Use of open questions in (e)learning
Open questions are more likely to lead to in-depth discussion in face-to-face or online learning contexts than closed questions. A simplistic example:
- “Is A better than B?” (closed) invites just a yes or no answer.
- “What makes A better than B?” (open) invites the learner to justify and explore the rationale behind their decision.
This is not to say that closed questions should never be used, just that their use should be limited – in the above example, the two questions could provide a useful sequence for initiating discussion.
Use of open questions in reflection
Similarly, when encouraging teachers to reflect on their own practice, we need to encourage them to consider and respond to open questions. A reliance on closed questions tends to discourage in-depth reflection. Why? Because in-depth reflection requires consideration of causes and significance of events, and open questions are required to really explore these.
In a recent project, I developed an app which allows the user to reflect on, create and store responses to reflective prompts (questions) relating to e-learning practice. The questions are drawn from one section of the eLearning Guidelines (eLG).
During the development process, I decided to make small adjustments to the wording of many of the questions to make them more open questions. For example:
- The original question “Do learners have the opportunity to self-assess their readiness for eLearning?” seemed to invite a simple yes/no answer, so it was reworded as “What opportunities do learners have to self-assess their readiness for eLearning?”
- Likewise, “Is it clear at the start of the course what support teaching staff will offer learners?” was reworded as “How is it made clear at the start of the course what support teaching staff will offer learners?”
I feel these open versions of the questions will encourage teachers to review the evidence and reflect on effectiveness more deeply.
Whether or not you are currently using the eLearning Guidelines, you might find the app a useful tool for reflecting on your e-learning practice. The Android app is free and is available to download from the apps page.