Sunday, April 27, 2008

Creating Assessment Questions in an eLearning Course

Assessment questions whether formative or summative are unavoidable in an e-learning course. Just as people halt during a journey to take a break, similarly e-learning courses have assessment questions to determine how far the learner has been able to absorb the content of the course. This particular article will tell you the need for assessment questions, classification of assessment questions, components of assessment question and types of assessment question.
You can label assessment questions as practice question, test question or check your understanding.
Need for Assessment Questions:
  • Assessment helps to gauge the effectiveness of the course
  • It helps to assure that the student has mastered the material within the course
  • It encourages and builds confidence in the learners
  • It corrects any misconceptions
  • Acts as a breather
  • It helps to keep track of student’s progress
  • It motivates the student to focus on important elements in a course
  • It reinforces learning through feedbacks
  • Students/learners also get to know their strength and weakness in terms of performance

Classification of Assessment Questions:
Diagnostic: This kind of assessment is used to know the skill level of the learner, so that the learning activities can match their requirements.
Formative: This kind of assessment is included after each concept which is taught, so as to check the level of understanding of the learner.
Summative: This kind of assessment is given at the end of the course testing the learner on the overall content of the course.
Components of Assessment Questions:
The three essential components of a question are:
Question Stem:
You can broadly classify questions as open-ended and close-ended. An open-ended question is one where the answer is not restricted to yes or no. Questions open to discussion fall under this category. Question forms like why, how, what, could, would when, can, summarize, analyze, describe make questions open-ended. A close-ended question is a yes-no type of question. You close the question for the audience. Question forms like did, do, is and are make questions close-ended.
Examples of open-ended questions:
How did you find the art exhibition this year?
Why do you think we need to exercise?
Examples of close-ended questions:
Do you like watching movies?
Do you like ice cream?
  • Question stem should be created in a such a way that it should map the learning objective
  • Learning objective states what the learner is going to learn at the end of the course
  • Use appropriate action verbs to form learning objectives
  • The questions should be based on the testing point
  • Testing points are stepping stones to learning objectives. A testing point is the basis on which a learner is asked questions
  • It is very important to cover all the learning objective while forming question stems
  • Questions should be created based on the weightage assigned to each learning objective (Meaning questioned should be created based on the importance of the concept)

Example: (Sample Content)
Active Listening (Hear What People Are Really Saying)
Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.
We listen to obtain information. We listen to understand. We listen for enjoyment. We listen to learn.
Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade negotiate. What’s more, you will avoid conflict and misunderstandings – all necessary for workplace success.
Objectives: (Learning Objectives for the above content)
By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Define what is active listening
  • State the purpose of listening
  • State the advantages of being an active listener

Example of Testing Points:

How to assign weightage?
Imagine that the duration of the lesson is 10minutes. Questions have to be formed according to their importance.

Testing Points:

  • Definition of active listening (This testing point is not as important as the other points, we can skip this.)
  • Purpose of active listening
    • To obtain information ( These are all testing points)
    • To understand
    • For enjoyment
    • To learn
  • Advantages of active listening
    • Improves job effectiveness
    • Improves productivity
    • Improves ability to persuade, influence or negotiate
    • Helps avoid conflict and misunderstandings


  • It should be consistent and standardized
  • It should be consistent in length
  • Disrtactors should belong to the same family
  • Is should be challenging
  • Distractors become easy to create if we begin it with the same action verb as in the learning objective
  • Terms which are used in the question stem can not be used in distractors
  • Do not use ‘none of the above’ or ‘all of the above’ as one of the distractors, because this becomes a giveaway. However it can be used in summative evaluation
  • Do not use opposites as one of the distractors, it becomes a giveaway
  • Distractors should always be taken from the text
Example of Bad Distractors/Giveaways:
Q) Imagine that Rohit is making a presentation; he is quite nervous and he presumes that nobody will pay attention to his message. Choose the correct option to assure Rohit that you are paying attention to his message.

Example of Good Distractors:
Q) Mr. A went for requirement gathering to Mumbai for ABC project. He is the team leader (TL) for this project. During the meeting he concentrated more on jotting down the points rather than listening to discussion. After coming back to his office he was unable to explain all the points to his team mates. It is clearly evident that Mr. A is not an active listener. Based on the above scenario choose the purpose of active listening.
  • Feedback should always answer the question
  • Just telling ‘you are correct ‘ or ‘sorry, you are wrong’ does not serve any purpose
  • Before giving the answer, it is always better to provide hint answers to the learners
  • In feedback it is a good practice to state why the answer is correct
Its Advantage:
  • It reinforces learning
  • If does away with mistaken belief of any concept
  • It instills confidence in the learner

Example of Good Feedback:
Q) Identify the conjunction used in the following sentence.
Neither Tom nor Harry play football.
Neither Tom nor Harry play football.

This kind of feedback not only reinforces but adds to the knowledge of the learner.
Example of Bad Feedback:
Assume that the learner only points out neither as conjunctions.
Neither Tom nor Harry play football.

This kind of a feedback is bad because it only enlightens the learner about the correct answer, without telling about the other conjunction.

Types of QuestionsQuestions Can Be Of The Following Types:

  • MCQ/ Multiple Choice Questions
  • Match the Column
  • True or False
  • Drag n Drop
  • Fill in the Blanks
  • Hotspot Questions
  • Sequencing Questions

MCQ/ Multiple Choice Questions:
This is an objective type of question where only one option is correct and the rest are distractors. Example:
It ________________ when I came to the office.
was raining , is raining, had been raining, has been raining

Match the Column:
In this kind of a question the learner has to match the options of column A with that of B.
Match each emoticon with the appropriate word.
Column A Column B
:) Smiling
:-} Embarrassed Smile
:P Sticking out your tongue
:-/ Perplexed/Confused
:-O Frightened

True and False Questions:
In this type of question there are only two responses for each item and the learner has to choose. It is used to test recall understanding.
Is it possible to cry in space?
Jawaharlal Nehru was the first President of India.
Ostrich is the largest living bird.

Drag and Drop:
In this type of question multiple questions and answers are provided and the learner has to drag and place the correct before a question.
Drag and drop the official language in front of the country it belongs to.
Nepal Monaco Argentina Morocco Kenya Finland
English, Arabic, Finnish, Nepali, French, Spanish

Fill in the blanks:
In this type of question multiple answer are provided out of which only one is correct.
We had our house ________________with white color.
Painted, Painting
Don’t let the teacher catch you _______________.
Cheating, To cheat
He has many friends, but _________ are good ones.
A few, Few

Hotspot Questions:
A Hotspot Question is a question that allows the user to click on the correct area within the image. There is only one correct answer to this type of question.
Identify the planet named Saturn.
This correct image or the correct answer is highlighted.
Sequencing Questions:
In this type of question the learners are asked to put items into a sequence from beginning to end by some rule or according to some principle. Learners are presented with a list of items in an incorrect order and then they are asked to move the items to put the items into the right relative positions within the list.
Q) Arrange the options given in correct sequential order to open a word application.
Open Ms-Word, Click on start button, Open MS-Office Package
To conclude I can say that, assessments are necessary as they not only reinforce learning but also ensure that the learner interacts with the course. It coaxes the learner to think.

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riya said...

Hi I work as a trainee instructional deesigner in B'lore. Must say this is a very comprehencive article. Keep blogging :)

Partha Sarathy said...

Hi Moushmi

Can you kindly explain when the assessment types are used. For example, when a MCQ is used vs when a drag and drop is used. THe when part is what i am interested in.