Quizzes are a tried-and-true way to measure how well learners understand your course material. And creating the quiz itself is quick and easy with the help of an e-learning authoring tool like Articulate Storyline. But the art of writing effective quiz questions and the science behind controlling quiz behaviors like feedback, question types, and answer options can be a bit trickier to master. So before you dive into that next quiz, check out these super-helpful techniques for designing better quizzes.
Technique #1: Pick the Right Question Type for the Job
Just last week I got a first-person view of a common quizzing mistake. I was playing e-learning voyeur while my husband completed more than six hours of e-learning focused on software training. The course included several dozen quizzes intended to help him check his understanding. My husband reported that many of the questions felt like “tricks” with answers that were way too obvious to be helpful. And when I took a look, I saw that the quizzes weren’t really using the right type of questions for the subject matter.
To illustrate, let’s pretend we’re designing a short e-learning course on shoe-tying. The objective is for learners to be able to tie their shoes. Since we can’t observe them to verify that they can apply proper shoe-tying technique, we need to use the right type of question to test that objective. But how do we do that?
How Storyline Can Help
Storyline gives you the option to choose from 20 different form-based (enter text into form fields), graded, and survey question types, as well as the ability to create freeform questions with hotspots, drag-and-drop, and text-entry fields.
This combination of form-based and freeform question types gives you a ton of options; but how do you know which one is right for your objective?
Let’s start with everyone’s go-to question type: true/false.
What do you think? Was this true/false question a good test of our learner’s ability to actually tie a shoelace? What if we used a sequencing question instead?
That’s a little better, don’t you think? The drawback with the true/false question for our objective is that it’s focused on theory rather than execution. The sequencing of steps, on the other hand, actually helps us assess the learner’s ability to organize a process—in this case the steps required for tying shoes. This is much more action oriented than a simple true/false question.
Better still, we could use Storyline’s freeform question type to create an image-based drag-and-drop or hotspot question, or create an interactive video quiz to draw the learner in and give them a more immersive way to practice and learn.
Pro Tip: Shoe-tying is a simple linear process, but in cases where content is more complex or nuanced, a quiz question probably isn’t the best choice. In those cases a scenario is a better way to drive home the key learning points. For tips on designing better, more realistic scenarios, check out this great article from Nicole Legault.
Technique #2. Give Great Feedback at the Right Time
If a learner completes a quiz and gets a few answers wrong, don’t leave them hanging! Give them prompt feedback to help them avoid their mistakes next time.
How Storyline Can Help
Quiz slides in Storyline, by default, provide you with both correct and incorrect feedback layers. You can use the default text or, better yet, customize it with your own feedback by editing the text on each layer in slide view.
Storyline gives you the option to provide no feedback or to provide feedback by question or by answer choice.
- Feedback by question: This option provides feedback for the overall question. For example, if a learner responds incorrectly to a question, they see the same general “Incorrect” feedback response, regardless of their answer choice. This tells the learner that their answer is wrong, but not necessarily why it’s wrong. With customized feedback, however, you can offer more context or explain the correct answer, and why it’s a better choice than the other answer options.
- Feedback by choice: This option shows feedback for each answer choice for various question types, including: multiple choice, word bank, pick one, freeform pick one, and freeform hotspot. When a learner answers incorrectly, this option tells them that their answer choice is wrong—and by customizing the feedback for each option, you can also explain to them specifically why their answer choice was wrong.
Technique #3: Write Clear Quiz Questions
I’m going to phrase this next technique in the form of a question: When writing quiz questions, it’s very important to...
A. use the longest possible answer to make it painfully obvious which choice is correct.
B. you should use inconsistent grammar to keep learners on their toes!
C. provide way too many options.
D. both A and B
E. both C and D
F. neither C nor D
G. none of the above
H. all of the above
How Storyline Can Help
Writing questions and answers, especially incorrect answers (known as distractors), is definitely a mix of art and science! I’ve found that experience and practice are the best teachers, but here are a few dos and don’ts to guide you:
|Only ask questions that you’ve already covered in the material.||Don’t ask questions that aren’t aligned to the objectives of the lesson(s) or that haven’t been discussed yet.|
|Rephrase questions and answers to make them more readable and less lengthy.||Lift wordy text, verbatim, from source material.|
|Write a single, clearly worded question/problem.||Lump multiple questions into one, or state problems in an ambiguous way.|
|Provide plausible distractors.||Provide completely absurd, over-the-top distractors.|
|Write distinct answer options with statements that aren’t too close to the correct answer.||Use quizzes as an opportunity to try to “trick” learners with subtle word changes or ambiguity.|
|Keep all answer options roughly the same length (short).||Write a bunch of short distractors and a very lengthy correct answer.|
|Distribute correct answer choices evenly over A, B, C, and D options.||Overuse “none of the above” and “all of the above.”|
|Limit answer options to three or four distinct alternatives.||Write overlapping responses (e.g., “both A and B” or “neither C nor D”).|
|Offer clearly worded instructions for what you want the learner to do, e.g. “Drag the items below into their correct sequence.”||Assume learners will know how to interact with your quiz.|
Pro Tip: By default, Storyline is set to shuffle (randomize) the answers for multiple choice questions. This can be problematic when you need to use an answer option such as “all of the above.”
The good news is that Storyline gives you full control over which question answers are shuffled.
To turn shuffling on or off for all answers on a particular question slide, go to the question tab in form view and use the shuffle drop-down to select Answers or None.
To shuffle only some of the answer choices on a particular question slide, first turn “shuffling by answer” on. Then, right-click each answer choice that you don't want to shuffle and select Anchor Choice.
This action locks the answer choice in its current position so it won't get shuffled. Brilliant!
For a more detailed walk-through of these steps, be sure to check out this article, Shuffling Answer Choices.
Quiz questions are a vital part of e-learning. Follow these pointers and, with practice, you’ll be writing better quizzes that aren’t just a test of your learner’s ability to take a quiz.
For more helpful tips and quiz inspiration, be sure to check out these articles from the E-Learning Heroes archives:
What are your go-to tips for creating great quiz questions? Share your advice with the community by leaving a comment below.
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