March 19th, 2016

evaluate_online_quizzes

When was the last time you heard someone say: “I can’t wait to take that exam!” Unless you travel in an especially eager group of friends, you have probably never heard this. Through life experiences, many of us have come to associate tests with pressure and apprehension.

While most people may not be eager to take a test, the fact still remains that quizzes and tests provide numerous benefits- especially in the workforce. Quizzes and tests are an essential part of online training, but they should be implemented with careful consideration in order to provide the most benefit to your employees.

Why quiz at all?

Effective online training depends, in large part, on the quizzes that are administered. Before finding out how to successfully build quizzes, it’s important to understand their benefits. Quizzes help motivate your employees to work on concepts or areas that they don’t fully understand. They also show them the topics that they have mastered, which can provide them with confidence as they perform their job. Quizzes also encourage your employees to recall information that they have learned and can help them to better retain this information in the future. These tests also benefit those who are in charge of training by helping them assess what the the team has learned and what still needs to be taught.

What’s wrong with the way we quiz?

If you ask most people what their quiz or test experience has been like, they will likely say that it was unpleasant. Here is what’s wrong with your typical test:

  1. No Variety – There is little to no variety in the types of questions that are asked, making the exam dry and hard to focus on.

  2. No Self Expression – Because quizzes are often multiple choice or true/false questions, they don’t allow expression.

  3. No Collaboration – There is no way to collaborate and learn with others as you would do on the job.

  4. No Access to Resources – Quizzes assume that in a working situation you would not be able to access resources to help you find the answers you need.

  5. No Guidance – You are penalized for getting the answer wrong and are offered no guidance or support.

  6. No Scenarios – Quizzes don’t allow for the assessment of learning in different scenarios. In reality workplace challenges and opportunities are not just black and white; they are far more complex.

How to make better quizzes

Assessing the knowledge of your employees does not have to be a negative experience. With a little thought, you can offer a much better experience. Here are some ideas to help you create better quizzes:

  1. Be relevant – Coming up with the questions to include on quizzes can be difficult. For effective online training, the best method for doing so is to first have defined learning objectives. Focusing on these objectives gives you a good starting point for creating questions that will challenge employees. It also helps ensure that the quiz covers key concepts.

  1. Explore free response – Online training provides an extra opportunity to learn more about how your employees think and process information. This opportunity can at times be lost in the confines of a direct multiple choice question. By providing free response questions, you are allowing employees the opportunity to demonstrate their personal perspective and approach. These types of responses work especially well for measuring soft skills via situational questions where there are multiple “correct” approaches to solving a complex challenge.

  1. Consider group challenges – One of the most important and vital skills for your employees to possess is the ability to collaborate and work well with others. That said, it is only logical that this would be a skill you would want to include in your online training program. While group testing is not widely used in academic settings, it can make great sense to use in a work setting. Consider providing a part of the test where employees must work together to solve a challenge. This portion could culminate in a group presentation or written paper that they must submit. Allowing people to work with others will increase their engagement with the content, broaden their perspective, and greatly decrease test anxiety.

  1. Add diversity – Multiple choices might be the most common type of question on quizzes, but it’s not the only option. To create the most effective quizzes for online training, use different types of questions. Having a variety of question types keeps employees engaged and provides a more challenging assessment of their knowledge. Using sequencing questions to see if employees fully understand certain company processes is a great way to add diversity. Be sure to include enough steps to make the question challenging, but don’t go overboard and give them too many minute steps to arrange. Or if you want to keep it simple, mix up “fill in the blanks” questions with “match the answers” and “hotspot” questions.

  1. Provide guidance – Part of the reason that the game show “Who Wants to be Millionaire?” is so entertaining is that there are a variety of options to help a learner answer challenging questions. For instance, if the contestant gets really stumped on a particularly tough question, they can “ask for a lifeline” or “phone a friend”. A great way to provide guidance on a test or quiz is to provide hints for struggling learners. For example, when a question is answered incorrectly, you can link to reading material on the correct answer. This allows the learner to absorb the material while the sting of getting an answer wrong is still fresh in his mind (which leads to better learning)!

  1. Allow multiple attempts – Getting the wrong answer should not intimidate your employee. There are always ways to make quizzes harder, but you don’t want to make them so difficult that employees feel discouraged. It is key to find the right balance between testing their knowledge of concepts that are relevant to your business, without making the questions unfairly challenging. Just like everything we learn in life, sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right. Allow them to re-attempt the question or scenario without being penalized and you’ll allow them to really explore the challenge.

Providing employees with well-crafted quizzes in online training can be a highly effective learning technique when done correctly. The key is to consider the quiz itself as part of the learning process. When you approach developing quizzes this way, they become instructional aides rather than a tedious and pressure-laden task for your employees to complete.