This Simple Secret Boosts Learner Performance for Online Quizzes

This Simple Secret Boosts Learner Performance for Online Quizzes

By: Talia Kolodny, Coursera

Is it possible to boost an online learner’s performance with a simple design adjustment? The D4 (data-driven design decisions) team at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, led by Dr. Adam Fein, is working to answer this question definitively. The team set out to explore whether multimedia quiz feedback can make a positive impact on learning performance. The result of this research reveals an opportunity to help millions of learners across the globe.

So, what’s the secret? Creating short feedback videos for responses to incorrect quiz answers. According to the research, using these videos to share detailed feedback significantly improves learner performance (Fein, 2017).

We remember roughly 25% of what we read. When pictures, graphics or videos are added, knowledge retention is more reliable. Using Richard Mayer’s foundational theory of multimedia learning (Mayer, 2009, 2014), the Illinois research team hypothesized that multimedia feedback would be ideal for online settings. 295 learners in a microeconomics course that missed a question were given immediate feedback. The team measured the feedback’s effectiveness by looking at whether the learner correctly answered a subsequent question on the same topic. A control group only learned whether they were correct or incorrect. From there, three treatments were designed: the first group simply learned the correct answer, the second group learned the answer and received some extra feedback via text. The third group received a multimedia video with feedback.

Here’s what the results showed: a simple confirmation about whether an answer is correct or incorrect doesn’t impact performance. The addition of detailed elaboration feedback made an immediate impact on performance. Learners who received a text narrative explaining the topic were 3.4 times more likely to answer a second question correctly when compared to the control group. Learners who received the short multimedia video covering the topic were 5.3 times more likely to answer a second question correctly when compared to the control group.

These findings were true for all learners, regardless of age, gender, level of education, or language. It was also true across a set of question types that covered the first four levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.

Watch this sample video that was used for feedback in the experiment.

The Coursera platform allows content creators to embed videos in quiz feedback by using the course asset library for each answer response. You can learn more on how to author and edit quizzes in the Coursera Partner Resource Center (log-in required).

Key takeaways for learning design

  1. Verification feedback alone (correct/incorrect) should only be used to verify a learner’s progress and does not impact the learner’s performance.
  2. Elaboration (detailed) feedback in response to incorrect answers will have a positive impact on learner performance.
  3. Multimedia feedback (videos that combine visual and audio elements) can significantly increase learner performance.

Next up for the University of Illinois: examining whether the quality of the multimedia video affects the learner’s performance.

The bottom line: making short, simple videos to improve your courses’ feedback mechanisms can go a long way towards helping your learners master a topic!  


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