I want to quickly review my use of online quizzes this summer, returning to a post I started here. As I noted, I use “low-stakes retrieval practices,” i.e. quizzes, regularly in my courses so students can assess their efforts and make any micro-adjustments to their study habits they deem necessary. Instead of diverting time in class to taking quizzes I decided to have students take quizzes at home online as part of their homework. Here are some quick thoughts.
- Practice Syllabus Quiz: Not too many students are familiar with taking quizzes at home, nor was I familiar with the mechanics of making them. I decided to give my students a syllabus quiz after the first day of class, making sure they understood the requirements of the course as well as trying to troubleshoot any issues that may arise when the real quizzes start. As enticement, I offered minimal extra credit for completing the quiz with 100%.
- Multiple Choice (MC) Only: Clearly, this will depend on an individual instructor’s educational goals, but I shifted from the norms of my paper quizzes. I would often add a few short answer questions to the end of in-class quizzes, but found that grading these online took a bit too much time. Clicking, loading, scrolling, typing, and saving took far longer than flipping a page. After including short answer questions to my first online quiz I decided to make all subsequent online quizzes just multiple choice so everything could be graded automatically. If this was not a time-condensed summer class I may have kept the short answers, but I looking to save some time overall with online quizzes.
- Open-Book/Timed: Honestly, I just don’t trust anyone to not use their notes or book when taking a quiz at home, so I just decided to make them open-book. To offset this a little, I made all the quizzes timed meaning that students would not be able to casually get 100% on every test just by flipping through their notes or my slides. I told them they need to study before starting the quiz. I gave them just over 1 minute per multiple choice question.
- MC Strategy I: Crafting good multiple choice questions can be a skill in itself, especially ones that test higher-level thinking (application, analysis, evaluation) as opposed just memory (recognition and recall). The first question below is an example of simple recognition and the correct response (“B”) would (or should) be found word-for-word in students’ notes.The second question combines recognition with application, asking the students to apply their knowledge (in this case, to real world examples). In addition to testing higher-level thinking, the correct answer could not be found word-for-word in students’ notes. Because the main focus of my quizzes is to test simple recognition and recall (midterms and finals are different), I mix in only a handful of MC questions to test higher-level thinking. Yet, it is possible in some cases to transform lower-level cognitive MC questions into higher-level ones.
- MC Strategy II: While generally not regarded as a good strategy for crafting MC questions, I’ve found that using some “exception” questions also requires to students to know (recognize) more about a concept.
- Testing Recall: Another method I did not employ this summer is to use “fill in the blank” questions that are automatically graded.
Overall, I will continue to develop my use of online quizzes. For me, the benefits of saving valuable class time and automatic grading offset the issues of limiting (or avoiding) short answer questions.