Probing Questions In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know
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Probing Questions In eLearning

Probing questions give learners the opportunity to delve into the subject matter and deepen their comprehension of the key concepts and ideas. This form of inquiry does not have a single correct answer, but allows learners to open up about their personal thoughts, opinions, or assumptions regarding the topic, as all open-ended questions do. Probing eLearning questions can also help to clarify or elaborate on an earlier response, and encourage learners to use their critical thinking skills to determine the motives or underlying causes of the problem.

4 Types of Probing Questions

  1. Clarification.
    A clarification question requires a simple fact-based response. Its sole purpose is to clarify whether the learner understands the concept, and if they need more information in order to fully comprehend the subject matter. “Why do you think that the character in the eLearning scenario performs the process correctly?” is an example of a clarification question, as it gauges whether or not the learner understands the critical steps involved in the described process.
  2. Recommendation.
    A recommendation probing question involves a certain degree or persuasion. In essence, you are trying to point the learner’s response in a specific direction. An example of a recommendation question would be: “Don’t you think that the narrator of the story should have used a different tool?”
  3. Example.
    An example question is ideally suited for responses that may be vague or confusing. For example, if a learner provides an answer that does not contain enough detail, you can ask “Can you give me a specific example?” Their answer will give you a clear indication of whether or not they actually comprehend the subject matter.
  4. Extension.
    Extension is a variation of the example question. In the case of extension, learners are encouraged to elaborate upon a response by providing supporting evidence or a reason why they gave the original answer.“Can you tell me why you think the process is flawed?” is an example of an extension question.

How to Use Probing Questions In eLearning

  1. Keep your questions open-ended, but focused.
    When creating an effective probing question, there are two specific rules that you must follow. Firstly, the question should not have a single correct response. Secondly, it should always be relevant. Keep in mind that probing questions are intended to dig deeper into a specific issue or idea, and not limited to facts and concrete supporting evidence. Every learner will have their own answer, but every question should tie into the topic and help your audience to get more from their eLearning experience.
  2. Use brief questions to encourage in-depth answers.
    The beauty of probing questions is that they are brief and succinct. They have the power to explore a topic in great depth, even though they contain just a few words. However, thanks to the fact that they are shorter, you will have to make every word count. Probing questions don’t typically lead to a “yes” or “no” answer, and should always prompt the learner to expand their comprehension of a particular concept or idea. Read the question aloud to ensure that it does not contain any traces of coercion, and that it gives the learner an opportunity to think freely about the topic presented in the eLearning course.
  3. Empower learners to solve the problem by probing.
    You can also encourage your learners to ask themselves probing questions throughout the learning process. Encourage them to question their motives and figure out why things are the way they are, or why certain tasks are performed in a specific way. Turn the tables and allow them to dig deeper into a topic on their own, so that they have the power to seek out new knowledge even when it is not mandatory.
  4. Set a goal for each probing question.
    Have a specific learning objective in mind when crafting your questions and analyze each question to determine if it meets that goal. For example, if you want to know whether a learner has understood the passage they just read, ask them “Can you summarize the main plot points of the story?” This will give you a clear idea of how much they absorbed and if additional support is necessary. If you examine a probing question after it is written and discover that it is not based on a learning objective, then consider rewording or removing it entirely.
  5. Venture out of the comfort zone.
    The primary purpose of a probing question is to encourage your learners to shift their perception, and to make them look at an idea in a different way. Ask them questions that get the root cause of their assumptions and prompt them to reflect upon why they have formed this assumption in the first place. Bear in mind, however, that you don’t want to make your learners feel uncomfortable by asking them to venture out of their mental comfort zone. Don’t push them into thinking a certain way by using language that may be offensive or manipulative, or force them to feel guilty about thinking of feeling a certain way.

Probing questions may be short, but they pack quite a punch in online learning environments. By using this guide, you have the ability to integrate probing questions into your eLearning course, which will provide your audience with a multitude of critical thinking benefits.

Asking probing questions is one of the most effective ways to build active listening skills in your learners. The article 9 Tips To Enhance Active Listening Skills In eLearning features a variety of tips that can help foster active listening skills in eLearning, as well as other types of questions you may want to consider.

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