Evidence-Based Best Practices for Interactives

I work in higher ed with a team of designers, all with their own ideas about how to build quiz interactives (any type: drag/drop, MC, matching, etc.), and I'd like to provide them with a cohesive document that provides best practices for design.

Specifically, I'm seeking research conducted (preferably peer-reviewed) that identifies the following for learner success in online learning objects:

  • Number of attempts on an individual question 
  • Feedback on correctness  of parts of a question before clicking submit--as the learner is engaging with the object
  • Providing hints
  • Requiring correctness of an individual question before moving on to next question
  • Number of attempts on an interactive as a whole
  • Keeping correct answers chosen vs. resetting question upon a second+ attempt
  • Requiring completion of quiz before moving on
  • Requiring correctness of quiz before moving on

If anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd be forever grateful.

10 Replies
Karen Walker

Hi Ben!

Thank you very much for your response. I had not seen the government article and will definitely do a deeper dive into it. As with most of the research I'm finding, the Google Scholar search return list primarily focuses on online learning in general. I'm looking for more of the nitty gritty of interactive learning object design.

I heartily appreciate your reply.

Jackie Van Nice

Hi Karen!

When I think of elearning and research I think of Will Thalheimer. You'll find scads of researched-backed info on his site. You may find that following some of his threads and posts will point you in the direction you're looking for. Here are a few things from him: http://www.work-learning.com/catalog.html   


Guido Roessling

I would like to point you to portal.acm.org. Here you can research within a very, very large selection of CS-related publications, including many years of computing education research. While I do not have a paper title handy, I am sure that you should be able to find a suitable research paper "in there" after a moderately short search.

For example, there is "Investigating the Use of Hints in Online Problem Solving" by Stephen Cummins, Alistair Stead, Lisa Jardine-Wright, Ian Davies, Alastair R. Beresford, Andrew Rice (published in April 2016) that might fit the bill.

Ramona-Valentina Anusca
Ryan Parish
Jackie Van Nice

"When I think of elearning and research I think of Will Thalheimer."


I'm going to have to agree with Jackie on this one. I was all excited to point you in Will's direction, but she beat me to it because she is awesome! Will recently came to an ATD event in Nashville, and he was incredibly entertaining and helpful. I thought I would ace his quiz since I wrote my master's thesis on some of the underlying cognitive forces that drive adult learning (and stubbornness, for that matter), but he stumped me on so many things! 

If you don't find what you're looking for in the research listed on his site, I would strongly encourage you to reach out to him directly. He's got an encyclopedic knowledge of research going on in the field. 

What I would be interested in, however, is a broader set of questions. Do quizzes help learning retention at all? What is the objective of the quiz? Is the quiz designed to change learner behavior, or to ensure that the learner can recite back to you what was stated in the course? 

Even if the learner retains the information to "answer correctly" on the quiz provided in the course, how well will the learner retain that information after a day? What about a month? Six months? Is the information being taught so important that the learner should be expected to remember it forever, or is there a quick goal post they must cross to meet some sort of compliance requirement?

Anyway, I think I got off on a bit of a tangent. I think the research about learning retention and behavior change is fascinating, and I hope you find what you're looking for. If you do, please post back here with your findings!

Good luck!!

Karen Walker

As always the Articulate community comes through!

Thank you, Ben, Jackie, Guido, Ionut, Enes, Ashley, Scott, and Ryan for your responses.

I very much appreciate your taking the time to provide such good resources. With this information, I'm sure to make a case to my team for applying best practices.