Three Benefits of Quizzes in e-Learning

When it comes to testing, training professionals have a dilemma. “With all the focus on determining whether training helps people perform better, do we really need to include multiple choice quizzes in our e-learning? Don’t multiple choice quizzes insult the intelligence of our learners who are experienced, smart, adult learners who do not want to be treated like school children? I mean, I know that we want people to learn what is in the training and testing is a way to do that. But do these quizzes really do anything for anyone?” Quizzes in Learning

The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

Much research has been conducted to determine the benefits of tests, quizzes, and assessments in training. Most of this research points to several benefits that learning experience (LX) designers should understand. One example is from a 2010 study which concluded that testing requires learners to “retrieve information effortfully from memory, and that such effortful retrieval turns out to be a wonderfully powerful mnemonic device in many circumstances.” In a recent Richardson blog post, assessments can be used not only to test what people have learned, but can be used to motivate people to “want to” learn. In a third study in 2009, by giving learners a way to see their deficits, they will be more motivated to work on those deficits.

Compelling evidence to be sure. And there are three themes I find in the research that can help LX designers use the Mindflash Quiz Editor to create effective quizzes. These three themes are that quizzes can be used to motivate people, help them remember content they just covered, and to help assess what they learned. I cover each of these three themes below.

Quizzes that Motivate

The Richardson blog post talks about how quizzes can be used to motivate people to “want to” learn. One way to do this is to begin an e-learning course with a pre-test. This pre-test is a non-graded quiz at the beginning of an e-learning course used for the expressed purpose of allowing learners to see what they already know and don’t know. For a pre-test to be effective, it must cover major learning points in the course, it must be made clear that it is not graded, and it must allow people to go back and repeat the questions. The learner is in complete control. Using a variety of multiple choice, multiple answer and true/false questions, you can provide relevant pre-test questions to prepare your learners for what they need to pay attention to during the course. When people miss a question, they will more likely be motivated to pay attention to that topic in the course when it comes up, so they do not miss that question again. Use pre-tests to help your learners see what is coming so they can prepare themselves to pay attention during the course.

Quizzes that Help People Remember

During your e-learning course, it is a good idea to stop and review what was learned. Repetition is an important element of learning, and one way to repeat content is through quizzes. It is important that these review quizzes are not graded. The purpose is not to assess learning, but to give learners a way to remember what they have learned. One way to do this, besides just telling people, is to use alternative quiz types, like sequencing and labeling.

Mindflash has three quiz types that fall into these two categories. A sequencing quiz-type is one in which you present several steps in a process and the learner has to drag-and-drop the steps into the correct order. This is an excellent quiz type for any process: a sales process, steps for solving a customer escalation, or even your supply chain management process.

Labeling works by showing a picture or a series of pictures and asking learners to label each item on the picture. For example, let’s say your e-learning course is on security awareness and you just finished a segment on security risks. You could use labeling by showing a picture with risk items scattered all over someone’s desk, like passwords on a sticky note, a company badge, and a RAS token. You ask the learner to label each security risks.

Another key point with quizzes during an e-learning event, is that you want to keep them simple. Maintaining motivation during training is important so learners will want to continue to learn and get through your course.

Quizzes that Assess What Was Learned

Of course, we want to know whether people learned something, and most of you will want to track and report that people learned something. So at the end of the e-learning course, you can present a standard quiz using multiple choice and true/false questions. At this point, grading the quiz is appropriate and learners should be told that the final quiz will be graded.

Quizzes Don’t Have to Be Same-Old, Same-Old

Quizzes do not have to be boring, intelligence-insulting exercises serving no purpose other than to check the box that says we tested people. Quizzes in e-learning can be used to motivate learners, help them remember what they learned, and assess what they learned. Evidence from research shows us this and can be used to our advantage, if we follow a few simple principles mentioned above to make our quizzes more effective. Mindflash gives you all the tools you need in the Mindflash Quiz Editor to create effective quizzes before, during, and after your e-learning courses.

Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technology (HPT) leader with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Allonhill. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.