Online Quizzes for Enhanced Student Learning

Jessie TENG
Centre for English Language Communication (CELC)

Jessie shares the benefits and principles of designing online multiple choice quizzes to enhance student engagement with, and understanding of, course content.

Photo courtesy of Upklyak from Freepik

The “Quiz” function provided on LumiNUS is a convenient assessment platform that enables faculty to design online quizzes, which can be used not just for summative assessment but also to enhance student learning in several important ways through formative assessment. There are three key learning benefits of administering formative assessment in the form of online quizzes.

Firstly, these quizzes incentivise students to engage with course materials (Cook & Babon, 2016), particularly when credit is given for completing the quizzes (Kribble, 2007). However, to encourage a focus on learning rather than on grades, marks can be awarded for effort rather than for correct answers.

Secondly, such quizzes serve as a means for checking students’ understanding of course content. Well-designed questions (and well-crafted options for multiple choice questions) would reveal the concepts that students are struggling with and the difficulties they might have in applying concepts. In addition, the provision of answers and detailed explanations would enable the students to refine their understanding and help correct any misconceptions about the content.

Thirdly, online quizzes encourage active learning in the classroom. When the quiz takes place before a lesson on the same topic, students would be better prepared to participate in class discussions due to the preparatory work done for the quiz. This would enhance the quality of class discussions (Cook & Babob, 2016).

Given the above benefits, it is no surprise that using online quizzes for independent learning and formative assessment has shown to increase the level of student engagement (Evans, 2019). In addition, these quizzes are associated with better outcomes on summative assessment (Kribble, 2007).

In the development of the module GET1034 “Communication and Critical Thinking for Community Leadership” which adopts a flipped approach, online quizzes comprising multiple choice questions (MCQs) on each of the module’s five major topics were designed for formative assessment based on the following principles:

    • Test both knowledge and application skills. Questions cover both content knowledge and the ability to apply the concepts. Application questions are particularly useful as they show whether students have a good grasp of the concepts.
    • Provide MCQ options to include errors that students tend to make. This would highlight the common challenges students face and enable them to learn from their mistakes.
    • Design the quiz questions with “double layer” options. To make simpler questions more challenging, design “double layer” options where there is first a list of answers and a second list of responses that combine the options in the first list (see Figure 1):

      Figure 1. Example of an MCQ with “double layer” options.
    • Award participation marks for effort and inform students that the purpose of the quizzes is to enhance learning. Understanding that the quizzes are meant as formative assessment would encourage students to approach them in the appropriate way.
    • Enable multiple attempts for the quiz. To further motivate students to focus on learning, enable multiple attempts for each quiz. In GET1034, students have been observed to repeat the quiz up to three or four times, even though they know they would be awarded credit as long as they attempted the quiz once.
    • Provide detailed answers for not only correct answers, but also incorrect options. Clear explanations on why certain options are incorrect would help enhance their understanding of the content as well as reveal where and why their thinking is incorrect.

For GET1034, while five quizzes are formative, a final sixth summative quiz covering all five topics has been included to serve as additional motivation for students to go through the formative quizzes.

In general, formative online MCQ quizzes that are well designed not only help to enhance student learning, but also save the lecturer time in testing and supervising student learning. Such quizzes motivate students to engage actively and deeply with the course content, as well as provide them a platform to learn independently (Cook & Babon, 2016). They are thus a useful component to include in any module.


Jessie TENG is a senior lecturer at the Centre for English Language Communication (CELC). She has taught on courses in academic writing, communication skills and critical thinking. She is interested in pedagogical research and is currently collaborating on a project that investigates the use of questions in dialogic feedback.

Jessie can be reached at


Cook, B. R., & Babon, A. (2016). Active learning through online quizzes: Better learning and less (busy) work. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 41(1), 24-38.

Evans, T., Kensington-Miller, B., & Novak, J. (2019). Exploring the impact of pre-lecture quizzes in a university Mathematics course. In M. Graveb, H. Venkat, A. Essien & P. Vale (Eds.). Proceedings of the 43rd Conference for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, 2, 232-239. Pretoria, South Africa: PME.

Kribble, J. (2007). Use of unsupervised online quizzes as formative assessment in a medical physiology course: Effects of incentives on student participation and performance. Advances in Physiology Education, 31(3), 253-260.

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