4 steps to successful learning objectives tests in e-learning
It takes just a few clicks to complete an e-learning. But have the learners really understood the content? And can they apply it in practice? Learning objectives tests in e-learning courses serve to check that. In this article you’ll learn how to precisely test the acquired knowledge.
Why do we need learning objective tests in e-learning?
Spatial and temporal flexibility, adaption of learning speed to one’s individual pace, refreshment of knowledge by looking at it once again – these are only a few of numerous advantages of e-learning courses. It couldn’t be simpler to acquire knowledge. That’s why the number of organisations using e-learning courses to train their employees is growing.
But is the completion of an e-learning enough to achieve the learning objectives? Not necessarily! E-Learning courses encourage some participants to quickly click their way through the training. These participants have the impression to understand and master the learning content. The reality, however, looks completely different. When clicking quickly through the course, the content is grasped only superficially and consequently learners aren’t able to apply it in practice.
Thus, if you use e-learning courses to train your employees, you will somehow need to check whether they have achieved the desired learning objectives. Learning objectives tests are a suitable instrument for this purpose.
How you develop tailor-made learning objectives tests for your e-learning
With the help of learning objectives tests you can check whether the participants have understood the learning contents and are able to apply them in daily operations. The test questions encourage your employees to deal again with the contents. Furthermore, they can also fill existing knowledge gaps. All this, however, will only succeed if you carefully customise the learning objectives test to the target group as well as to the learning contents. Here are a few tips and tricks on how to do this.
1. Define the learning objectives.
Always start with the definition of the learning objectives. Only if you precisely specify what participants are supposed to learn in the e-learning, you will be able to develop suitable learning objectives tests. When defining the learning objectives, make sure neither to underchallenge nor to overstrain your target group. Both can easily lead to frustration.
But how do you define learning objectives? There are several different theories that deal with learning objectives and their structuring. It’s the taxonomy of Benjamin Bloom which is particularly popular:
With the help of this structuring learning objectives are easy to handle: They are categorised in different levels that are based upon each other. Learning objectives of each level also include the objectives of subordinated levels.
This is well illustrated by the following example taken from an e-learning on Information security:
- Learning objective 1:
Learners know the four levels (public, internal, confidential, secret) of information classification. Remember
- Learning objective 2:
Learners can explain the levels of information classification. Understand
- Learning objective 3:
Learners use their knowledge on information classification to assign documents to the correct level. Apply
You immediately recognise the hierarchical structure of the learning objectives: Learners will only be able to assign documents correctly, if they know the levels of classification and are able to explain them.
Please note: Preferably, choose your learning objectives from the levels Remember, Understand and Apply. Why? E-Learning courses usually use automatised test methods. This means that learners choose the correct solution from given answers, for example in a multiple-choice tests. Such tests are well suited for the first levels of learning objectives.
However, higher learning objectives such as Analyse, Evaluate and Create require complex, higher order thinking skills which can hardly be tested using automatised methods. Thus, you should prefer other formats such as role plays during face-to-face trainings to test higher levels of learning objectives.
2. Formulate a suitable question for each learning objective.
Make sure to start with easy questions and to gradually increase the level of difficulty. Why is this important? Look at this example:
Imagine your e-learning on information security only contains a question on learning objective 3, thus testing solely application knowledge. Which conclusion can you draw from the answers of the participants? If they answer a question wrongly, you don’t know whether the basic understanding is missing or whether the learners just can’t apply it. The same applies, if the question is answered correctly: The participant seems to master the application. But is he able to explain the levels of classification? You’ll never know.
So, to identify learning problems, you should always ask questions on subordinated levels of learning objectives first. Evaluating the questions will help you to find out where participants have difficulties. You can use this knowledge for further modules or for improving the existing e-learning.
3. Determine the type of quiz question.
Classical multiple-choice questions are probably the first type of question you think of. That’s a good approach, but most e-learning tools offer much more. Different types of quiz questions maintain the concentration of learners and motivate them at the same time. Furthermore, they challenge the participants to profoundly deal with each question. So, be creative and vary the types of quiz question you use in your e-learning.
An example taken from an e-learning on information security illustrates this:
- Learning objectives test 1: Remember
- Learning objectives test 2: Understand
- Learning objectives test 3: Apply
This knowledge test checks the achievement of learning objectives from easy to difficult: Remember – Understand – Apply. Since different types of quiz questions are used, the learners remain concentrated. Furthermore, the third test contains a context-related question which helps the participants to put themselves in the situation. This makes it easy for them to behave accordingly.
Please note: There are several different types of quiz questions that you can use very variably. You can find suggestions and inspiration in our article on types of quiz questions for e-learning courses.
4. Develop the content.
Only after having defined the learning objectives and developed the corresponding learning objective tests, it’s time to think about the content. Impart the learning content completely and comprehensibly. This ensures that learners can succeed in the learning objective test.
Does the learning objectives test serve its purpose?
With the help of the procedure described you have laid the foundation for an effective learning objectives test. But does the knowledge test serve its purpose? How do you know whether learners have actually achieved all the desired learning objectives? To figure out, you should evaluate the result of the learning objectives test when some participants have completed the course.
This requires certain effort, but it’s worth it – for you and the learners. For each single question rate the percentage of participants who answered it correctly or incorrectly. If the majority answers a question incorrectly and even chooses the same wrong answer, this is always an alarm signal: Something has gone wrong! There can be several reasons for this:
- The formulation of the question is misleading or too complicated.
- Maybe the answer options aren’t clearly formulated.
- The learning content that the question deals with wasn’t explained comprehensibly in the e-learning course.
Go through your course carefully and consider how you can improve it. Refine the wording and take a critical look at how you explain the learning content. In doing so, you ensure that learners not only understand the content at short notice but also internalise it and can apply it in practice.
Learning objectives tests ensure long-term success
With e-learning courses you offer your employees the opportunity to acquire knowledge at their own pace anytime and anywhere. Therefore, you should take e-learning courses into account when planning further education and training measures. Think carefully about the learning objectives that you want to clarify. If you also develop tailor-made learning objectives tests and evaluate your e-learning systematically, you will pave the way for a long-term learning success of your employees.
Do you have questions concerning the development of learning objectives tests or do you wish further and individual advice? Please feel free to contact us. We are looking forward to hear from you.