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Lance Noland

Self Employed Writer

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Yes or No to an E-Learning Test Out Option?


Instructional designers help to bridge the gap between theory and educational practice by using theory to guide design of elearning modules. This bridge guides decisions that will benefit the learner’s experience. One of these decisions is deciding whether to include a test out option at the beginning of a module. A test out option considers a learner’s prior knowledge, and makes sure that the module is relevant to what learners need to know.

Allowing for a test out option means that it is possible for a learner to not complete the instructional sequence that you have worked so hard to create. However, requiring someone to go through a module and take an assessment when they already know the content does not benefit you or the learner.

When designing elearning solutions, consider that some learners who will be completing your modules might already be familiar with the content. Test out assessments in a few modules can both respect the expertise of the learner, and allow you to accurately gauge the effectiveness of your teaching.

Respecting the learner’s prior knowledge

All learners come to a learning experience with different levels of prior knowledge. In addition, it is likely that a learner will know some of what will be covered, but rare that a learner would know all of the content in a module or training. Incorporating the option to test out of a module acknowledges this fact. By designing the module to make learners aware of the objectives at the beginning of the module, you are giving them the power to decide if they should try to test out of that particular module. The design of the test can require those who do not receive some level of competency to complete the module.

Avoiding Disengagement

Instruction that is either too far below or above a learner’s zone of proximal development can lead to the learner being disengaged from the content. Test outs can limit this from happening because they allow some level of filtering. Learners who can pass the test out are at a development level above what would be covered in the module. This ensures that most of the learners will be working with the content in the zone in which they are able to learn with assistance.

Feedback for Design Improvement

Quizzes or assessments at the conclusion of a module can give the learners feedback on what they learned, and what they might need to go back and review. However, these assessments are just as valuable for the designer. They give valuable information on whether the module or lesson met the learning objectives, based on the learner score. If a learner takes the post-assessment, but already had the prior knowledge to pass the assessment, then the content in the module is not being tested. Incorporating a test out option ensures that learners who already know the content will be excluded from the post assessment analysis.

A Test Out Option can Improve Self-Regulation

Incorporating a test out option into an online learning module requires a learner to assess their own knowledge. A learner needs to decide if they have the knowledge to pass the test. This will cause a recall of knowledge for which future content can be connected. Even if a learner does not pass the test out option, they have considered their prior knowledge with that content. This will, hopefully, make the learner’s engagement with the content more meaningful.

If you had previously refrained from including a test out option because you wanted everyone to see the modules you worked so hard to create, consider that including a test out can give you more accurate feedback on the effectiveness of the module and can respect the time and knowledge of the learner. And then consider including a test out option in your elearning from now on. After all, less time training means more time doing.

Author Profile Picture
Lance Noland

Self Employed Writer

Read more from Lance Noland

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