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Using Multiple Choice in eLearning

by Ron Kurtus (revised 19 July 2000)

A common method to reinforce learning and verify understanding in the training or education process is the use of questions to the students or learners. In the classroom the questions may come from the instructor. They are also used in homework exercises, quizzes and tests.

In eLearning, Computer-Based Training (CBT) or Web-Based Training (WBT), there are limitations on the types of answers that can be processed on the computer. Thus questions with multiple choice or true/false answers are usually used in e-Leaning.

Questions you may have on this include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Multiple choice adds to interest

Having the learner answer multiple choice questions is a good way to maintain attention through the use of interaction. In fact, the challenge of guessing which answer is correct - provided the questions aren't too difficult - can be like a game and make the experience enjoyable and increase the interest in the topic at hand. The result of each question can be shown immediately, and a running score may be kept, if desired.

Explanation of answers aids learning

By jumping to an explanation of each answer, the student will want to read and learn. The information is given in palatable chunks, which helps understanding. The questions should be in a logical order, so that the study material makes sense.

Should you provide explanations first?

I am not sure if it is better to provide reading material first and then have the multiple choice with explanations, or if the student should be made to guess at an answer and then get the explanation. I've been experimenting with each method to find out which is the best.

Use multiple choice prudently

It is possible to overdo anything. I feel it is best to mix multiple choice along with other techniques to avoid saturation with one technique or style of presentation.

Still, there are situations where only multiple choice can work. I use a series of such questions with answers and explanations as a study-aid for students in my physical science course. It seems to work for the students.

Other options

There are other options besides multiple choice to consider.

True-false questions

True-false questions can be also be used, but they are essentially a subset of multiple choice. Mixing a few true-false questions in with the multiple choice can provide some variety.

Fill-in-the blank questions

Fill-in-the blank questions can also be effective, but they suffer the problem of being able to program the CBT authoring tool to take care of student answers that are close or misspelled. This type of question certainly stretches the student more.


Multiple choice, along with explanation of the answer is an effective CBT technique to enhance learning.

Use CBT in the business-world to help others gain skills.

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