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January 9th, 2020 Course Creation

Better E-Learning Quizzes Result in Better Knowledge Retention

E-learning, whether in a school environment or in the workplace, allows students and employees to take courses on their own time, at their own pace. Remote courses also give students ample time to review the material and ensure that they fully understand each module before moving on to the next.

The best e-learning quiz questions reinforce the important points of each course and ensure that your students retained the information and are able to apply what they know. Writing a good e-learning quiz can make a difference in evaluating the effectiveness of the course as a whole. If you’re new to writing e-learning quizzes, there’s plenty of things to consider to ensure that your questions are effective.

1. Quizzes reinforce course objectives.

Write your quizzes working backward. That is, when you plan your e-learning quiz, consider the course objective, and center the questions around that. Your quiz determines whether your students have mastered the course. If most of your students pass, then you, in turn, have managed to complete your course objective.

For example, if your course objective is mastering baking a cake, then the quiz questions should test the students’ knowledge of ingredients, steps to complete a cake, preparation methods, and how the final result should appear. If your quiz is about painting a house, then the questions should relate to preparing a house for painting, selecting the right type of paint, the procedure for the act of painting, and things to avoid doing, in order to have a smooth, beautiful coat of paint.

2. Plan your quiz in advance.

Align your e-learning quiz with your course objectives, and make sure that your quiz length is the proper length. Divide your course objectives into sub-groups, and have about 3-5 questions about each subgroup, covering the main points of each.

Quizzes that are too short may not cover enough relevant material, while those that are too long may end up with students getting “test fatigue” and giving up towards the end, just to be done.

3. Make answers clear and concise.

Clear writing, an absence of jargon (unless you’re testing particular vocabulary and definitions) and less ambiguity make it easier for those taking the quiz to understand the “meat” of what you’re asking. It’s better for students to be able to read the questions once or twice and identify the correct answer than it is for them to spend more time deciding on what you’re actually asking than they do on determining the correct answer.

Keeping your questions clear and your multiple choice answers simple truly tests whether they know the material.

4. Allow only one answer.

Multiple choice questions fail when two different answers can both be correct. Don’t allow more than one correct answer. While the wrong answers can and should be close to the correct one, ensure that there isn’t any ambiguity in the wording of the incorrect answer that leaves it open for argument as to its correctness.

5. But, make sure the wrong answers are plausible.

If you’re asking about the atomic weight of Boron, and your selections are “15”, “no weight”, “10”, and “your refrigerator”, then you aren’t truly testing whether your students know the answer. The wrong answers should be sort of close to the right answer but, for those that actually mastered the material, obviously wrong. For those that didn’t master the material, the wrong answers should not obviously be wrong.

Putting in silly or throw-away responses insults the intelligence of your students and doesn’t reward those who truly studied and learned. The trick with plausible wrong answers is to make sure that learners are able to distinguish nuance in the difference between the answers.

6. Avoid true/ false questions.

True/ false questions may be easier to write, but how much does a 50/50 chance of selecting the right answer really tell you about whether your students have mastered the course material? While there may be exceptions to this rule, depending on your material, it’s better to allow your students more discernment when making the right choice.

7. Avoid absolutes and confusing answers.

When phrasing your questions, avoid using absolute language, like “always”, “never”, “all”, or “none”. These types of answers have no exceptions, as they’re 100% right or 100% wrong, and don’t allow your students to distinguish between nuanced answers. Essentially, they’re longer true/ false questions.

Following that, when offering multiple-choice options, don’t offer answers that combine two or more of the provided answers. For example, an answer like Option D: A & B can be confusing. If you wish for students to identify more than one correct answer, then make the question one where they select all of the correct options, rather than one correct option that consists of the other answers.

8. Use different types of questions.

Quiz fatigue can happen if students are faced with question after question of the same type. Remember, the point of your quiz isn’t to defeat the students, it’s about allowing them to demonstrate what they’ve learned from your course materials.

When you mix the question types up, such as a blend of multiple choice and short answer questions, you keep them focused and engaged with the quiz. In addition, some of the material you’re testing them over may lend itself better to an open-ended question rather than a set of selections. When students are asked to provide an answer, rather than selecting one, then they’re forced to examine what they know and convey it in an intelligible manner.

Other types of questions can include drag-and-drop, or matching terms with definitions. This can be especially beneficial for professional certifications or technical courses. It’s important that when you’re quizzing students about a subject matter, that they actually understand the terms you’re using.

9. Offer feedback with questions.

If you’re able to construct your quizzes to respond with brief feedback with each response, you’ll reinforce the material. With a wrong answer, you may have a response that says “That’s not correct. In fact, a red octagon is a stop sign, not a yield sign, and has the word STOP printed on it.” Providing immediate feedback while the student is taking the quiz helps them understand why their response was incorrect.

You can also support the correct answers with additional feedback, such as, “That’s correct. The red octagon is STOP sign, and it’s colored red so that drivers pay attention to it.” Providing follow-up feedback with each response is especially important if you plan to allow students to re-take the quiz until they’re demonstrated mastery. Think of the feedback you provide as an additional study guide.

10. Allow multiple attempts to take the quiz.

If your objective is for your students to master the course material, it makes sense to allow them multiple attempts to take the quiz. The ultimate objective of every e-learning course is for students to master the material. If the quiz shows that they haven’t mastered the material, then they should have the opportunity to study further and, after that, another chance to demonstrate their knowledge.

Putting It All Together

Writing e-learning quiz questions can be challenging. However, when you approach the quiz-creating process with the ultimate objective of determining whether your students gained additional knowledge from your courses, then you’ll have an easier time creating questions that delve into the specifics of the material. Focus on the most important points of each course and relate your questions to real-world applications of that material.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. He is currently founder & CEO of GapScout. Justin's Homepage | GapScout | Twitter


3 responses

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GREAT article Justin!
The only thing I would add is set your passing standard at 100%. That is competence and demonstrates actual understanding. Would you be ok with riding a pilot who scored 95%? Computers are a game changer in education. In classrooms it is difficult to achieve 100% on all students but with computers you can. 2. Plan your quiz in advance. Quizzes and Courses should be designed so any student can achieve 100%.

A valid approach Mark, thanks for sharing!

Some very good and solid points, Justin. However…

Typically, for example, short answer questions tend to be a bigger challenge than single choice questions. Therefore, if you are presenting a set number of questions from a larger bank of questions, you cannot guarantee that each user will have the same number of each type of question. Some will get an easier quiz than others! Being able to split the questions, by question type, into two groups so that you can present say 12 from one group and 8 from the other would ensure all quizzes are more equal.

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