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How to boost e-learning interactivity with questions
Feb 18, 2021
40 minutes
Tessa Razafindrakoto
Senior Onboarding Specialist

Tessa 0:03 — In today’s webinar, I’m going to walk you through the different roles of questions in e-learning to best help you know when, why and how to use them in your e-learning. And in today’s webinar, I’m assuming that you know the basics of how to use Easygenerator, because today I’m diving into more of the didactic.


If you still want to learn the basics of Easygenerator, feel free to shoot me an email after the webinar and I can help you with that. But in today’s webinar, I’m going to go through how to boost e-learning interactivity by using questions. Bear in mind, you are all muted. You can use the chat or the Q&A. Also, this session is being recorded, it will be sent out to everyone in a maximum of one week so feel free to share that with anyone who wasn’t able to make it today.


So, to get started, today I’m going to go through when and why to use questions. In other words, in what situations should you be using questions, and I’ll be including a lot of examples here. After that, I will provide some tips on how to use questions to make sure that they are effective. And then we’ll go through different question types available within Easygenerator.


But before I even start with these topics, I would like to address one of the more common misconceptions about questions in e-learning. And I’m curious about your thoughts on this. Here it is – something along the lines of “I don’t need to add any questions to the e-learning. I’m not testing or assessing them. I just want to teach them the topic.” So, this is something that you may be thinking when you’re creating e-learning. Feel free to add in the chat, “agree” or “disagree,” and then I will come back to this later. But I’m curious what people are thinking. I see a lot of a lot of “disagree” so that’s what I like to see, but I will get I will get back to that later.

6 ways to use questions

To start, when you create an e-learning content is essential, whether it’s in the format of text, images, documents or interactive content. You always need to add content if you want to teach something or if you want to share knowledge, or guide learners towards any type of goal. But although that content is essential, it’s not always enough. You need to also add questions for a variety of reasons, and those are the reasons I’m going to discuss. But I’m very happy to see all of those “disagrees” coming in.


1. To stimulate higher-order thinking
Now, first and foremost, the main reason to use questions is because it’s more difficult than content alone. And the reason for that? Well, it’s mostly because learners have to think for themselves, and they have to think harder. A question is always going to be more difficult than content that is readily available. Most people can read content or can view a video but not everyone can answer a question correctly. And that difficulty challenges the learner to think about the topic more actively. Let’s say there’s a content page about how to correctly package an order ready for dispatch. As a learner, you can read the 10 steps that are involved in that, but you might passively read through it, because it doesn’t really require much more.


On the other hand, if you have a question about it, you have to think actively about it. To answer that question, you cannot rely only on your passive processing. And in addition to it being active thinking, questions also enforce independent thinking, because no one else can help you in that moment. And that means that each and every learner has to reach that level of independence. Also, questions foster long-term memory. Because of that higher order thinking, when learners read something only once, well, they will probably forget most of it — we all would. But after a second, third and fourth time, they’re going to remember more. And questions sort of facilitate that repetition, and therefore, also clear memory of the topic.


For example, if you’re asked a question to rank the steps of a package process for dispatch in chronological order, the difficulty will make you think harder, and the difficulty will also make you remember it better.


So, what does this actually look like in practice? Here’s an example of a single choice question that stimulates higher order thinking much more than just content alone. In this example, the single choice question has been used, and the question states:


Read the scenario, then answer the question. It’s Thursday, at 17:00, your team has a deadline at 17:00 tomorrow. You still need to work five hours on it, but you are still waiting for input of a colleague. What do you do now?


This type of question prompts difficulty. The learner isn’t just reading the theory about how to behave as a manager. They’re actually being challenged here to think actively about it, and independently, because the learner has to decide what they would do in this situation. And they can only, of course, rely on themselves. So, from a memory perspective, I’m sure that you can imagine this scenario is going to be more memorable than the video or the text that may have come before it.


