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This is how to use open-ended questions to maximize e-learning

When it comes to e-learning, open-ended questions can be powerful tools, if you know how to use them. This article will help you find out what open-ended questions to include in e-learning and how to use them effectively.

This is how to use open-ended questions to maximize e-learning

What are open-ended questions?

In e-learning, there are various types of questions to test the learner’s progress and how well they understand the e-learning content. Open-ended questions are a great way to strike a good balance between quantitative and qualitative responses in your survey and e-learning assessment.

Open-ended questions allow your learners to come up with responses in their own words, without being limited or influenced by predetermined answers to either closed-ended questions, like true or false, or multiple-choice questions. This type of question encourages learners to dig deeper into problem-solving and explain their responses in their terms. As such, open-ended questions develop critical-thinking skills, creativity, reasoning, and communication.

If you want your learners to provide detailed answers to quiz questions, then use open-ended questions. These are usually in a comment box and allow for responses that are not based on a set of single or multiple-choice questions.

How do you include open-ended questions in e-learning?

When you recognize the power of open-ended questions in e-learning courses and the overall learning experience, you can make the most of this type of question, not just in e-learning assessment but also in building the soft skills needed in the workplace.

Here are four ways you can take advantage of open-ended questions:

1 – Use open-ended questions to prompt reflection among learners.

Using open-ended questions allows learners to dig deeper and come up with more thoughtful insights on how they can apply the topic to their everyday roles. They are prompted to formulate opinions on a subject matter, helping them to retain the learning better. There are no correct answers, so this type of question makes learners comfortable with producing answers based on their personal thoughts and reflections. As part of great story-telling, you as a facilitator or instructor can ask an open-ended question at the start of the class, then go back and unpack the learners’ reflections throughout the entire lesson.

2 – Complement your open-ended question with a closed-ended one.

Just because we’re talking about the strength of open-ended questions does not mean we forget closed-ended ones altogether.

Closed-ended questions are a great way to balance your e-learning content with open-ended ones. One great way of using closed-ended questions is by leading with them, especially to grasp your learners’ understanding of the subject matter. Then, based on the response, you can use open-ended questions to delve deeper into their learning needs. If you realize that there is little familiarity with the subject by closed-ended questions, then you can use open-ended questions to ease them into the topic. As such, open-ended questions matched by closed-ended ones can help you explore your students’ learning objectives a little further.

And speaking of learning objectives…

3 – Make sure that your open-ended questions match the learning goals.

Ask with the learning objective in mind. Your open-ended questions should tie into the learning goals. Start by identifying the information you want to gather, aim to produce an effective learning experience, and understand your learners’ progress by religiously tracking it. Then, keep the learning objective in mind and use it as your course’s true north.

4 – Avoid asking loaded questions.

When asking open-ended questions, be careful not to ask loaded questions. For example, there’s a huge difference between “what do you think of today’s e-learning content” and “what do you think of today’s fantastic e-learning content?” To get rich feedback and enhance the course, steer clear of leading, loaded questions. The goal is to obtain responses to your questions that are free of opinions or feelings. So keep your questions neutral and avoid influencing your learners’ responses.


By using open-ended questions in your e-learning content, you allow your learners to reflect and dive deeper into the key learnings and takeaways using their own words and insights. Then, apply the tips above to get the most bang for the buck and enrich the learning experience.

If you’d like to know more about other types of questions that can complement open-ended ones, you can read the article “What you need to know about surveys: types of questions and examples.”