Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guidelines for Writing E-learning Assessment Questions

A few weeks ago, I posted about the importance of providing feedback for online assessment questions.

Of course you can’t provide feedback unless you have a question and possible answers, so this week I thought I’d follow up with some of the guidelines EPI uses for writing e-learning assessment questions.


Write questions after you write the lesson or course content.

Write questions first to be sure all questions are aligned with course objectives, avoid information overload, and enable you to create job-relevant practice activities.

Use wordy or confusing questions.

Try to limit questions to one sentence that is clear, concise, and unambiguous. Remember: In most cases, learners can’t ask for clarification.

Provide silly or obviously incorrect answers.

Use realistic answers. This may take more time and work with subject matter experts (SMEs), but will result in better questions.

Use questions that require simply regurgitating information provided in the course content.

  • Develop questions that test the learners’ knowledge and their ability to apply that knowledge in their jobs.
  • Use open-ended question starters such as the following:
    • What would happen if _____?
    • Why would you ______?
    • How would ____ affect ______?
    • How would you use ____ to _____?
    • What are the strengths of _____?
    • What are the weaknesses of ______?
    • When would ______?
  • Write job-related scenarios, tasks, or problems that learners must make choices to solve or complete. These may require learners to work through several questions.

Expect learners to memorize information unless memorizing it is actually required for their job.

On the screen introducing the quiz, provide links to job aids or other relevant resources. Explain that learners should download the resources to use when answering the quiz questions

Provide an inconsistent number of answer options. For example, three choices for some questions, five for another question, and six for another.

Use a consistent number of answer options: usually three or four. This helps learners know what to expect for each question and helps avoid crowding the text to fit in more answer options.

Make the correct answer the longest answer.

Make answer choices that are about the same length.

Use abbreviations and unexplained acronyms unless you are testing for knowledge of what the abbreviation or acronym means.

Define the abbreviation or acronym the first time it is used on the screen.

Place questions that practice applying new knowledge and information only at the end of a module or course.

Use questions throughout the lessons to provide practice applying what was just learned.

Assume learners know what to do to answer each question.

Provide clear directions presented in text on the same screen with the question and answers. It may seem obvious to you how to answer a drag and drop question, but it may not be obvious to all the learners.

Provide quiz question directions using only audio.

Provide directions in text even when you’re using audio in case learners miss part of the audio directions.

Darlene Ferras

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