Tessa 5:56 — After the learner selects one of these options, they will also receive feedback — or, at least, you have the possibility to add that feedback. So, the learner will read it and the active processing of information continues. When questions are answered incorrectly, it’s actually great because it stimulates the thought process even more. Now, the learner has discovered what they don’t yet know, and that’s an important part of the learning process too.


Just so that you know how you can add this feedback, you can do that under the question-response portion of the question editor in Easygenerator. So, you can see that with a “thumbs up,” you give the feedback to the response that is correct, and the “thumbs down” is the response that you give for the answers that are incorrect.


In a scenario like the one I have just shown you here, it also makes sense to give very specific feedback — per option that they would provide. And you can do that using explanations for each answer option. You can see that at the very top. If you select that in the single choice question, you can give specific feedback per answer option. And that way, you can personalize the process even more.


So that’s the first reason to make use of questions in your e-learning.


2. To model hands-on experience


Besides questions stimulating higher-order thinking, questions can also be used to model hands-on experiences. In the online environment, sometimes it can be or feel challenging to make sure that you’re modeling hands on experiences so that learners can actually apply the new concepts that they have learned. But questions are actually a great way of doing that. Questions can make a topic a lot more practically relevant. I want to show you an example of how a question can do that.


Here is an example of a ranking text question where a learner is asked to rank the following job applicants from best to worst fit for a Team Lead position. So now the learner has to look through all of these applicants who have different years of experience, different motivations, etc. And they have to decide who is the best fit — to put these applicants sort of on a on a ranking.


What is the benefit of this? Well, it’s relatable, it’s practically relevant. learners will remember this content — or this knowledge — when they’re in a similar situation. This is also what we call context-dependent memory. Perhaps you’re familiar with the with the study tip to chew gum when you’re studying and then also to chew gum when you are taking the exam because it will bring back the memory of what you studied.


It’s a similar thing here. You’re setting a scene, describing a situation, and the learner puts themselves in the shoes of the recruiter in this case to select the appropriate candidate. And when they’re going to be in that scenario, again, in their day-to-day job, the memory of what they have learned in the e-learning will come back to surface. So, context-dependent memory here helps them bring back what they have learned. So, in that way, you’re really modeling the situation, almost like a roleplay, but in e-learning.


3. To spark interest

Tessa 9:45 — Asking questions can also be a very easy way to spark interest from your learner. If you want to spark interest from your learner by using a question, you could use a question in a different way. What you can do is consider asking a question before the content is even being presented. So, you may be thinking, “well, that’s very strange, what would learners think? They have to answer a question before they even get to read or view the content, how can they answer that question yet?”


But that is what sparks interest because the learner is going to be in a situation that they do not expect. You may be familiar with the novelty effect. The novelty effect basically means that, as humans, we love things that are new, we love things that are novel, and this is one of them, too. So, if you surprise a learner with a question that they actually may not be able to answer because they haven’t been given those resources, it will make them want to find out.


They’re going to try to answer that question — maybe make an educated guess — and then they’re going to have the desire to find out whether their first impression was correct. And this interest makes them more motivated to look through the content that will follow. So, ask a question before you add the content if you want to stimulate interest at the beginning. Here’s an example. In this example, a statement question has been added, which is a true-or-false question type. And this question states:


Awareness question: which of the following are true? Don’t worry, this question is not graded. In the next few pages, you will discover what the answers are.


And then there are a couple of statements about the company, and the learner basically needs to guess. From a practical perspective, this also means that you need to configure the question so that it’s not graded. You can do that by turning the “survey mode” on. And that way, regardless of what the learner answers, they will not be scored.


However, their interest will be sparked, so you’re getting your learners interested in the content that they haven’t even reached yet. And this is going to help them focus on the important parts of the content later. As a side note, I would say this is also a great way to tackle reducing attention spans, especially if you have a lot of information in there, this will grab the learners interest for the pages to come.


