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

Open-Ended Questions In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know
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Summary: Open-ended questions prompt learners to explore their thoughts, feelings, and opinions while testing their comprehension. They don’t have the limitations of closed-ended questions and encourage learners to delve deeper into a topic by using their critical thinking skills and creativity. In this article, I’ll explain the difference between open-ended questions and open-ended statements, and I’ll share 6 tips on how to use open-ended questions in eLearning.

Open-Ended Questions In eLearning

An open-ended question in eLearning, which is often referred to as an “open question”, is a form of eLearning assessment which allows learners to formulate their own response without having to choose from a set of pre-determined answers, as is the case with closed-ended questions. They prompt learners to think about the various solutions to the problem and answer in their own words, which helps them build critical thinking, communication, and creative reasoning skills.

Types Of Open-Ended Questions: Open-Ended Questions vs. Open-Ended Statements

  1. Open-ended questions.
    An open-ended question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no and requires a longer response, such as a sentence or paragraph. Responses that are more in-depth may even call for an essay or lengthy presentation. Typically open-ended questions start with one of the following words: what, why, or how.
  2. Open-ended statements.
    Open-ended questions do not have necessarily to be questions. In fact, they can be statements that may require a longer response. For example, an open-ended question can begin with “Tell me…” or “Describe…”, etc. Notice that despite the fact that they are not in the form of a query, they are still classified as open-ended questions.

6 Tips To Use Open-Ended Questions In eLearning

  1. Encourage learner reflection by posing open-ended questions.
    Open-ended questions help your learners to not only explore a topic, but delve into their personal thoughts and opinions about the subject. They have the opportunity to reflect upon how they can use the information in their real lives and how it can benefit them, which makes them more likely to actually retain the knowledge. You can even begin each lesson with an open-ended question that prompts them to think about the value of what they will be learning, so that they are willing and ready to participate.
  2. Lead with a closed-ended question.
    Closed-ended questions do have a purpose, and that is to determine a learner’s level of understanding before you pose open-ended questions. Ask your learners a simple and straightforward closed-ended question to find out how much they know about a particular topic. This will help you to then formulate open-ended questions that are in-line with their current knowledge base and skill sets. For example, if the closed-ended question reveals your learners know very little about the topic, you can ease into more basic open-ended questions to familiarize them with the ideas and concepts.
  3. Apply the YES/NO rule.
    Creating open-ended questions is not as easy as it might seem, particularly if you are dealing with a more complex topic. A good rule of thumb is to evaluate every open-ended question you create using the YES/NO rule. If you can answer it with a simple yes or no response, then it is actually a closed-ended question that might not spark the lively online discussion you’re hoping for. In this case, revise the question so that it leaves ample room for debate, creative thinking, and reflection.
  4. Steer clear of loaded questions.
    There is a clear distinction between an open-ended question and a loaded one, also known as a leading question. For example, “How did you feel about your amazing eLearning experience?” would be a loaded question, because it already puts an opinion in the mind of the learner. You aren’t going to get the helpful feedback you need to improve your eLearning course, as you are guiding their response with the wording you’ve chosen. “How did you feel about the eLearning course”, instead, is a more appropriate open-ended question, as it does not contain any personal opinions or feelings. The same rule applies to questions you use throughout the eLearning course as well. Keep them neutral and try not to sway the opinion of your learners.
  5. Every open-ended question must tie into the learning goal.
    Every open-ended question that you use in your eLearning course should relate to the learning goals and objectives. To do this, you must first have a clear idea of what information you are trying to gather by asking the question. Also, how are you going to be evaluating the answers? When you are crafting each open-ended question, think about how it will help you to improve the eLearning experience or track learners’ progress. If you want to create a compelling open-ended question that makes them think and put their knowledge to use, then carefully consider the impact of each word.
  6. Be as specific as possible when formulating your question.
    Open-ended question responses have a way of veering off topic quite quickly. You might intend on asking a series of questions, but the first question you ask may spark a lively online discussion that takes up the entire class period. This is why it’s important to have guidelines in place, and to be as specific as possible when you are posing an open-ended question in synchronous eLearning environments. Let your learners know exactly what is expected of them and guide the online discussion if it strays from the topic. When you are writing your questions, define parameters and determine how you can get the most accurate response from your learners. Don’t ask them about a broad topic, but specific ideas or concepts that you want them to reflect upon.

Give your learners the opportunity to reflect, review, and remember the key takeaways of your eLearning course by creating effective open-ended eLearning questions. Use these tips to ensure that you don’t guide them down the path to an answer, but let them take the lead.

One of the most effective ways to encourage your learners to open up when answering open-ended questions is to foster a positive attitude in eLearning. The article 11 Tips To Encourage Positive Attitude In eLearning features 11 tips that can help you inspire, motivate, and engage your learners, so that they are more likely to actively participate in the eLearning experience.

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