Do happy trainees = learned trainees?

Topic: Training
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (JUL 2009)
Article: Power to the people: Using learner control to improve trainee reactions and learning in web-based instructional environments  
Authors: K. A. Orvis, S. L. Fisher, & M. E. Wasserman
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Recently, some have argued trainee satisfaction IS important for predicting actual learning in e-learning contexts. Briefly, e-learning refers to training that  utilizes web-based and computer technology. An important characteristic of e-learning is that it often grants trainees with high levels of learner control. This simply means that in e-learning trainees tend to have lots of control over their own learning (can skip training material, learn at their own pace, etc.).

In order to find out if and how trainee satisfaction leads to actual learning in e-learning contexts, Orvis, Fisher, and Wasserman (2009) conducted an experiment that had 274 college students go through a multimedia leadership skills training course.

The findings suggest that trainees with high levels of learner control tended to be more satisfied than those with less control.  This in turn led to increased learning. Orvis et al. also found that increased satisfaction helped keep trainees’ attention focused on the training course. And as expected, the more trainees attended to the training course, the more they learned.

Orvis and colleagues go on to stress the value of providing trainees with high levels of learner control as it leads to increased satisfaction and ultimately learning.

BUT, the strength of the relation between trainee satisfaction and learning was quite small. In fact, it was almost identical to the correlations found in past research which have led many (including yours truly) to conclude that “the happy trainee is not necessarily the learned trainee” (somehow the authors failed to mention this). Moreover, participants’ college GPAs were actually better predictors of learning than satisfaction with training!

Based on the results here, I find it premature to conclude that satisfaction is MORE important for predicting learning in e-learning contexts than other training contexts.

Orvis, K.A., Fisher, S.L., & Wasserman, M.E. (2009). Power to the people: Using learner control to improve trainee reactions and learning in web-based instructional environments.
Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(4), 960-971.