4. To allow learners to self-assess

Next, make use of questions to allow learners to self-assess. Of course, reading, watching, listening — those are great ways to learn. But if you don’t add questions, the learner doesn’t really have the opportunity to check whether they’ve understood it all. And most learners, funnily enough, are very confident — I would say even overconfident — that if they learn something, they really understand it. If they read a couple of different steps about how to do something, they’re going to think, “okay, now I know how to do it.” So, sometimes, what the learners need is the opportunity to check whether that’s the case. Sometimes you need to find out what you don’t know before you can fix that.


So, adding a question can also be a formal encouragement for the learner to self-assess, “have I really understood everything, or do I maybe need to go back?” Questions, in that respect, can act as a form of a checkpoint, which is also essential for successful learning. And importantly, this is also going to lead to an accurate form of confidence — and not an inaccurate overconfidence — which is of course important when considering that those learners are hopefully going to be applying those skills.


Now, here’s an example of how you can use a question for self-assessment. This is a drag-and-drop question type. In this specific question type, the learner has to drag and drop the correct labels on top of an image. Here, a learner can check their own understanding by trying to answer. If they struggle to answer, they will realize that they may not know as much as they thought. So, they’ll go back and review that content. If they get it wrong, they will probably come up with a similar conclusion and they can, once again, go back. If they get it right, they’re going to grow an accurate form of confidence and become more certain of the knowledge and the skills that they have gained. So, in both circumstances — if they get it wrong and if they get it right — there are benefits.


5. Gather insights

Tessa 15:07 – Questions also allow you to gather insights. How many people have actually taken the /e-learning? How many people have reached the goal — or the goals — of the e-learning? Did it help them with their needs? Those are the kinds of questions you can answer with these insights. And this can help you determine your next steps as well. With this information you can offer additional support, you can maybe nudge some learners, you can also congratulate or certify some of your learners, and you can also gather feedback for yourself to either improve that specific e-learning or the ones that you will probably create in the future.


For example, if you are tracking results in Easygenerator, you’ll be able to see some aggregate insights here to find out, for example, what is the proportion of people who are still progressing through it. You’ll see whether, on average, learners need multiple attempts to succeed, and also, on average, how much time they really need for it. And this can help you gage, maybe, the actual difficulty of the topic for your target audience. And these insights are really useful for you in your authoring journey and the journey of your learner’s. So maybe after checking this, you will decide that you might need to set up an extra session to clarify topics that were maybe less understood. So, you can use this for your next steps.


6. Gather individual input
Next, you can also use questions to gather individual input. For example, here, the open question has been used. And this question states, “what are your top three indicators of cultural fit Try not to base your answer on the core values you know we have, think honestly about how you typically determine whether there would be a cultural fit.” This way, you’re really asking your learner to think about something — to retrieve something from their memory — and not just identify or recognize something that is on the screen.


Not only is this more difficult than some of the other question types, but it also has the benefit of offering you some additional input and insights from them. Sometimes you may want to inform yourself of what your learners think, sometimes you can ask for insights that you can then use to start an open discussion — with maybe other team members about this. So that way, the e-learning can also easily lead to further activities, for example, if you choose to implement a blended learning approach.


So, to sum up this first part — when and why to use questions — many reasons, there are many different circumstances where questions can be useful for the learner and for the course creator. For the learner, questions can stimulate higher-order thinking. Through this, they’re also more likely to remember what they’ve learned — this is a huge win. For the learner, questions can also model hands-on experiences, giving them the possibility to practice something beyond just learning it. For the learner, as well, questions can increase their interest. Not only is this a more enjoyable way to learn, of course, but it also has a positive impact on memory. And last, but definitely not least, the learner can use the questions to self-assess whether they’ve reached a high enough level of understanding.


Now for the course creator — you — you’re able to assess the knowledge of your learners as well, allowing you to tailor the support or your e-learning. And you’re also able to gather insights or feedback. So, a lot of reasons overall.


