A 5-Point Plan for Using Quizzes to Improve Student Success

Ask anyone what their least favorite part of school was and I guarantee you’ll get this answer: tests.

Test’s lack of favorability amongst students may be the reason why you’re tempted to ditch them all together in your online course—but don’t be fooled! Retrieving information has been proven to create long-term and meaningful learning, allowing students to recall and apply lessons learned.

In a study conducted by Roediger and Karpicke, revealed that testing has a powerful positive effect not just assessing learning, but on improving long-term retention.

If you evaluate your student’s knowledge, and if they successfully recall it, they will remember it better in the future than if they had not been tested1. This phenomenon  is referred to as the “testing effect” or the “retrieval practice effect.”

In this guide, I will provide different tips and strategies you can use to help you increase student success by using quizzes:

1. Pre-test your students

Pre-testing your students will give you a general idea of where everyone’s initial understanding of the course material lies so that you can identify the knowledge and skills they have gained AFTER the course. However, this is also insightful for your students as they will recognize their knowledge gaps BEFORE starting out with your course

A pre-test will also validate the necessity of taking your course to your students. So, don’t be afraid to make your pre-test a little hard!

Assuming they don’t receive a perfect score, your test will show students WHY they need you in the first place. Use this moment to make students aware of their knowledge gaps. Then, state the importance of filling those gaps and explain their outcomes. Show students what they will be able to do by the end of the course. Explain what skills they’ll master, as well as what new skills/knowledge they’ll acquire. In doing so, you’ll drastically improve your course completion and satisfaction rates.

Need some help coming up with questions? Check out this guide to learn how to write appropriate questions for self-assessments pre-tests.

2. Quiz Early, Quiz Often

Gone are the days when you just dropped a quiz at the end of the course. Today, you should quiz your students in every module/lesson to keep their interest and encourage them to keep moving along through the course. 

And don’t limit yourself to the typical multiple choice quizzes. The sky’s the limit! You can make your questions open-ended or game-like  —depending on the topic or your personal preference.

Asking a question or two within a module will reinforce the topics being covered. Questions also create “stakes,” encouraging your students to really sit down and engage with each lesson rather than play it through numbingly in the background. 

In addition, a fun and interactive quiz every now and then will help create a more authentic classroom environment, which unfortunately many online courses lack.

A simple knowledge check at the end of each module will allow your students to gauge their understanding of the topic in real time and clarify confusions in the material immediately. For instance, a low score will tell students they’ll need to review your lesson in order to better grasp the current topic and future ones. Continue reading on this on the next point 🙂 

3. Offer Immediate Feedback

Your pre-test and lesson reviews are only effective if you offer feedback. By providing the correct answer to questions, students will be able to learn from (and hopefully fix) their mistakes. This will not only improve retention but also clarify any confusions.

Offering your students an explanation as to why an answer is right or wrong will also keep the student’s attention focused throughout the course. Thorough feedback turns testing into an additional learning opportunity for your students. .

Embrace the power of immediate feedback! Letting students know what they got right or wrong right away will allow them to correct their thinking as soon as possible. It will also motivate your students to review and work on their knowledge gaps.

Remember, your online course exists on the Internet—where there are endless sites for students to get distracted by. Immediate feedback will allow you to set your students on the right track before their attention is taken elsewhere.

Read more: 5 Tips for Creating Effective Online Quizzes

4.Create Results That Drive Action

The results of your quiz or assessment should drive ACTION in your students in order to ensure student learning and outcomes.

For example, if a student performs poorly on a quiz, you’ll want their results to inspire them to revisit lessons or reference additional resources on the course topic. Even if a student performs well, having results that drive students to learn more will prove beneficial. 

Be sure to also allow students to share their quiz/assessment results. Chances are, high performing students will take pride in their scores. As a result, they’ll want other students to notice their performance. Not only does sharing results give students validation, but it will also drive action in underperforming students. Students who may have initially done poorly on the assessment will be motivated to study harder.

Here are some tips for creating effective quizzes for your online courses:

  • Make the results positive
  • Have a clear call-to-action (describe what they should keep doing or do differently)
  • Make helpful recommendations based on their answers (don’t just say “Congratulations!” Or “Wrong answer!”)
  • Make sure to include a high-quality image on the results page

Read more: A Complete Guide to Writing Good eLearning Quiz Questions

5. Implement Gamification

Lack of motivation is a particular issue I’ve identified for students taking online courses. In order to increase engagement, I’ve been implementing different methods to offer extrinsic motivation – one of this is Gamification.

Game elements such as immediate feedback and earning badges for completing the challenges successfully can make quizzes a much more positive experience, as they give students something to aspire to. 

Be creative! Turn your multiple choice or open-ended assessments into fun challenges. You can also create a friendly competition by creating a point system and creating a public leader board. Gamification takes the pressure off of tests, which can help member confidence. After all, it makes everything into a game!

Read more: Introducing Gamification Can Help You Take Student Engagement to the Next Level

Offering a reward for positive user behavior allows students to track and show off their progress, as well as keeps students motivated to stay engaged THROUGHOUT your course.

Even Khan Academy, one of the biggest e-learning platforms, has fully implemented gamification into their platform by awarding students with points and badges upon video and assessment completion. I recommend you follow suit by administering badges when students finish a lesson, participate in forums, score well on exams, etc..

In addition, it’s also important to create value around your badge. Make sure your badges mean something by using badges as a way for students to show their skill mastery, progress, or rank. 

Final Tip: Always Analyze Student Results

Learn how to make your course more effective by going over the results of your students. Evaluating your students will make you a better educator because it will give you tangible feedback on how receptive students are to your content. 

Assessments can also bring your attention to students who are at risk of falling behind or even churning. This will allow you to reach out or take corrective measures.

Furthermore, if ALL your students are scoring poorly on a particular lesson, then this is a good indication of two things: your students are having a hard time following your teaching or the lesson concepts are hard to grasp.

For obvious reasons, you’ll want to correct them. 

From “pre-tests” to gamification, implementing methods for student assessment are invaluable to both educators and students. As a course creator, your main goal is to create outcomes for your students. They need to genuinely learn from your course, as well as apply your content in their day-to-day life.

If you apply these six assessment creation tips, I promise you, you’ll be well on your way to improve student success.


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