Managing Student Expectations: Using Online Quizzes in University Subjects

Managing Student Expectations: Using Online Quizzes in University Subjects

Greg Jones (University of Southern Queensland, Australia) and Hazel Jones (University of Southern Queensland, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0968-4.ch016
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Online quizzes, and particularly multiple choice quizzes, are fast becoming a standard type of assessment for distance learning as well as classes taught through a blended delivery modality. Whilst there are advantages for teachers of automatic marking there are also a range of concerns such as collusion and for students the impersonal nature of these types of assessment. This chapter will consider ways in which these concerns can be addressed through conversations between staff and students, the ways in which quizzes are designed and administered and the feedback that is provided to students. Students' expectations of the processes around quizzes as well as the merit of this type of assessment often varies significantly from the reality, leading to discontent and lack of engagement. Strategies for setting realistic expectations for students are provided that will help make online quizzes a more personalized experience for students.
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This chapter developed from two main perspectives: the frustrations of an early career academic, who, with the best of intentions, changed some details of curriculum design (altering the first of two online quizzes), resulting in student complaints, dissatisfaction and little change in student success; and a learning designer/ researcher with a keen interest in learning analytics, who worked together to formulate strategies to reduce the levels of frustration and dissatisfaction. The ideas in the chapter were generated through the experience and research of the authors, who have both worked in multiple roles within several Australian universities over twenty years. They have drawn on their combined experience, and many conversations together and with others, including students, to bring these ideas together. This work has also been influenced by student feedback (both positive and negative).

Students’ levels of satisfaction with a subject and their overall educational experience are dependent on a complex set of factors. Students can have markedly different perceptions and levels of satisfaction with a subject even though they have identical experiences. One factor most likely to influence their satisfaction is the preconceived expectations with which they enter the subject (Appleton-Knapp & Krentler, 2006). Students often have unrealistic expectations about the role of online quizzes, as well as various aspects of them which can lead to student dissatisfaction and low levels of engagement. These expectations can be influenced by students’ goal setting, motivations and beliefs, and this chapter will include a brief discussion of these factors. A rationale for setting realistic expectations and suggestions of how to convey these expectations to students is also discussed.


This chapter builds on the reflective practice of the authors in administering and assessing student performance in online quizzes across a range of subjects and universities. Quantitative analysis of quiz results, utilizing standard reports in the LMS from individual students as well as full cohorts, have informed the strategies developed throughout the chapter. Feedback from students on various aspects of the online quizzes led to an extensive review of current literature, which has also informed the content of the chapter and the strategies included. Subjects and cohorts that have informed the chapter range from large, multi-campus first year subjects offered on-campus with a blended delivery, to fully online postgraduate subjects. All quizzes that have informed the discussion consist of multiple choice questions and range from voluntary practice quizzes to summative assessments testing learning throughout the semester. The desire to inform and improve teaching practice has driven this applied research, and is shared in this chapter with the ultimate aim of providing quality learning environments and encouraging others to pursue similar goals.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Quizzes: Quizzes conducted in an online environment typically using a LMS as the vehicle. Used to assess learning and provide results, feedback and resources to develop student learning.

Formative Quizzes: Used to assist learning. May or may not have marks associated. Used to identify weaknesses and provide feedback to develop the student skills and knowledge.

Randomization of Questions: Using a data base of questions (the larger the better) questions are grouped according to topic, type and difficulty. Similar questions are grouped together and then from each group questions are chosen at random using the LMS. Within each question for multiple choice questions the responses can also be randomized. The purpose is to give students a similar experience but with individual quizzes.

Feedback: A response to the answers given in the quizzes. Designed to support and encourage student learning. Provides links to resources, identifies problems and strengths and where needed provides realistic assessment of the students’ performance.

Learning Management System: Software or Web-based technology used to deliver a learning process and typically used by academics to create and deliver content while monitoring student participation and performance.

Student Expectations: Based on prior experience of the students. Can vary to a great extent as students may come from a diverse range of backgrounds with divergence sets of experiences. Setting expectations needs to be done in the early part of the subject.

Subject: A particular unit within a course. The course leads to an academic qualification and each subject within the course covers a particular topic or range of topics about a specific theme.

Summative Quizzes: Tests what has been learnt, the extent of the students’ knowledge on a particular topic. Often held at the end of a topic or session. Marks are associated with these types of quizzes.

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