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  • Rikki Lee

Assessing Your Online Assessments

Chances are that you've already written hundreds of single-statement assessment questions with either a true-or-false or multiple choice answer. Here's just one example:

Q. The toner cartridge for the iKopyMax X5000 is located:

A) At the back, above the power cord

B) On the left, below the input trays

C) On the right, below the output trays

D) At the bottom, below the bar

E) None of these

If all the assessment items you build with an instructional design tool begin with a single statement or question, it’s very possible that you’re failing your learners. When training adults, it’s not as effective to settle for only a nominal assessment experience; rather, it's better to aim for something more exciting.

The assessment we've just illustrated is certainly better than having no assessment at all. On the plus side, T/F and MCQ types are easy for designers to create and learners to answer, and the questions can assess whether learners have picked up the important information. (Or at least, they give learners an opportunity to guess the right answer.) They're also efficient for giving learners immediate feedback as soon as they're finished with the assessment. And they’re easy for an LMS to process, determine a numerical score and compare results across an organization.

But on the minus side, it’s difficult for these types of questions to assess the higher-level learning objectives of comprehension, application and analysis. Not to mention, they’re unimaginative and don’t offer interactivity other than clicking one of the choices.

If you're required to use these question types, consider at least making your questions more interesting and relevant to real-life situations. You can assess an application-level objective with such scenario-based questions. If your learning objectives begin with verbs such as “demonstrate,” “interpret,” “analyze” and so on, scenarios make better assessment questions.

For example, “Your new assistant just replaced the toner cartridge on the office iKopyMax X5000, but the copies are still faded. What should you do first to troubleshoot the problem?” Adding images, audio or even a short video clip to the question slide can further increase the learner’s interest and interactivity.

And yes, it takes more time to design a scenario question than a single-statement one. But your learners will retain what they’ve learned much longer and enjoy the assessment experience much better.

Also, try moving beyond bland T/F and MCQ whenever possible. Today’s instructional design tools offer a wide range of question types that offer variety and interactivity. These include: fill-in-the-blank, matching, short answer, multiple-answer multiple choice, sequence, hot spot and more. Each of these types is relatively easy to set up with the tool’s question wizard, and all answers can be reported to the LMS.

In addition, consider creating more complex questions that use click-box or drag-and-drop interactions—especially with exercises that don’t need to be graded. Adult learners crave interactive exercises, and their performance improves as a result.

Finally, assessments shouldn’t take place only during or after the course. Consider sending out a pre-assessment to all learners several days before they take an online course. This will help you identify in advance what learners already know, and you can compare it to what they’ve learned in the course.

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