At this stage, I want to refer back to that misconception I mentioned at the very beginning of the webinar. And that misconception was, “I don’t need to add questions to my e-learning because I’m not testing or assessing my learner. I just want to teach them the topic.” This table here explains why that is a misconception. The role of questions is primarily for the learner — and, in part, also for you. So, if you ever think when you create an e-earning, “I’m not going to add the questions, I don’t need to check whether they’ve understood at all, I’m just providing them some information,” remember that questions are essential for the learners’ learning process — it’s mostly for them.


Indirectly — maybe even directly — all the benefits for the learner are also benefits for you in the end. But just remember that questions have the most amounts of benefits for the learner, and not just for your results tracking.

5 ways create effective questions

Now that you are, hopefully, convinced that you should be using questions at all, I want to help you use them well. So, I’m going to go through several best practices on how to make sure that your questions are powerful.


1. Align key questions to learning objectives

First of all, align your key questions to the learning objectives that you’ve identified. Whenever you build an e-learning, you will always have some kind of goal for that e-learning — otherwise I’m not sure why you’re creating it. So, if you create your e-learning, you have a goal for it. Linked to that goal are several different learning objectives. And it’s important that you have key questions that measure if learners have mastered those learning objectives. So first, identify your learning objectives and then come up with questions that are going to assess whether learners have reached those objectives.


Think, what is the evidence of understanding or reaching that objective? How is the learner going to know if they’ve achieved the desired result? Because that learning objective is shown first, the learner knows what they have to focus on and this also makes it more likely that they can achieve the question, and in the end, reach the goal. Besides those key questions, you can of course also add questions for the other reasons I’ve described, such as sparking interest, but make sure that you still include some key questions that link directly to the learning objectives.


2. Provide meaningful feedback

Tessa 22:35 — Next, give meaningful feedback. I mentioned earlier that feedback is extremely valuable for learners because it continues their active processing of the topic. I also mentioned that when learners get a question wrong — incorrect — and receive feedback, this is actually great. Because learners then have to question themselves, read the feedback, they receive some support from you in that feedback, and then they will try again. And these things are really great for the long-term memory. So, when you add a question, don’t forget to add the feedback. You can really make an impact here.


3. Develop questions that mirror real-life situations and applications

Next, develop questions that mirror real life situations and applications. So here, you can see two different questions on the screen. I will just quickly read them out. The first one states “rank the following criteria from the most to the least important for hiring a Team Lead,” versus, “rank the following applicants from the most to the least fitting for a Team Lead position.


These questions are extremely similar. They also both rely on the same theory or the same understanding — the same knowledge. But the questions are still very different. One of them is more theory-based — the one about the criteria — and the other is more practice-based. It’s more linked to a real-life situation or an application.


And because of the similarity in contexts, this second question about ranking applicants is going to be remembered more because of that context-dependent memory that I was referring to earlier. So, there’s a simple distinction here. It may not be one that you think of very easily, but I hope that this can give you some ideas with the questions in your e-learning.


4. Consider the mastery score & number of attempts

Next, consider the mastery score and number of attempts. When you have an e-learning with questions, which I would obviously recommend, it’s important to note that you can also configure them. This happens, by the way, in step three. But before you even start changing these, really consider: are you adding questions to test? Or are you adding questions to teach? This is a very important distinction here.


In the configuration, you can change the mastery score and you can limit the number of attempts. The mastery score is basically the passing rate. This will determine at which level the learner will pass or fail. You can also — as of today actually — limit the number of attempts, which means, for example, if you limit it to one, learners will not be permitted to try again if they answer that question incorrectly.


Although limiting the number of attempts does make the mastery score more meaningful, remember that if you’re adding questions to teach, keeping the number of attempts unlimited will be better for your goal. Because by limiting the number of attempts, you’re adding a lot of pressure on your learners. If they know that they only have one attempt to answer the question, and they answer it incorrectly, it may lead to some frustrations and they may not look further into why their answer was incorrect. On the other hand, if they have a second and a third, or an unlimited amount of attempts, then the learner will try to understand why they had that question incorrect, and they’re also going to try to fix it. So really tried to think about why you are using questions before you start limiting the number of attempts.


