Online Quizzes

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The online quizzes are a key element of this course — students answer 283 different quiz online questions over the course of 10 weeks (with an opportunity to answer each of these questions a second time while studying for the exams). This page provides some information and thoughts about the quiz questions.

There are two types of online quizzes in this course. The first are called “embedded quiz questions.” These are question that are embedded into the subunit lectures. There is typically one embedded quiz question following each 5-minute lecture segment. The embedded quiz questions do not contribute to the student’s grade, but the students quickly learn that they should do them anyway (see Close-Up View of a Subunit for an example). We have no way of tracking their performance on the embedded quiz questions (because of software limitations), but the students report taking them very seriously and finding them to be highly useful.

The second kind of online quiz in this course is called a SmartSite quiz (because it is delivered via SmartSite, our LMS, which allows us to track student performance). Each SmartSite quiz has 5 questions that cover the preceding subunit lecture material. This means that the student typically answers two questions for each subunit (an embedded quiz question and a SmartSite quiz question).

The SmartSite quizzes contribute to the students’ grades. They constitute a very small percentage of the students’ final grade, but the students find the scores to be highly salient (see Exams and Grading). As a result, the students are highly motivated to complete them, and the deadlines are highly effective at getting the students to watch the lecture videos in a timely manner. The deadlines for the SmartSite quizzes are determined strategically to encourage the students to distribute their learning over the course of a 2-week unit. This works very well. The only downside is that the students take the SmartSite quizzes so seriously that they send a lot of emails when they have a technical problem or some other excuse for failing to meet a deadline.

It would be possible, in principle, for the students to cheat on the SmartSite quizzes. However, the students are given the clear message that answering these questions will help them do well on exams. In addition, the SmartSite quizzes are such a small part of the final grade that the students will lose more than they gain by cheating on these quizzes.

Here are some important details about the online quiz questions:

  • If the student selects the wrong answer, an explanation appears indicating why this answer is wrong and giving the student the correct answer. This feedback is immediate for embedded quiz questions, and it is provided after the whole quiz has been submitted for SmartSite quizzes.
  • Given the extensive research showing that long-term retention is increased if students retrieve information from memory shortly after learning the information, the students should not look at the questions prior to watching the videos.
  • In addition, if they see the question in advance, they will probably not pay attention to the entire video segment, but will instead simply search for the answer to the question.
  • Although we don’t do anything to prevent students from seeing the questions first, most students don’t realize that they could skip ahead to a question, then skip back to the lecture video, and then answer the quiz question. Also, the embedded quiz questions don’t contribute to their grades, so they have to motivation to “cheat” in this manner.
  • In addition to helping the students remember the material, the quiz questions also help students see what the instructor thinks is most important in a given video segment.
  • A quiz question can also force the student to make a distinction that was described in the video but may not have been salient to the student (e.g., the distinction between implicit and explicit memory tests).
  • Alternatively, a quiz question can make the student go beyond the mere facts presented in a lecture segment and think more deeply about the material (e.g., what the experimenters would have concluded if a different pattern of results had been obtained).

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