Are Quizzes Really That Telling? – Assessing eLearning Assessments

Multiple choice quizzes – often the norm for eLearning course assessments, right?

Perhaps not in all cases, but I’m sure that most of you reading this will acknowledge that quizzes are a widely adopted strategy when it comes to eLearning course creation.

Now, on the surface it certainly makes sense to test your candidates’ knowledge of their new-found learning by directly quizzing them on the crucial themes and facts throughout.

But, are quizzes the most appropriate form of assessment in understanding your employees’ learning and development?

Are they the most effective method available, or could we learn more from adopting a different technique?

That’s what I’ll explore in this post.

So why are assessments so important in eLearning?

According to Stephen Meyer – an authority in the field of online learning – eLearning assessments are assets when it comes to planning content, measuring individual performance and motivating your employees.

In a nutshell, eLearning assessments are essential for your employees’ development. They facilitate simpler coordination of courses for employee ease of use, and they also have a positive influence on user motivation and commitment to their training which can only have a positive impact on learning outcomes.

But what are the actual benefits of using assessments?

Well, this is just one question that Terence Karran (University of Lincoln) explores in his review titled ‘On-Line Assessment for E-Learning: Options and Opportunities’.

Building on the foundations of some stellar work already done by scholars at Oulu University in Finland, Karran outlines both the benefits and drawbacks of eLearning multiple choice quiz assessments. For the purpose of this article I have summarized the primary benefits and drawbacks of relevance to this article only below.

Karran points outs the benefits of multiple choice quizzes as easy to apply to a broad range of subject areas and of great assistance in lessening the likelihood of plagiarism affecting results.

And the drawbacks?

Most interesting however is Karran’s findings on the negative connotations of implementing multiple choice quizzes into eLearning courses:

  • Inhibit high level cognitive and evaluative skills
  • The quiz might be testing a user’s logical and interpretative skills rather than knowledge acquired
  • Can restrict insights into how complete an understanding a learner has gained due to the element of chance involved

Let’s dissect those drawbacks.

Is your subject matter relatively straightforward such as a basic fire safety induction? Or, alternatively, is it of a more complex nature such as an accounting and finance course?

If it’s the former, then perhaps a multiple choice quiz will be a suitable form of assessment, providing you also utilize at least one other form of assessment through your eLearning delivery.

If it’s the latter, then you may miss out on insights into just how well your learners know the subject. If your learners have been able to truly understand the complex subject matter and explore combinations of your content and their own ideas, then they may be able to reach remarkable conclusions beyond the simple, finite answers you provide in your multiple choice quiz.

To ensure you’re testing your learners’ knowledge – and not their ability to simply guess the right answer – you should manually generate your multiple choice quiz questions. All answers, both correct and incorrect, should have multiple variations and wordings. This way, you can pull answers from a bank of answers with varying tones; it makes your multiple choice quizzes more unpredictable.

But these suggestions can only help you so much.

What else do I need to consider?

You need to think about the distinct requirements of your eLearning course.

  • What are the desired learning outcomes that you would like your employees to reach?
  • What type of knowledge do you require your employees to have?
  • What level of understanding will your employees require to apply from their learning in the workplace?
  • How will this new-found knowledge be applied in their roles?

When you can answer these questions with confidence, you should then question which eLearning assessment method is most suitable for what you want to achieve from your eLearning-based training and development program.

What are my options?

There are so many different types of eLearning assessments available – what you need to focus on is which are most suitable in relation to the questions we just pondered.

For example, let’s say that you require your employees to learn about the most recent anti-bribery legislation. This can be quite a complex subject matter to absorb.

A simple multiple choice quiz may not have the capability to illustrate the level of learning or knowledge demonstration that you require from this particular training initiative. As such, you would opt for a method that would have that capability – in this instance, it may be audio-based assessments, or a memory matrix.

What matters is being able to make that intangible link from your eLearning objectives to specific assessment methods.

It’s important.


Measuring your employees’ learning is vital in ensuring that your investment in their training has actually been successful and worthwhile.

It’s not always a straightforward process to select assessment methods; I actually advocate the use of multiple assessment methods anyway, in order to keep learners engaged, stimulated and challenged throughout their training.

My final tip is to point you once again in the direction of the study by Terence Karran that I linked to earlier in this post. On pages 8-10 you will find a highly useful and actionable table outlining the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of eLearning assessment methods.

With the help of this resource and from what you have taken away from this post, you will hopefully enjoy increased success in prescribing the most effective eLearning assessments to each online training program that you produce.

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