A Practitioner’s Dilemma: How can I calculate the value of communities of practice?
By Julia Storberg-Walker
On these pages of eLearn Magazine, many authors have written about the challenges of calculating the return on investment in technology and human capital development. For example, Dan Kossman suggested the phrase “return on value” as one way to calculate the added value of learning or training. Kossman wrote, “ROV broadens the analysis of ROI to include financial costs and hard returns as well as intangible benefits like having a scalable business, or increasing employee competence and customer satisfaction.” Another author, Patrick Lambe, argued the economics of eLearning was different from the economics of typical training; consequently, how one assesses the value of elearning will be different. Lambe suggested “…metrics such as ‘contingent valuation’ and ‘outcomes-based evaluation’ are increasingly used for measuring the impact of other intangible, knowledge-based interventions, such as public library services or knowledge-based ecological systems.” These authors, and others like them, wrestle with the difficulties of understanding how much input (in terms of dollars) produces how much output (in terms of value add to the organization). We all intuitively know that investing in certain employee development interventions generate positive returns of the organization, but proving the return can be difficult.