How to Calculate eLearning ROI for Your Association

June 13, 2022
Person doing a math on a calculator
We all know associations offer a lot to their members to keep them engaged (and paying!), but it can be hard to prove that eLearning offerings increase revenue. And calculating the return on investment (ROI) for an eLearning initiative can seem daunting for associations, even if the equation itself is simple.
eLearning ROI equation

So many factors go into measuring both benefit and cost, and it isn’t always easy to assign dollar figures to them. To get an accurate measure of ROI, keep it top of mind as you begin developing eLearning curriculum.

Start With eLearning Strategy and Development

Calculating eLearning ROI begins with the course strategy and development:

  • What do we want participants to know?
  • How will we know if they know it?
  • What will we do if they don’t?

Learning objectives are born from these questions. Effectively linking them to association initiatives is the foundation for calculating eLearning ROI.

Traditional Method for Calculating eLearning ROI

Historically eLearning ROI was a function of cost savings in relation to in-person instruction. How much did we save on travel, lost productivity, and trainers? Though important to the bottom line, these measures didn’t consider educational outcomes.

Association members participate in eLearning to work toward certifications, get trained on the most up-to-date practices, and engage more with other members.

Successfully and consistently meeting these goals will help increase membership and drive revenue—creating the net payoff of eLearning.
Calculating eLearning ROI

At a high level, we recognize that associations survive (and even better, thrive), when members are more engaged. Actually correlating an increase in membership or revenue with eLearning initiatives is even trickier.

It’s easier for businesses to link learning objectives to strategic initiatives. If a business wants to increase sales, learning can train the sales team to deliver scripts with a higher degree of proficiency. This type of simple, direct correlation doesn’t always work for associations who need to calculate the ROI of eLearning. We need to look a little deeper to develop the link.

Once the strategic objective for the eLearning has been identified, there are three steps to take before it’s possible to calculate ROI:

  • Establish the key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Correlate learning outcome to those KPIs
  • Develop eLearning

For example, if the strategic objective is to increase the number of new members who register for paid eLearning by 25%, that is your KPI. The learning strategy process will surface/shed light on what type of eLearning could achieve this number. Our example in this case will be an online video sent to new members that promotes the benefits of eLearning with embedded links inviting them to enroll.

Integrating eLearning Development With KPIs

Applying the familiar learning tools of Kirkpatrick’s Model to eLearning strategy and development will help create the connective tissue between the learning created and the outcomes produced. As the eLearning is being developed, consider the desired business outcome, as well as the objective of a participant coming away from a course able to demonstrate their understanding of the content. These map to the highest level of Kirkpatrick’s Model: Organizational results. The work of creating the training is asking how to get there.

Kirkpatrick's Model

In addition to ensuring learning outcomes and participant satisfaction with a course, Kirkpatrick’s Model establishes whether there’s been behavioral change as a result of the eLearning. In this case, the behavioral change is measured by new members who enroll in eLearning in greater numbers.

Change Behavior, Change Outcomes

So we created eLearning that participants liked. They learned from it, and their behavior changed. Does that translate to a 25% increase in new member registration? And if it did, what does that mean in terms of the eLearning ROI calculation?

Implementing an Easy-to-Use and Calculable eLearning ROI Model

With tangible results now in hand, the ROI calculation becomes less daunting. We can measure in dollars a 25% increase in new member course enrollment. Now, we add eLearning costs to the calculation and determine our return on investment.

Example of eLearning ROI

With this process, the ROI of eLearning is no longer a comparison of costs between virtual and in-person instruction. Now, the ROI of eLearning measures the strategic financial or learner behavior change that occurs because of eLearning.

To learn more about using Kirkpatrick’s Model for ROI, and to take a deeper dive into calculating ROI eLearning, watch our recent webinar.

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