5. Include difficult question types

Tessa 27:09 — Next, try to include difficult question types. Here, what you can see in front of you are the assessment types that are most often used by all of our authors on Easygenerator. You will notice that the single choice and the statement question are the most often used. I’m curious if this is also the case for you. If we can trust statistics, then it’s probably also true for you. Feel free to add in the chat which question type you are used to using more. I see already a “yes,” I see a lot of first single and multiple-choice questions as well. So, it seems, at least from what I’ve seen, that this may be at correct here. Single choice is popular, true-or-false is popular as well, and the others are maybe a little bit less popular.


Bear in mind, we do have all 10 question types on Easygenerator. And I would always say it’s best to use a combination, not only to add variety, but also just because some topics or some subjects or some tasks are best assessed using different question types. For example, you cannot use the single choice question for everything, even though you may be used to it and you really like it, for example. And an important distinction I’d like to make about these question types is that some question types are inherently more difficult than others. I would say the single choice question inherently is the easiest for learners to answer. And amongst the more difficult ones is text ranking, open question, and fill in the blanks. Let me explain why.


In terms of questions, there are two overall types. One is one that requires recognition, and the others are ones that require retrieval. With a recognition type question, the answer is on the screen. And as a learner, you have to look for it. With retrieval, the answer is not on the screen, and you have to retrieve it from your memory. Now, I’m sure most of you see the difference here. Recognition is always going to be easier than retrieval. However, from a creation perspective, these two questions here are probably as easy for you to create. So, the difficulty is really for the learner, or I should say that the difference in difficulty is for the learner. Bear in mind as well that the benefits are huge for the long-term memory if you make a question more challenging, because learners really have to think about it. They have to put in more effort, and that is also going to be more memorable.


Use the question type of choice

Hopefully, I have been able to convince you that you should be using questions. I’ve also hopefully helped you with some tips on how to make sure your questions are powerful or effective. And now I just want to go through the 10 question types that we have. I showed you that graph earlier to show you which ones are most – or at least often – used. But here are all of the question types we have:


  1. We have the single-choice. I showed you an example of this with the scenario question.
  2. We also have a single-choice image where you can add an image or several images, and one of those images is the correct answer.
  3. We have text matching where you can match labels to definitions, or phrases to another phrase.
  4. We have statement questions — true or false. I showed you an example of this as well with the awareness question in “survey mode.”
  5. We have the open question — I showed you an example of this one as well, with the cultural fit.
  6. Then we have the multiple-choice question where multiple answers can be correct.
  7. Fill in the blanks — an example of a difficult question.
  8. Drag-and-drop text — I showed you an example of this where the labels were added on the image of that laptop.
  9. We have the hotspot image where an area of the image is the correct answer.
  10. And the ranking text. I showed you an example of this, when the learner had to rank different applicants.


These are all of the question types that we have in Easygenerator. What I would like to do now is show you one of them. And here I think it would make the most amount of sense if I showed you a question-type that I haven’t added an example of.


I see a question in the chat as well — hotspot. I’d like to show you the hotspot question-type because this is one that is extremely interactive and can also be very useful. But you may not know what it is yet, because it isn’t as obvious as the others. So, I’ll show you how to use the hotspot question-type now. What I will do is I will stop sharing my screen and start sharing my Easygenerator screen so that you can all follow along. So, I’m just going to share the correct screen now.


Tessa 33:25 — So hopefully, you’re all able to see my Easygenerator screen now. As I said, What I would like to do is show you how you can use that hotspot question. The hotspot question is one that you can find over here. I’m just going to drag it into my section and open it up to guide you through it. Most of you in this in this webinar probably already know how to include a question. You will notice that most question editors are almost the same or — I should say — very similar. You always have the possibility to add feedback to add a hint, to add a question title, and to add some additional content.


