Pop Quiz! Do You Really Need Quizzes in Online Training?

Question:  Do you really need quizzes in your online training modules?
Select the best answer to the question from the choices below.

A.   Always
B.   Never
C.   Probably

The answer is C, “Probably.” If I said the answer was A, “Always,” you could probably find the exception where quizzes would not make sense in an online training experience. But if your purpose for creating a training course includes one or more of the following—to motivate the learner, make learning engaging, assess knowledge, drive behavioral change, close training gaps, gain visibility into performance, or measure ROI—you should probably include quizzes in your online training.

Lights of the MindIn the article How Tests Make Us Smarter, Dr. Henry Roediger writes: “Tests have a bad reputation in education circles these days: They take time, the critics say, put students under pressure and, in the case of standardized testing, crowd out other educational priorities. But the truth is that, used properly, testing as part of an educational routine provides an important tool not just to measure learning, but to promote it.”

So keep the quizzes in your eLearning modules coming. Just keep them relevant and entertaining. And think outside the box when designing your testing strategy.

Learner Psychology

Dr. Roediger writes:  “[…] many studies reveal that much of what we learn is quickly forgotten. Thus a central challenge to learning is finding a way to stem forgetting.” And, to avoid boring the learner into inattention. And to ensure that the learning is extended to the workplace.

Using low- or no-stakes quizzing ensures the learner carries learning forward, “like compounded interest”, Roediger says. High-stakes, scored quizzes have their place, but incorporate quizzes that test learning for learning’s sake in your training as well.

Research at UCLA’s Bjork Learning and Forgetting Lab, as well as Dr. Roediger and his colleagues’ research, discusses the “Testing Effect” and the “Spacing Effect”.

The Testing Effect shows that the effort of retrieving knowledge from memory facilitates learning. Asking questions rather than simply telling the learner what she should learn increases knowledge retention. Incorporate instances of self-discovery of knowledge in your eLearning through questioning and quizzing.

The Spacing Effect refers to spacing out quizzes so that time is allowed for forgetting to occur before the learner is asked to recall (retrieve) information. Spacing is an excellent way to break existing, non-ideal behavioral patterns to allow the creation of new, desired habits.

And mixing up quiz types aids in the knowledge retrieval process. And makes your training fun and memorable.

The Art of Quizzing

So, how do we put the educational psychology research into action and design optimal quizzes? Try a combination of the following techniques.

  • Mixing Question Types: Take quizzing further than the traditional multiple choice questions and use mixed-type quizzes. Many quiz editors offer a variety of question types, such as true/false, multiple answer, labeling images, labeling items in a picture, and sequencing objects—in addition to multiple choice questions.
  • Pre- and Post-Testing:  Use both types of tests to enable the learner to see how her level of knowledge has increased. Pre-tests also serve to focus the learner on the important learning points before content is presented.
  • Surveys:  Quizzes can be transformed into surveys. Surveys can be used to collect feedback, market research, and to gauge learner interest in additional topics. This valuable data can help you plan your next online training module, particularly when you are employing microlearning techniques. Microlearning is well-suited to the Spacing Effect, allowing time for the learner to synthesize content before moving on to the next learning burst.
  • Learning Objectives:  Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a way for the instructional designer to organize educational objectives from the least to most complex. Incorporate quizzes that address all six levels, in succession, in your online training.
  • Learning Intentions:  Speaking of educational objectives, map each quiz to a specific learning purpose to gain maximum benefits. Is your quiz intended to motivate, review, or assess? Try to add all intentions into your quizzes.
  • The Answers:  When providing quiz answers, help the learner by providing the reasoning behind the answer. Direct him to the location where the answer can be found or to additional learning resources.
  • Test the Test:  Lastly, test your quiz before you roll it out. Engage your management stakeholders to help you to create relevant quiz questions. Gather feedback and incorporate into your final quiz version.

Taking Quiz Creation Out-of-the-Box

Challenge:  Can you adapt the question types in your Quiz Editor to take quizzing to the next level?

Below are suggestions on how to do just that, some of which are included in Brilliance by Design: Creating Learning Experiences that Connect, Inspire, and ENGAGE by Vicki Halsey.

Take full advantage of the Spacing Effect. Ask the learner to take a break and research a question off-line before resuming the online training. Or ask the learner to identify a common work-related scenario that could be improved by applying a learning concept, and return to the training prepared to share and discuss. The answers can be entered in a free-form question type, through face-to-face communication, or via a micro-sharing tool like Yammer.

Learner-created quiz content that attempts to “stump” colleagues engages the learner and increases personal knowledge. As a review, ask teams of learners to create quiz questions that will be handed off to another team to answer. Introduce competition by offering a “prize” to the team that gets the most colleague-created questions correct.

Learning should be applied within 24- to 48-hours of the training session. Email or text participants with a link to a post-training survey and ask questions about how learning has been applied on the job since training. Or send a crossword puzzle or game that tests learner retention. Post-training “quizzes” help measure ROI and provide guidance on any needed follow-up training or individual coaching.

Keep training alive by encouraging discussion. Consider assigning mentors, coaches, or buddies to employees who may have struggled during the training, as evidenced by quiz scores.

When designing a testing strategy, go beyond ensuring that the learner does not forget the learning objectives and content. Use quizzes to ensure the learner remembers the training experience by making testing relevant, memorable, and fun.

Extra Credit:  What out-of-the-box testing strategies have you employed or encountered to enhance online learning? Please extend the conversation by leaving a comment through our social media outlets.

Gauri Reyes loves testing others, but is not so fond of being tested herself—unless the test methodology is creative and fun. She is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. Gauri is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

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