Assessments and feedback are critical components of any e-learning module that you create. When designing an assessment, asking the right questions is the key to make it effective. As an e-learning designer, can you think about the last multiple-choice question you wrote? Did the question align with how a learner applies that information on the job? Were the answer choices realistic and challenging?

The context and insight you provide with each assessment can determine whether the learner chooses to click-bomb their way through an assessment or genuinely rethink the question. It is this difference that elevates “feedback” up to “coaching.”

Here are five elements that can upgrade your feedback text of your e-learning course – without giving away the answer!

1. Acknowledge why their choice was tempting.

Let us assume you have crafted instructional bullet-proof answer choices. This being the case, each choice should have a plausible reason why it might be selected. If a learner who has been paying attention would never choose an answer choice from the list, it should not be there. There is no learning value in giveaways! Start your feedback by acknowledging the redeeming that prompted the learner to select that answer choice. This helps build rapport with the learner and connects the question to the real-life temptations they might face on the job.

Example: “Your response was clear, direct, and accurately depicted company procedures.”

2. Explain why their choice was wrong anyway.

Here is where you must tactfully serve up some bad news. Despite the learner’s good instincts related to that appealing characteristic you just mentioned, the answer was not correct. Explain the rationale for why this was not the strongest possible response. Is there some pitfall or negative consequence associated with that approach? Is there a different scenario where that option would be more appropriate? This information helps the learner calibrate their understanding.

Example: “However, your tone with Ben was impatient and lacked empathy. He might feel his efforts have been undervalued.”

3. Highlight important contextual clues in the question.

At this point, the learner firmly understands what not to do. Now it is time to start steering them in the right direction. Help the learner reset their focus by pointing them towards crucial information in the question setup. Were there any constraints or scenario details the learner may have overlooked? Is the question time-bound or about a specific circumstance? Point to these details without explicitly indicating the correct answer choice.

Example: “Pay attention to the type of feedback Ben specifically requested from you about his report.”

4. Offer an abstract, hypothetical content reminder.

A clever learner may already have gleaned enough information to revise their approach. However, some learners might need a bigger nudge. Trigger the learner’s memory by helping them recall a specific teaching point from the preceding activities. This will either empower them to select a stronger choice or guide them to revisit the training’s critical sections. Since the learner still needs to retry the question, you mustn’t say anything that connects too specifically to wording from a remaining answer choice.

Example: “Consider how the ABC method could help you formulate your feedback in this situation.”

5. Ask a targeted question about the desired outcome.

Again, you may have already provided enough insight about the question, depending on its complexity. But for particularly challenging activities, the learner may still need more. When all else fails, reframe the question in different words that emphasize the desired outcome the learner should aim to achieve. This can help the learner view the answer choices from a new perspective.

Example: “How might you share your honest feedback with Ben in a way that empowers him to incorporate the changes you’ve requested?”

Constructive feedback is at the core of an enriching learning experience. Learning designers must strive to create the right mix of context and relevance to deliver on the promise of effective learning.

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