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The importance of tests & quizzes for students in eLearning

Tests and Quizzes play an important role in e-learning and provide an array of benefits for both the learner and the instructor.

Let's first look at how they improve the experience of the instructor.

Less work to be done

Remember school, when tests lasted an hour at a set time of day and the instructor usually had to stay up late to grade them and then write detailed feedback for each and every individual student?

We've already gone through how e-learning alleviates the need for testing to be done at a specific hour, but it also makes testing a hassle-free task as corrections are automated with a LMS. In the cases of "Essay Question" tests, e-learning systems are usually equipped with keyword tracking tools that grade depending on what has been mentioned in the essays. This isn't a fool-proof system but it helps save some time in comparison with long grading sessions.

Unique Tests

Testing and quizzing can be made unique in a LMS by randomizing question and answer order. This is especially useful when a learner has to re-do a test which he/she previously had poor performance on so that the test is not completed by memory, but rather by actually thinking through the correct solution once again. This feature is also useful to produce more variety by using a large pool of questions from which testing can be done, rather than recycling the same questions over and over.

Instant grading and feedback

Grading and giving feedback is probably the most time consuming task for the instructor. It's where the instructor has the ability to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of a learner and enable learning to actually take place! Feedback needs to be good. A LMS will usually allow the instructor to create dynamic feedback depending on the answer a learner will give to a specific question. For instance, in a multiple-choice test if the learner chooses answer B over the correct answer C, the appropriate feedback will be given back to the learner, indicating fault in the thought process, or hints as to why another answer would be more appropriate. This complements point 1 above (i.e.: "Less work to be done") by the instructor because it allows the learner to get instant feedback on a correct/ incorrect answer, and it saves time for the instructor who can take advantage of automated feedback.

In-depth analysis readily available

Tests have to be gathered and graded, and feedback has to be written for the individual learner to take back and improve on particular areas. Learning Management Systems give the instructor even more analysis though. Through a reporting system, a LMS gives the instructor an overview of test scores, progress and growth with graphical representation to make the analysis even easier to grasp especially when the class-size is very large. That way, an instructor has the ability to analyze which students scored highest/ lowest, and which questions were hardest/ easiest for the majority of students. Reporting is a handy tool that allows the instructor to see trends and act upon them to improve the curriculum.

It is also environmentally friendly!

Going from hard-copy tests/ quizzes to offering the same capabilities online reduces consumption of goods such as paper - especially important when the online classroom is large and growing!

Now, let’s see how tests and quizzes improve the experience of the student:

Self-assessment tool

Testing and quizzing online will usually provide the user with results instantly. This is good for students because it allows them to know what they did wrong immediately, what they need to focus on, and how to improve should they have to retake the test.

Keeps learners engaged

Tests and quizzes have always been a motivator to study harder when students know that their progress will be judged upon an exam, a performance review etc. It sets a deadline for when material needs to be learned by and diligent students know they must adhere to that.

Further considerations

The use of different forms of testing, such as multiple choice tests, fill-in-the-blanks, true or false, or essay questions can also be used to assess the progress of students with different learning styles. Catering to the needs of different learning styles is an important aspect of e-learning which gives it the edge over traditional learning models. It is a good idea to use different types of material, and varying types of tests and quizzes to engage everyone in an online class.

An important note on online quizzing and testing is the ability a learner has to research the web for answers and creating tests should be done with that in mind. If something is too hard and/or a little off topic in terms of the material taught, it is likely to be researched online. If the tests are too easy, they will be dismissed and passed over without much being learned. Thus tests should be structured in a way that encourages learners to think back to the material taught within the course rather than looking for answers elsewhere.