By Steph Jackman

Simple multiple-choice questions combined with video-based microlearning enhance learner engagement, comprehension, retention, and accountability

Employee training has evolved significantly in recent years, with technology completely reshaping the way organizations educate their workforce. Regardless of industry, employees must continually learn and upskill to stay relevant and competitive in their field. Employers, catching on to this need, have begun offering educational and career advancement opportunities as a way to grow and retain talent.

The human brain, however, is not wired to receive training in large dumps of information as often occurs in seminars, webinars, and other professional development courses. In fact, studies have found that within 24 hours, we forget an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, we forget about 90 percent of it.

This “forgetting curve” is alarming to employers who shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars on training each year. (In 2022, employers spent $92.3 billion on workplace training in the U.S. alone.)

To encourage long-term information retention, platforms have begun to include simple multiple-choice questions at the end of microlearning training videos. This approach offers numerous benefits, from boosting engagement to enhancing comprehension and recall. But it also comes with drawbacks. In this post, we will explore both the disadvantages and advantages of incorporating multiple-choice questions, and determine whether they can positively impact the effectiveness of your own training videos.

The Drawbacks of Multiple-Choice Questions

Multiple-choice questions gained rapid popularity after World War I as a means to test intelligence and have since become a staple in American education. Quick and easy to score, these questions are short enough to cover several content areas within a single quiz while simultaneously testing a wide range of higher-order thinking skills.

For all their virtues, however, multiple-choice questions are not perfect. Critics argue that these questions assess only surface-level comprehension and therefore do not adequately evaluate learners’ critical thinking, problem-solving, or application of concepts. Unlike short-answer questions, the correct answer is given to the learner as one item among others in a test bank. This encourages guesswork and prevents an accurate measure of true understanding.

Lastly, multiple-choice questions typically provide the learner with minimal feedback – often just indicating whether the answer is right or wrong. This hinders any detailed insights into the reasons behind learners’ choices and does not give them any sense of why their response was incorrect.

For all their flaws, however, multiple-choice questions are still an easy and effective way to boost learner engagement, comprehension, and retention.

The Benefits of Simple Multiple-Choice Questions

Active Engagement: One of the biggest advantages of including simple multiple-choice questions at the end of training videos is their ability to transform passive viewing into active learning. Passive viewing, which is typical of traditional video-based training, often results in reduced engagement and retention. Learners temporarily absorb information, but because of the “forgetting curve” lose most of it within one day.

This is where simple multiple-choice questions come into play. By placing these questions at the end of a video, you transform passive viewing into an active learning experience.

How? Multiple-choice questions compel viewers to think critically about the material they have just watched, requiring them to both recall and apply the information. This active participation keeps learners focused and creates personal connections with the material. When personal connections are forged with the content presented, learners are much more likely to understand and retain it.

For instance, instead of passively watching and forgetting, they are actively thinking, processing and internalizing the information presented in the video.

Active engagement fosters a culture of participation and self-assessment. Learners are no longer passive recipients of information but active contributors to their own learning experience. This shift in mindset increases learners’ motivation and commitment to internalizing the training content, creating a “mental library” they can revisit when a comparable situation arises.

Comprehension and Reinforcement: Comprehension is absolutely critical to effective learning. Without understanding the material, learners cannot apply it in real-world scenarios or retain it for future use.

Simple multiple-choice questions serve a dual purpose for learners and trainers. For learners, they act as a benchmark for comprehension, revealing whether they have grasped the key concepts and information presented in the training video or not.

For trainers, multiple-choice questions provide a means for identifying areas where learners might be struggling or need further clarification. This feedback is invaluable for trainers, as it allows them to target specific areas for additional reinforcement.

Retention Through Active Recall: Simple multiple-choice questions play a crucial role in enhancing retention through a cognitive phenomenon known as “active recall.” Active recall is a powerful memory-enhancing technique. It involves actively trying to remember information, which strengthens the neural pathways associated with that information.

