Beyond Multiple Choice

Beyond Multiple Choice
Growing up, one of the most dreaded phrases was always, “Okay students… Pop Quiz!” The idea of being tested unexpectedly can give almost any student anxiety (or at least double-guess how prepared they really are.)

When it comes to eLearning, the same holds true. While there are many reasons to assess learner knowledge (whether before, during, or after a course), there’s an art to how you do it. In this guide, we’ll look at some creative ways to turn assessments into engagement tools that actually motivate the learner.

Why it matters

When we think about the word “assessment,” it’s easy for us to feel that “pop quiz” anxiety creeps back up. However, that doesn’t need to be the case. There are actually a variety of best practices that encourage learners to perform and want more.

It’s actually a well-known learning theory known as self-efficacy. When learners believe they have the competency to perform, they’re more likely to. It’s (kind of) the reason why pop quizzes aren’t as fun; the element of surprise can impact our confidence and, furthermore, can negatively impact our “belief” that we have the competencies to perform well.

A great example of this is in the beloved Mario video game. In the beginning of a level, gamers have the opportunity to learn and practice a new maneuver before being “tested” on it. Take jumping, for example. At first, the gamer is presented with a block they need to smash by jumping upwards. There is no penalty if you mess up. Next, the gamer must jump from one ledge to another but isn’t penalized if they fall. Lastly, they’re maneuverability is “tested” when they have to jump over a gap – where, if Mario doesn’t make it to the other side, he “dies” and has to start over.

These mechanics encourage the gamer to put in the extra effort needed to learn and  practice, before having to apply their mastery. It’s actually quite genius and makes for a very intuitive experience. (Want to nerd out more? We suggest reading this article about Mario's game mechanics.)

Characteristics of Motivating Assessments

So how do you make eLearning assessments feel as “fun” as Mario? Heh, welcome to the Club of Instructional Design!

There are several characteristics to embed within a learning experience that can help motivate learners. Here are a few of our favorites:

Goals and Expectations: When learners understand what is expected of them, they’re more likely to perform well. This includes setting clear goals and expectations from the start.

Feedback and reinforcement: When learners perform (whether practicing or being tested), immediate feedback can be super motivating. Whether it is a positive reinforcement like an incentive or critical feedback to recalibrate them towards the correct answer, feedback is crucial to the learning process.

Interactivity: Interactive assessments are much more engaging! Instead of a multiple choice, consider using simulations, gaming techniques, or interactive videos.

Personalization: Assessments that are tailored to a learner’s needs, interests, or job role can be highly motivating. Design with accessibility in mind, incorporate pop culture into the feedback or build scenarios that are specific to their job function.

Examples of Motivating Assessments

Now, let’s take a step further and explore examples of what this looks like in the world of eLearning. Here are some ways to boost the engagement of your assessments.

Gamification: Turn assessments into a competition by adding a reward or point system. Other fun elements include puzzles, leaderboards, or timers.

Scenarios: Create real-world scenarios that encourage the learner to showcase their knowledge in a practical application.

Self-assessment: The Mario example is powerful because the gamer witnesses their own skill level before advancing. Self-assessments are similar! Allowing learners to measure their own progress can be a powerful motivator!

Video-based assessments: Role-playing exercises or video simulations boost interactivity since it requires learners to actively engage with the material.


When designed correctly, assessments shouldn’t feel like a “test” but rather like an opportunity to show off.

We’re not saying to make eLearning assessments easy. In fact, we’ll be the first to admit that some of those Mario levels are tough! Instead, learning experiences should provide clear goals, immediate feedback, and built-in interactivity to engage the learner as they master the needed skills. It’s a matter of setting them up for success and not for a “pop quiz.”

Ready to revamp your eLearning and their assessments? We’ve got you covered. Whether you need assistance with content, assessments, or the whole shebang – our team of experts is here to lend a helping hand.

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