The purpose of the hotspot question, in particular, is to add an image and the answer to the question will be found on that image. So first, I’m going to add an image. I’m going to look for an image that I would like to use. I found once so I will just let it upload. Now, here you can find a lot of different parts of a computer. This is also not my expertise so I will try to build a question out of this just for an example.


Here you type your question. So, I could say “which piece is responsible for memory processing,” — anything. Now what is the answer. That is something you need to identify on top of this image. Let’s say the correct answer is here. Just create a frame around the part of the answer that’s correct. Now, if there are multiple correct answers — sometimes that’s possible — I can change my question, for example, to “which pieces are responsible for XYZ.” And now I can select multiple correct responses.


Let’s say the second correct responses this one here. So now I’ve created two frames around the correct answers. As I mentioned, you can add your feedback here, and in fact, I would recommend doing this because you continue that active processing for learners, and you personalize the process. Down here, you can also include a hint. Now I just want to show you, quickly in the preview, what this question looks like.


Here it is. Here, you have the question title, and the learner now has to click on the correct answer. Let’s say they select incorrect answers here. I’ve selected one incorrect answer, and one correct answer. If I submit my question, it will be incorrect. As a learner I’m going to try again. And if I answered it correctly, I will find out that I’ve answered the question correctly. And if you add feedback, it will be found just underneath this text here.


What I would advise you to do from a very practical perspective, in addition to the best practices that I’ve mentioned, of course, when you create a hotspot question, in particular, it may be relevant to give the learners some instructions. Because this is a question type that may not be as common as the other question types. So, feel free to go ahead and add some text here, for example, to let the learners know what they should be doing.


Tessa 37:24 — This is as easy as saying, “click on” and then maybe the two items, to let learners know that there are two items they need to click on. And what this now looks like is that the learners will have the question and the instruction so they know exactly what they should be doing. And then they can answer the question.


So this actually concludes everything that I wanted to share with you today. I was planning that this would take 45 minutes, and it has taken 42, so perfect. In today’s webinar, I really wanted to help you discover when, why and how you should be using questions in your e-learning. I was very happy to see that a lot of you are maybe already convinced. I hope that I’ve managed to convince those who maybe were less convinced, and that you have hopefully also got some tips — practical things that you can try out with your own e-learning to boost the interactivity and to bear in mind that those questions are really useful not only for you, but really, for your learners.


So that concludes the webinar. Just want to check in with my team as well. If there are any outstanding questions that should be answered vocally as well.


Meghan 39:08 — There was one or a couple questions actually regarding the limiting option in the all-in-one template per question-type. So perhaps it’s a good idea to just quickly touch on that as well, that that is now also available in the all-in-one template, since it is a newer addition.


Tessa 39:26 — Indeed, as of today, there is a new feature in step three of the all-in-one and you can find it under the scoring section of step three. And that is indeed true that you can now limit the number of attempts. Previously, this was always — and by default — set to unlimited. As of today, you can limit the number of attempts. Bear in mind that the limiting of number of attempts is per question. In the all-in-one. Some of you may be used to using our test assessment template, where you can also limit the number of attempts for the test. But then the limiting of number of attempts is for the entire test. And in the all-in-one it is per question.


Meghan 40:23 — There are a couple of others that we can respond to in the chat. I don’t know if there are any that would be relevant right now, but we can take a look here as well. And also, just to reiterate for those who missed the beginning, we have recorded this, and we will send that out within the next week or so. So be on the lookout for that.


Tessa 40:56 — Then in that case, that concludes this webinar. You will be sent the recording indeed. For those of you who’ve asked questions and maybe have not received yet an answer, feel free to just copy and paste your question into the chat that you can see here — I’m just showing you where that is. It’s in the bottom right of your Easygenerator screen. And if you just send your message in here, we will get back to you there.


Thank you everyone for joining. I hope this was helpful and maybe see you next time.