Scoring Self-Study Quizzes Online, an IF-AT Model

Here’s my progress in a Stanford Online course:

The problem is that I didn’t really try on this. I just hit answers till I got it right, and it let me try again. I’ve been through online courses like this before — when the week gets heavy with other obligations the click-itis begins. You don’t learn, because you stop anticipating whether you are right, you stop investing yourself in the question. Expectation failure can’t happen because you stop expecting.

However, there’s a more elegant solution to this sort of stuff. It comes from some traditional techniques associated with IF-AT cards.

The way it works is this — on a 4 answer multiple choice question you get 5 points if your first guess is correct, 2 points if your second guess is correct, and one point if your third guess is correct. Zero points for getting it last.

I don’t have hard data handy on the learning impact of the technique, but I can tell you from direct observation that it radically changes student behavior. Students that shrugged off second and third guesses suddenly become very involved in the process.  Rather than going by gut instinct, they carefully think over their line of reasoning before taking the second guess.

The key, of course, is the diminishing returns — the fear of diminishing returns makes them think it over carefully, while the partial credit incentivizes them to keep going forward.

I’ve used these structures in my class, especially with team-based decisions, and I’m always amazed how it transforms detached students into highly engaged students, almost instantly. It’s one of those neat magic tricks that Project-Based Learning folks know about and most of the rest of the world doesn’t

Anyway — this is something that has annoyed me for a while about online quizzes (not just Stanford Online). I wish someone would implement a system like this, for my sake as an educator, instructional designer, and most especially, as a student.

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