December 16, 2011

Keep Your Knowledge Check Questions Simple!

Imagine you are taking an eLearning course and bump into a knowledge check question. You read through the question stem and options and find it difficult to answer the question. Somehow you make a selection and get a feedback “Sorry, that’s incorrect! Try again.”

You don’t feel good about it as you can’t figure out what went wrong. You attempt to answer the question again but this time around you don’t even bother to read the options and click on any option randomly and keep repeating it till you get it correct.

Disheartening, isn’t it? The basic purpose of using a Knowledge Check question in the course is lost here…

Knowledge Check questions are a great way to keep the learners engaged and on track and let them know how they are doing in the course. It also helps making the learning interactive where the learner is given an opportunity to think and answer the questions based on what they have learned so far.

But you need to be careful when you are framing the knowledge check questions. A simple rule is: Keep them simple! If you try and make them tricky and extremely difficult to answer, you might end up demotivating the learner. They are knowledge check questions so let them just be at knowledge level. If the learners are able to answer the question correctly, it will boost their morale and will motivate them to continue learning.

Another important factor here is to provide appropriate feedback to your learners based on the options they select. Just saying “That’s right!” or “Sorry, that’s not the best answer.” won’t help. It’s an opportunity for you to let your learners know why their answer was correct or incorrect. Tap this opportunity and plug in some useful information in the form of feedback.

When writing the feedback, let them know if the selected option was correct or incorrect, if possible, include the option they selected, and then tell them why the option was correct or incorrect.

You can also replace questions with simple interactivities and games but follow the same rules of keeping them simple and providing customized feedback for each option.

Here’s an example of a knowledge check question.

Want to create such a screen in Captivate? Here’s a demonstration.

Do share your thoughts, tips, and examples related to knowledge check questions by leaving a comment here.

Posted by poojajaisingh6:32 PM
  • Anonymous

    While I agree about giving more useful feedback than “That’s incorrect,” the research doesn’t actually support the idea of making questions so simple that everyone can answer them correctly. In fact, people may actually learn more if you give them chances to make mistakes.

    Check out the research. It may make you reconsider your position.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=getting-it-wrong

    “The idea embedded in this approach is that if students make errors, they will learn the errors and be prevented (or slowed) in learning the correct information. But research … reveals that this worry is misplaced. In fact, they found, learning becomes better if conditions are arranged so that students make errors.”

    • http://twitter.com/poojajaisingh Dr. Pooja Jaisingh

      That’s an interesting piece of research and definitely worth trying :)

      I blogged about something similar a few weeks back where I talked about allowing the users to make mistakes and learn from them. Would love to hear your thoughts on that as well! http://blogs.adobe.com/captivate/2011/11/let-them-make-mistakes-and-learn.html

      • Anonymous

        How do you reconcile your previous post with this one? You seem to contradict yourself.

        This post:
        “Keep them simple! If you try and make them tricky and extremely difficult to answer, you might end up demotivating the learner. … If the learners are able to answer the question correctly, it will boost their morale and will motivate them to continue learning.”

        Your previous post:
        “The initial stage of learning anything new involves a lot of setbacks. We actually learn better if we make more errors because we get a first-hand experience of moving into an incorrect direction and then we walk that extra mile to correct our wrong move.”

        Did you change your mind in the month between those posts?

        • http://twitter.com/poojajaisingh Dr. Pooja Jaisingh

          No, I didn’t change my mind :)

          I idea in the previous post was to allow the learners to make mistakes and not making them feel that they have done a blunder, but allowing them to correct their mistakes and provide them constructive feedback to help them find the right path. It was in context to scenario-based courses…

          This post is about knowledge check questions, and the idea is to keep them simple (knowledge level) and not to take them to application level or above.

  • peter jackson

    Very good post…..I like this post.

  • Raj

    Awesome Post. I was looking for Delhi Properties and finally landed on this post.

  • Rod Ward

    I think we may be confusing two different types of question/interaction here: Interactions designed to motivate and encourage the learner are NOT the same thing as a knowledge check.

    My take on all of this is that by definition a “Knowledge Check” question or interaction is actually there for the express purpose to “check the current knowledge” of the participant at that point in time.

    So of the knowledge checks are being placed early in the content, it’s usually with the intent of finding out which areas the participant already knows and can therefore fast-track through to the areas they don’t.

    If your knowledge checks are placed after you deliver the content, but before the official assessment, then the intent is to verify learning before committing to an assessment attempt that might be tracked. The unspoken issue here is that if a participant attempts an assessment and fails due to unsuccessfull learning, it might lead to undesirable consequences for the participant. So giving them some mechanism that helps them guage readiness for the assessment is both practical and kind.

    To the issue of difficulty: A knowledge check question should be only as difficult as it needs to be to acheive it’s actual purpose. If it’s REALLY a true “knowledge check”, then it has to be squarely based on the learning objective that mandated this particular piece of knowledge/skill had to be included in the course. If answering correctly would mean that the learner demonstrated mastery of the concept/skill/whatever to the point that they did not need to view the content, or was deemed ready to pass the assessment, then the “knowledge check” would need to be of an equivalent difficulty to the assessment. No more, and no less.

    • http://twitter.com/poojajaisingh Dr. Pooja Jaisingh

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rod.

      By KC questions I meant the questions we present to the learners after explaining the concepts and before the assessment. Your take on the difficultly level sounds completely scientific, but somehow I feel that KC questions should be at knowledge level and not go beyond that level, even if the objective is at a higher level. If they understand the concepts well, they will be able to answer the knowledge level questions and will be better equipped to answer higher level questions in the assessment. If you really want to ask higher level questions as KC questions then first present simple question related to the concept and then graduate to the difficult one.

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