Ahh, challenges. Whether you love pub quizzes or playing trivia on your phone, you know how exciting it is to anticipate an answer or the gratification of choosing the correct one. It’s basically candy for the brain.

And like candy, it’s really disappointing when you get a flavor that you don’t enjoy. For quiz takers, that means answering questions that are too easy, too difficult, too confusing, or just plainly not well thought out.

To find out more, we’ve already explored the most common mistakes that course creators make when designing a quiz and how to avoid them in this blog post: 7 Things that may be wrong with your online course quizzes.

Here’s a quick recap of what makes a quiz good:

  • It’s related to your learning goals for the course
  • It’s useful for improving retention by helping learners recall content
  • Learners find it challenging and engaging
  • It’s well-integrated into the structure of the course
  • It offers enough variety in terms of questions and tasks
  • It’s created using a tool such as a learning management system (LMS) or course authoring tool that automatically corrects answers

That being said, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of quiz creation.

How to create awesome quizzes for your online courses

It’s worth noting that you should know what are the different types of questions that you can use, bearing in mind that the ultimate goal is to reinforce learning.

So without further ado, here are the most common options you have when creating a quiz and how to make the best of each one:

  1. True or False

    True or False questions are a quick way to check knowledge. It’s fairly easy to create them and although most instructors tend to write facts or statements for these questions, you can also add short case studies to break the routine.

    Advantages:

    • Improve retention
    • Allow for reflection on what learners have mastered
    • Quick and easy to answer

    Disadvantages:

    • Learners have a 50-50 chance of guessing the answer
    • Not as challenging as other types of questions

    Tips:

    • Choose one fact or statement, don’t overcomplicate it
    • Avoid double negatives and tricky wording
    • Add more false questions than true; learners tend to choose true most often
    • As part of your scoring system add one point for this type of questions (and assign more points for harder ones)
    • Add feedback comments for each question (or harder ones)
    true or false questions
  2. Multiple-choice: single or many correct answers

    Multiple-choice questions are also a way to quickly evaluate what your course participants have learned. It’s also a step up since they need to weigh each question and come up with one or multiple good answers. It’s not just that it uses more brainpower; they use their analytical skills to show a deeper understanding of a concept, especially with multiple correct answers.

    Advantages:

    • Fairly quick to create
    • Harder to guess or choose randomly
    • You can evaluate the retention of relevant concepts or test comprehension of a subject

    Disadvantages:

    • It takes more time for instructors to formulate a good question
    • You need time to find plausible alternative answers

    Tips:

    • Randomize answers so learners won’t be influenced by the order of the questions
    • Give feedback for more difficult questions
    • Incorrect choices should be 100% wrong and unambiguous
    • Keep answers short and approximately the same length
    • Choose a maximum of 4-5 total answers
    • Get into specific situations and avoid lengthy paragraphs
    multiple choice questions
  3. Fill in the blanks

    This is really one of the most fun question types. Now we’re getting deeper into the course material and it’s a chance for learners to actively recall answers. Fill in the blanks questions also work great if you want them to remember certain specialty terms.

    Advantages:

    • Good for recalling terms, concepts
    • Harder to guess answers
    • Show deeper understanding of the course material

    Disadvantages:

    • Spelling mistakes might lead to “wrong answers” that are actually correct
    • To be effective, answers should be limited to one or two words per question

    Tips:

    • Fill in the blank lines shouldn’t be the same length as the words (that works as a hint)
    • Keep questions short and to the point
    • Answers shouldn’t be case sensitive
    fill in the blanks questions
  4. Matching

    Learners can match options with the correct answer. In this case, they demonstrate their attention to detail. For example, it shows how well they remember the different parts of an object or whether they can make the connection between different concepts.

    Advantages:

    • Can be used with scenarios and short case study questions
    • It’s not easy to guess the correct answer
    • Easier to use when you want to test learners’ understanding of complex concepts

    Disadvantages:

    • Can take some time to come up with good questions

    Tips:

    • Add a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10 matching items
    • Use matching to assess a learning goal that has “differentiate”, “compare” or “organize” as a verb according to Bloom’s taxonomy
    matching questions
  5. Bonus: freeform

    If you have thousands of learners, a freeform question might not be for your course simply because you don’t have enough time to read essay-type answers. However, it might be a good idea to have at least one freeform question per course if you teach a foreign language or creative writing, for example.

    Advantages:

    • Great for evaluating their ability to create new ideas or original items
    • There’s no limit to what you can evaluate (covers all course material)

    Disadvantages:

    • Takes time to evaluate each submission
    • Can’t add many freeform questions per course or module since it takes so long to grade
    • This type of answer is subjective and open to interpretation

    Tips:

    • Have clear goals when creating these questions and grade based on them (e.g. creativity, use of course material to elaborate a good answer)
    • Keep an open mind when reading: some learners might surprise you with really good answers
    • Make it optional for learners so they don’t feel the pressure to complete them if they don’t want to
    freeform questions

The results are in…

Quizzes are the most at-hand solution to engage your learners. Everyone can create good quizzes as long as you know what are the types of questions you could ask and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each of them.

My final word of advice is to choose an authoring tool or a good learning management system with a good authoring tool so you’ll save time and have plenty of options for creating awesome quizzes.

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