Learning effectiveness: Efficacy of quizzes vs. discussions in on-line learning

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Alexander Romiszowski


Learning, Quizzes, Discussions, Online, educational software

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Instructional Media Design


This study examined the effect on the learners' performance of interaction through discussion forums in an on-line course. The primary focus of the study was to explore the efficacy of quizzes versus discussions as practice activities in an on-line learning environment. The study examined whether or not interaction through discussion forums had an increased effect on the learners' performance or achievement scores in the course.

Thirty-seven students completed a fifteen-week online course which included a pretest, six discussion forums, six quizzes, activities, a posttest and a final course evaluation. Pretest and posttest scores, frequency of reading and posting to discussion forums, and final evaluation feedback were collected.

The following questions are addressed in this study: (1) Does the use of online learning activities (discussion forums and/or quizzes) serve as an avenue for the learners to obtain increased levels of achievement as measured by an objective test of the course content? (2) Is there a difference in the learning outcome, as assessed by means of content-based objective testing, between learners who engaged in discussion and learners who completed quizzes as the "practice" component of an online lesson? (3) How do the frequency and the mode of participation in the discussion forums affect the learning outcome?

The results of the study suggest that higher achievement scores are typically attained when in-course practice exercises are aligned with the final evaluation tests in terms of both the content and the style. However, there are other factors that may also influence the results. For example, the intensity and frequency of participation in the group discussions also seemed to have an influence on final performance.

The study revealed that any change in the design and implementation of a course of study should be subjected to an iterative process of formative evaluation. It also revealed that ongoing tendency to substitute quizzes by online discussions may not always be in the students' best interests. The conclusion of this study focuses on the importance for designers and instructors to understand how interaction through discussion forums affects learners' performance/achievement scores. Knowing how interaction affects the learners' performance can help a designer and an instructor create more effective on-line courses that encourage student learning and student satisfaction in their learning.


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