When learners answer multiple-choice questions that require them to recall facts, concepts or procedures from the training video, they engage in active recall. In other words, multiple choice questions provide repetition of information. Studies have shown that increasing repetition can improve long-term memory by 35%. By repeating key information in the form of questions, concepts become cemented and learners can more easily call upon the information they’ve already seen.

In essence, multiple-choice questions act as memory-builders. Information retrieval during the quiz reinforces the brain’s connections to the learned material, making it easier for learners to remember and access that information in the future. Unsurprisingly, the benefits of active recall extend beyond the training video itself, ensuring that knowledge is readily available for application in real-life situations.

Motivation and Accountability: Motivation and accountability can be tricky factors in education and training. Learners may lack motivation when the learning process is passive, and accountability can be challenging to enforce. However, simple multiple-choice questions introduce an effective solution to these issues.

When learners know they will be quizzed on the material at the end of the training video, they are incentivized to pay closer attention during the video itself. The anticipation of being tested serves as a powerful motivator, encouraging learners to be more focused than they would be otherwise.

Multiple-choice questions also encourage learner accountability in a unique way. When individuals know the knowledge they gain from the training video is directly linked to their performance in the subsequent quiz, it creates a sense of responsibility and a higher commitment to completing the training questions successfully.

Feedback Loop for Improvement: Feedback loops provided by simple multiple-choice questions are incredibly beneficial for both earners and trainers. If learners select the wrong answer, they are immediately notified and given the opportunity to re-evaluate the question and try again. As humans, we often learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. The feedback loop encourages reflection, giving learners the chance to course correct and do better the next time.

For trainers and instructional designers, simple multiple-choice questions provide real-time feedback on the effectiveness of teaching methods, content delivery and overall training design. If a significant number of learners answer the same question incorrectly, it signals that students are struggling with that particular concept or the question is poorly written (more on that below) or both.

Trainers can track the performance of individual learners or groups, identifying these patterns of misunderstanding or common areas of difficulty. It may be an unclear explanation of a concept, an inadequately covered topic, or a challenging segment of the video.

Using these patterns, trainers can make data-driven decisions to improve the training program – adjusting instructional strategies, updating content or creating supplementary materials to address specific learning gaps effectively.

A Word of Caution

Now that we’ve seen the immense merits to adding simple multiple-choice questions to training videos, you may be itching to add them to your own. HOLD ON.

Good questions that are effective and fair take both time and skill to construct. The effectiveness of multiple-choice questions depends entirely upon how they are written. In other words: garbage in, garbage out.

Trainers do best to create questions that are simple in format and challenge students, but allow them to succeed often. Avoiding trick questions that use “all of the above” or “none of the above,” and randomly distributing the correct answers reduces patterning and guessing. Keep the answer bank simple. Research shows that two distractors (two incorrect answer choices and one correct response) are as effective as three or four.

Ultimately, simplicity and clarity in the questions and answer choices are key to effective assessment.

Take It One Step Further

If you want to take multiple-choice questions to the next level, consider presenting learners with real-life scenarios related to the training content and ask them to analyze and solve problems. Write the multiple-choice bank based on the scenario.

By incorporating real-life scenarios into the assessment, you bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. This not only reinforces learning but also prepares learners to use their knowledge effectively in real-world situations.

Engage, Retain and Train

Incorporating simple multiple-choice questions at the end of training videos is an easy, but effective way to enhance learner engagement, comprehension, retention and accountability. It transforms passive viewing into active learning, fosters a deeper understanding of the material and promotes long-term retention of critical information.

These questions motivate learners to stay engaged, take ownership of their learning, and feel confident in what they’ve learned. They also provide valuable feedback to trainers for continuous improvement in content delivery and assessment.

In a rapidly evolving educational landscape, where remote learning and digital training are becoming increasingly prevalent, the inclusion of simple multiple-choice questions is a powerful tool to ensure that video training objectives are met and that learners are actively participating in the learning process.

So, the next time you create a training video, consider the benefits of adding a few simple multiple-choice questions – they might just be the key to unlocking the full potential of your training program.

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