of this method.