Closed-Ended Questions In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know

Closed-Ended Questions In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know
Summary: Josef Albers, one of the most influential artistic educators of the 20th century, once said that “Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers". Open-ended questions may ignite the creative spark and offer insight into a learner's thought process, but closed-ended questions offer a direct and effective way to test their comprehension. In this article, I’ll present different types of closed-ended questions and I'll shed light on how you can use closed-ended questions in eLearning by sharing 6 invaluable tips.

Closed-Ended Questions In eLearning

Closed-ended questions, also known as “closed questions”, require a specific answer. Though they can come in a variety of forms, from multiple choice questions to rating scales, learners must choose from a set of answers rather than formulating their own unique response to the question. As such, they are the ideal eLearning assessment tool for fact-based studies, or those that require a simple and straightforward answer that gauges knowledge absorption and retention.

Types Of Closed-Ended Questions

  1. Multiple choice.
    The learners are asked to choose from a set of pre-determined answers. In some cases they are asked to select multiple correct responses from the answer group.
  2. Scales.
    Learners are asked to choose from a rating scale. This is typically used in eLearning surveys. For example, they may be asked to rate their level of satisfaction regarding the eLearning course on a scale from 1 to 10.
  3. True or False.
    Learners must decide whether the statement is true or false. A variation of this formative is a YES/NO question, which can only be answered with a simple yes or no response.

6 Tips To Use Closed-Ended Questions In eLearning

  1. Start with the right verbs.
    Closed-ended questions typically begin with linking verbs, such as “Is,” “Will,” and “Are.” Modal verbs, like “Would” and “Could” can also be used. It is important to choose verbs that are as specific as possible, so that you don’t venture into open-ended question territory. Remember that closed-ended questions are meant to elicit a very specific response. Therefore, choosing your words carefully is of the upmost importance.
  2. Use closed-ended questions to gauge their level of comprehension.
    Closed-ended questions in eLearning are the most direct route to determining a learner’s comprehension and engagement. If you ask them a closed-ended question relating to a certain topic, for instance, you can discover their level of understanding about that particular subject. Once you’ve identified how much they know you can explore the topic at length by asking them open-ended questions that elaborate upon the ideas and concepts. This is ideal for online brainstorming sessions or online group discussions, as it helps to “break the ice” and guide them in the right direction.
  3. Provide a sufficient number of answers.
    This is one of the most difficult aspects of creating closed-ended questions in eLearning, as you need to have just the right amount of responses to get the most accurate data. If you only offer them a small number of answers, such as 2 or 3, then they can easily guess the correct response. On the other hand, offering them too many responses can overwhelm and confuse your learners. It’s best to keep it between 4 to 5 responses, and to ensure that the answers “blend” with one another. If the correct answer stands out from the others, even learners who do not fully comprehend the topic will be able to guess correctly.
  4. Ensure that every closed-ended question relates to the learning objectives.
    Each and every closed-ended question you include should tie directly to the objectives and goals of the eLearning course. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of the online assessment is to test whether or not your learners have absorbed and retained the information. It can also be used to determine if your eLearning content is serving the learning objectives. For example, if all of your learners are unable to answer a closed-ended question about a specific concept, you may want to think about how that concept is being conveyed in your eLearning course.
  5. Boost information recall and retention with closed-ended question recaps.
    Use closed-ended questions at the end of each module or online lesson to help your learners remember and recall key pieces of information. Closed-ended questions give them the opportunity to memorize important facts and repeat them, which is known to boost knowledge retention. The second a learner is presented with a closed-ended question the gears begin to turn and their minds’ search for the correct answer, which also helps to build their mental pathways and to enhance their memory capacity in the process. In addition to repetition, you will need to pose the same question in different ways, so that they are able to truly apply the knowledge. The answer might be the same in each case, but the question itself should be unique.
  6. Make the most of your data.
    Open-ended questions provide you with qualitative data that is difficult to measure, while closed-ended questions in eLearning offer quantitative data that can easily be converted into statistics and graphs. So, why not make the most use of your data by identifying trends and figuring out how you can improve your eLearning course moving forward. This can also help you create personalized plans for your learners, as you have measurable, reliable data that you can use to track their progress and customize eLearning activities to meet their specific needs. Closed-ended questions give you the opportunity to pinpoint learners’ weaknesses and strengths for each member of your audience, which means that you can design eLearning activities and tools to supplement their online experience.

Closed-ended questions are easier to grade in comparison to open-ended questions that leave room for free expression of learners' opinions. However, both of them provide you with invaluable learner data. Use these 6 tips to create closed-ended eLearning questions and eLearning activities that test their knowledge and identify trends that can help you fine tune your eLearning instructional strategy.

Looking for more tips on how to develop effective multiple choice exams in eLearning? The article How To Write Multiple-Choice Questions Based On The Revised Bloom's Taxonomy delves into the basic principles of Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, as well as how to write multiple-choice questions that challenge learners without overwhelming them.