Begin the Learner Experience at the End

By David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

In the ongoing conversation about the learner experience, organizations are getting better at identifying the many facets of the experience: content, technology, strategy, relevance, etc. But there is one element consistently missing from the discussion: measurement.

What does measurement have to do with the learner experience? Most organizations assume that by the time they reach the measurement phase, the learning has already been accomplished.

It’s worth noting that the modern learning experience includes games, simulations, virtual reality, videos and more — none of which companies seem to know how to measure. This is precisely what’s wrong with learning measurement today.

As organizations’ traditional learning models evolve, their measurement models have not kept up. Trying to measure informal learning experiences in terms of completions and grades simply doesn’t work.

To create an effective learner experience — and measure it — we must begin by considering desired outcomes. What are we trying to achieve with this course, class, video or game? In Brandon Hall Group’s Learner Experience Study, we found that companies whose learning is having a big impact on things such as time to productivity, engagement, performance, etc., are much more mindful of the outcomes that their learning is trying to achieve.

For instance, these companies are more likely to have a well-defined learning strategy that’s well-aligned with learner and business objectives. They are also twice as likely to inform learners of the goals and expected outcomes of the programs. If we don’t identify these things at the beginning, we are only delivering programs that seem disconnected from the learner, with no way to determine if they are having any real impact.

Begin with the end in mind. What are the overarching business outcomes we are after? How can learning impart knowledge, build skills or change behavior in pursuit of those outcomes? What type of learning experience makes the most sense to attain the desired outcome, the learning audience and the available timeframe? Not only does beginning with outcomes in mind make learning measurement more strategic, but it also helps inform how the learning should be created and delivered.

Once we have a measurement framework in place, it almost doesn’t matter what type of experience is delivered because it can be measured. The goal of all learning is moving from present state to future state. The delta between those two points is your measurement.

Organizations say they don’t bother measuring learning’s impact on business outcomes because there are too many variables involved to prove learning’s impact. That is a cop-out, pure and simple. Having a solid, outcome-based framework will help identify learning as one of those variables.

Ultimately, a learning experience that is unconnected to learner and business outcomes is much less likely to achieve those outcomes. We must stop delivering learning for learning’s sake and instead, enable it to act as a strategic agent of change and progress for the organization.

Click here to listen to the recent webinar, The Problem with the Learning Experience Today and How to Fix It

David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group


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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.