Get the Most out of Online Quizzes
Life is not Multiple Choice; It’s a Story Problem
If you grew up in a school system that used Scantrons ad nauseum, you are not alone. Unfortunately, life is not multiple choice; it’s a story problem. If we want to prepare our students for the demands of college and the real world, we cannot afford to whittle away their knowledge to a, b, c, d, or e: all of the above. At the same time, our time as teachers is at a premium and very few of us can afford to spend hours grading essay tests. (Just yesterday, I spent 5 hours of my Saturday wading through essay tests and struggling to decipher handwriting.) Fortunately, the powers that be are aligning in the classroom teacher’s favor, and there are two great tools you can use to reduce your grading time. In this post, we’ll explore what these tools are and how to maximize their efficacy.
2 Great Online Quiz Generators
There are a ton of online quiz generators, but I have found most of them very limiting. The two best I have found are below and, best of all, FREE!
When I began student teaching, I discovered quizstar4teachers.org. It was a fabulous tool, and I was crushed when it went to a paid service. Due to many disappointed teachers like myself, quizstar4teachers.org shifted gears again. By selling advertisements, QuizStar is free once more!
So what does QuizStar have that other sites don’t? My favorite feature of QuizStar by far is the “choose all that apply” option. You can create a question, put in multiple correct and multiple wrong answers, and students have to figure out which ones apply. This eliminates the “lucky guess” component and requires students to thoroughly know and understand the concept.
Another feature of QuizStar is that it mixes up the order of the questions, so no two students get the test in the same order. And if you permit retakes (which I do for formative purposes), it mixes up the questions each time the student retakes the test. You can decide if students get feedback on their quiz or not. I set mine not to. Then students come to me, I tell them which questions they missed, and then they review their quiz to try to figure out the correct answers.
And of course, QuizStar has handy tools that measure responses for each answer, analyzes overall scores, creates graphs and charts, etc., etc. QuizStar also allows for short answer and true/false questions. Finally, you can attach pictures to various questions, so students must identify objects, etc. There is also a feature that lets teachers use other teachers quizzes, provided they have the teachers quiz code. Work smarter, not harder, right?
The biggest drawback with QuizStar is the signup process for students. Students get to create an account, but then they have to search for your class. This can be a challenge, so make sure to name your class something unique and then practice finding it yourself so you can help students out. If students forget their username or password, you, as their teacher, can reset it for them.
Edmodo has finally created a quiz application! If you aren’t familiar with edmodo, check out my previous post on edmodo.
Edmodo’s quiz feature allows you to create a quiz that mixes multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and fill in the blank. Unfortunately there is not a “choose all that apply” option, but there are other amazing features. For each quiz question, you can add a link or a file from your library, allowing lots of flexibility. You could ask students to analyze a web article or identify salient characteristics of a particular object. As an instructor, you have the option of adding the quiz to Edmodo’s gradebook and letting students see their results or not.
But like QuizStar, Edmodo also analyzes results for you. When you click on the quiz, you get pie chart for each question. Then you can click on each student and grade their short answers. Edmodo also lets you delete a student’s submission if you want them to retake it. Finally, Edmodo automatically saves quizzes to your library and you can quickly find and repost quizzes, even changing them a little if you need to.
I’ve already worked with QuizStar, but now I’m excited to start using Edmodo’s quiz application for formative and final assessments. Below are a few rules to keep in mind when designing online quizzes.
Rules for ALL Online Quizzes
1. Never, ever, EVER copy a question from a textbook or a quiz you found online. I can almost guarantee that some enterprising student somewhere has copied the question and placed an answer key online. All students have to do is copy the question, paste it in google, and the answer will pop right up. Always design your own questions and NEVER put them on the web for public consumption.
2. If your test is strictly multiple choice and true/false, be on the alert for any typing. Both QuizStar and Edmodo only require a mouse for these types of questions. Student typing is suspect and could be cheating.
3. Science and math teachers – do not use formulas in these quizzes. Google lets you punch in a formula and will solve the answer for you. Stick to paper and pencil tests if students need to solve formulas.
4. English, social studies, and foreign language teachers – do not ask students to define vocabulary or translate words/sentences. Students can quickly find vocabulary definitions online and google has an amazing translation machine for all sorts of languages.
5. Check for cheating. If a student’s syntax seems suspicious, copy and paste a segment of their answer into google, putting quotation marks around the phrase. Google will do a search and will bold any identical matches under each website it discovers. Once you nail a student for cheating, word gets around and you will see it occurring less and less.
Guidelines for Online Quiz Design
While all the rules for online quizzes are similar, it is important to realize that different quizzes serve different functions. Below are suggestions to keep in mind when designing formative and formal quizzes.
Getting the Most out of Formative Assessments
1. Set a time limit that will simultaneously allow students enough time to answer the question without giving them enough time to go online and research the answer.
2. Do your best to design questions so that they are application based, and not simple recall. The reason for this is twofold. First, it requires students to use higher order thinking skills. Second, it reduces the likelihood that students can type in a question into google and find an answer.
3. Consider allowing students to do retakes on formative assessments, since the goal here is to see what the student knows and adjust instruction to cover the gaps.
Getting the Most out of Open Note Formal Assessments
1. If you are going to permit students to use notes and worksheets from class, design your questions so that they must apply the information they have at their fingertips. In government, I like to give “what-if” scenarios to my students about the succession to the Presidency. Students have to apply the information they learned in class to the scenario to determine the correct response.
2. Open note, application-based assessments are time-consuming for students. Consider breaking the quiz/test into 2 or 3 parts with 30 minute limits. That way, students can complete one part of the test without running out of time or interrupting their session.
3. Create time-limits that allow your students to search through their resources, but do not allow them enough time to go online and try to find answers. Keep in mind, though, that if your questions are application-based, online research will only provide them with facts, not the answers. They still have to do the thinking.
Getting the Most out of Closed Note Formal Assessments
1. If no notes are permitted, reduce the amount of time students have to take the test. For multiple choice at the high school level, 45 seconds per question is fairly standard.
2. Do your best to make your questions application based. Again, this will require your students to actually think and apply their knowledge, and reduce the temptation of going online and looking up answers.
Experimentation and Feedback
As you play around with online quizzes, ask your students to give you feedback. They’ll let you know what’s working and what isn’t. You should also ask them if the quizzes are working best as a review, as a teaching tool, or as a valid measure of their knowledge and learning. Let me know what you discover, and share the wealth!