The Downside to Monitoring Web-based Trainings

Topic(s): learning, training
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2013)
Article: When big brother is watching: Goal orientation shapes reactions to electronic monitoring during online training
Authors: Aaron M. Watson, Lori Foster Thompson, Jane V. Rudolph, Thomas J. Whelan, Tara S. Behrend, & Amanda L. Gissel
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

There is a real, measurable downside to monitoring web-based trainings. E-learners who are having their performance monitored become goal oriented in a way that affects their level of apprehension. That apprehension, in turn, affects their ability to acquire new skills, according to a study by Watson, Thompson, Rudolph, Whelan, Behrend, and Gissel.

E-learners are new employees at a business who are being taught necessary knowledge and skills through web-based training. When that web-based training is monitored and an employee knows that they are being monitored, it affects the pattern of thoughts and behaviors that they typically display in pursuit of a goal. They often experience evaluation apprehension, becoming concerned about what their colleagues think of them during web-based trainings. This inhibits their ability to learn the skills and knowledge taught by the web-based training.

When employees are being monitored during these web-based trainings, via some type of computer software that tracks information such as keystrokes, time spent on each lesson, and internet activity, those who are more worried about appearing incompetent than actually learning the skill will feel more concerned about what their colleagues think of them, and this will negatively affect their ability to learn the material from the web-based trainings. Similarly, those employees focusing more on appearing superior to their colleagues than on learning the actual skill being taught by the web-based training will also focus more on their co-workers and less well on the material. Either employee perspective impairs the ability to learn material being taught in a training session.

For this study, 153 students from a large university were taught various topics through web-based trainings, and they also completed questionnaires on goal orientation, evaluation apprehension, and skill attainment.