How to quiz your learners at the right time

Our new e-learning developers often ask us: “What’s the best way to use quizzes in my course?” I remember asking a former mentor a similar question. Her response? “Quiz early, quiz often!” Over the years, I’ve realized that her advice is perfect for online courses. While it’s beneficial to give quizzes at the end of a unit, there are so many other opportunities to make good use of quizzes.

Here are three great ways and times to use quizzes in your courses :

1. Assess Your Learner’s Knowledge at the End of a Course.

The first and most obvious time to use a quiz is at the end of a learning module. Traditionally, course creators have used quizzes at the end of a course. However, it’s important to note that quizzes can only help you assess a learner’s understanding of the content presented in the course. If you’re trying to assess a learner’s ability to perform a behavior or action, you’ll want to try a different method of assessment.  

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If your course objectives are behavioral in nature (such as helping learners respond to customers with the right amount of empathy), a quiz is probably not the best assessment tool.

2. Assess Your Learner’s Knowledge Before the Course.

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best time to give a quiz is before you start teaching. A quiz is a great way to give your learners a hint of what is to come. It helps them to focus, because if the quiz is hard they’ll know that they have to work hard on learning the material. It can also pique their interest and curiosity about the content.  

You can also use a quiz to compare how much your learners knew coming into the course and how much they knew when they completed it. This will help you not only measure your learners’ knowledge gains, but also your teaching ability. How will you know that your learners have acquired new knowledge by simply giving them a test after the course? What if they already knew all of this content? Speaking of which, the final reason you’d give a quiz before the course is to allow the learner to “test out.” If the learner already knows the material, there’s no need to force them to sit through the course. Granted, there may be regulatory or legal reasons that a learner has to take the course, but if not, it’s a good idea to let them demonstrate their knowledge and move on.

3. Assess Your Learner’s Understanding of the Material as You Go Along.  

A quiz can serve as a gatekeeper throughout the course. After you present a chunk of information, give your learners a quiz. It can be a single question or multiple questions. This will help you assess whether or not they understood what you just taught them, while also reinforcing the main ideas in that section. If they pass the quiz, allow them to move on. If they didn’t understand the material, you can route them back to review the material and try again.

Ultimately, there’s never really a bad time to quiz your learners. There are so many good reasons to quiz your learners and quizzes can serve numerous purposes. The key is to be intentional with why you’re giving the quiz. If you do, you’ll find (as I did) that the quiz is so much more than a simple test.

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