Assessment Questions and Moodle

One of the tricky bits of creating any elearning system to deliver training is how you test knowledge.

The “which question?” debate usually focuses on multi-choice versus essay. Both have their place in any online learning environment.

The advantages of creating quiz questions with Moodle are that you can craft interactive multi-choice questions that incorporate visual media.  Moodle also allows the creation of essay questions. In fact, Moodle has 12 programmable question types.

In terms of ease of use and reporting, multi-choice and true/false questions can be machine scored and the results instantaneously displayed for learning and instructor alike.   Running tallies of quizzes completed and the number of attempts are also available in the reporting data.

Moodle also allows you to set the pass rate, weight the questions, analyse them, and see how they could better be phrased.  If 100% of your learners are failing a particular question, obviously there’s probably something wrong with the learning material or the way the question was written.

So, it really depends how deep you want to go with the questions.  And that brings us to the million dollar question:  Can an elearning system like Moodle test for higher learning?

The short answer is “yes,” if you know how to phrase the question properly.  It’s particularly helpful to approach questions within a pedagogical framework.

The stages of higher level thinking were defined by Benjamin Bloom as:

  1. Evaluation
  2. Synthesis
  3. Analysis
  4. Application
  5. Comprehension
  6. Knowledge

Each stage comes with its own set of skills.  For example, knowledge and comprehension may mean the learner can recite facts and figures, whereas synthesis means they can take what they know and create something new.

So what bearing do these concepts have on the formulation of test questions?

If the answer to a test question requires a pre-existing correct selection,  then certain verbs can be used to phrase the question.  They may include, identify, selectlabel, and diagnose.  And this is where most higher level test questions will reside, unless you are testing for a synthesis of knowledge, where words like create and compose will be appropriate.

Synthesis and evaluation will require essay type questions.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how this would work.  Let’s say you are teaching entry-level pilots about the theory of flying.

A lower level type test question might ask: “What are the physical factors that influence a plane’s flight?”

The multiple choice question can be straightforward:

  1. Thrust
  2. Lift
  3. Drag
  4. Weight
  5. All of the above
  6. a and b

The selection of answers  test for actual knowledge of those physical forces.

To test the synthesis of that knowledge the learner could be presented with a scenario such as:

You a flying a Cessna 152 with a glide ratio of 12:1nm at 60KIAS.  Your engine fails.   You are over a mountain range with fields below with a 5 knot headwind.  What are the factors in landing safely?

To answer that question, you need to know the physics of flight and how they influence engine-out drills.  To answer you may need to fill in the blanks of a pre-written essay question or consider all the factors in a multi-choice answer.

These types of scenario-based questions are often used in job interviews but can also be applied to subjects like compliance training.  A scenario is presented that reflects real workplace issues and the learner is asked to identify which compliance issue is likely being raised.

Also keep in mind that if you are using distractors in your multi-choice questions they should be plausible and not wildly incongruent.

For example, students may be asked to calculate the mean of a set of numbers.  The student must understand the meaning of that word so the distractor in the question may be the median number.

The art of writing questions will do much to make your learning management system  a valuable tool to helping people grasp the knowledge they need to succeed on a higher level.