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===Essay Questions===
===Essay Questions===
Short essay questions are a new feature in Lesson. These are meant for short, paragraph or two type of essays one often finds on exams. Thus we did not use the html editor, preferring a simple text field. For longer essays, the assignment module is a better choice.
Short essay questions were introduced in Moodle version 1.5. These are meant for short, paragraph or two type of essays one often finds on exams. Thus we did not use the html editor, preferring a simple text field. For longer essays, the assignment module is a better choice.
The student simply enters their essay in the box provided.
The student simply enters their essay in the box provided.

Revision as of 16:09, 20 May 2006

A lesson delivers content in interesting and flexible ways. It consists of a number of pages. Each page leads to another page. Students are given content and choices which determine the next page they see. The question page is the most common type. It has content which ends with a question and the page shows a number of possible answers. The student's answer choice determines the next page they see. Branch tables are another type of page where students see content and can choose to move to different parts of the lesson by labled buttons. Navigation through the lesson can be straight forward or complex and depends upon the structure of the material being presented

General information about the lesson and its methodology

A lesson is used when it is necessary to tell the students some information about the topic being taught. The topic is broken into small chunks and shown to the student bit by bit. Each part is re-enforced by requiring the students to answer questions. The students proceed through the material only by answering the questions correctly. Wrong answers are "penalised" either by showing the same material again or sending the student back in the lesson for review, or to another page for a re-presentation in a different style!

Within the lesson these chunks are called Pages. The length of each page is arbitrary but normally it should not be more than the amount that comfortably fits on a screen.

Each page can have a question at the end, and can lead to any other page. This module can create a series of pages which can be presented in a linear fashion, like a slide show, or in a non-linear, branching manner, or a combination of the two. It can be graded, with questions, or ungraded and used simply as a resource.

There are two basic modes: presentation and flash card. The most of the descriptions of a lesson in this document are about the presentation mode. The Flash Card section describes how to make lesson pages appear randomly.

Presentation Lesson

The Lesson activity includes many features to make cheating more difficult and the content more interesting through question clustering, password protection, and time limits.

By mixing content with questions, lesson enables you to implement the Practice Principle of eLearning (see Clark and Mayer, 2004), where practice is integrated with instructional material.

Pages, questions, answers and responses

A lesson is made up of pages. Normally each page gives some information and then finishes with a question. The question can be easy or hard, depending on the audience. It should be directly related to the material covered in the page.

Attached to each page is a set of answers to the question. Usually there is one correct answer and a small number of wrong answers. This type of question is called a multiple choice question. It's a common type of question and it is the default question type in the Lesson module. The number of answers can vary from page to page. Some pages can have one correct answer and three wrong answers, other pages may ask questions where there are three answers or even two answers (for example true or false, or just yes or no).

There is a limit to the number of answers. This maximum is one of the parameters of the Lesson module, set initially when you add a Lesson. However, this maximum limit is flexible and can be changed at any time. The limit just determines the number of boxes you see when adding or editing pages.

Along with the answers there is a set of responses. Each answer has its own response. Once the student has chosen their answer that response is displayed before the "new" page is displayed. (The word "new" is in quotes because the student may well be shown the same page again if they choose the wrong answer.) The responses are usually short, a simple "That's right" or "That's wrong" might be sufficient. They could, however, explain why the answer which seemed right is actually wrong. But it's probably best not to try and second guess the student too much, always remember KISS (Keep it simple stupid!). In fact, responses can be left blank. The module then shows the student a standard "That's the correct answer" or "That's the wrong answer" type of response.

There may be circumstances when the teacher does not want to end a page with a test. You may want to show students just a Continue link and take them to the next page in the lesson. To do this, choose the 'Multiple choice' tab, and leave all Answers and Responses blank.

More information about pages. What exactly is meant by "the next page" is explained below.

Logical order and navigation order

The order of the pages of a lesson is usually determined by the material. Mostly the teacher will want to present the material in a way which is most easily understood and which builds in a logical and progressive way. In the Lesson module, this order is called the Logical Order and this is is how the pages are usually shown to the teacher. The teacher sees all the pages on one long screen with the first page at the top.

Once a lesson contains two or more pages the teacher can move existing pages around and add pages to any position within the set. This logical ordering of pages is also the default Navigation Order. The latter is order in which the students see the pages. In the default navigation order, correct answers show the next page (in the Logical order) and incorrect answers show the same page again, that is the student is asked the same question again. This default navigation order is possibly OK for the majority of lessons. However, it is possible to change the "Jump" associated with any answer so that a more complicated path through the lesson can be created.

These jumps can be divided into two types - Relative Jumps and Absolute Jumps. The default navigation using the relative jumps Next Page and Same Page, the destination of the Next Page jump is the next page in the logical order of the lesson. Absolute jumps specify the actual page to show next by specifying of the page's Title. Thus a lesson can have "branches", loops and a non-linear structure.

The teacher can see how a lesson's navigation "works" by using Check Question button at the end of each page or by using the Check Navigation link at the very end of the lesson. The Check button "launches" the lesson at that page. The Check Navigation links starts lesson the lesson at the first page, the way a student would see the lesson initially.

One use of jumps which don't follow the standard pattern is allowing a question to have more than one correct answer. More of that below.


Typically each question within a lesson will have one correct answer and several wrong answers, the familiar multiple choise question. Each answer can receive an individual response from the teacher before sending the student (with a jump setting) to view the same or another page.

As we will learn later, there are two ways to grade a lesson. In one method, the direction students are sent in the logical order of pages determined if the answer was correct or wrong for grading purposes. Usually correct answer advance the student in the logical order and wrong answers send the students back to the question page or back in the logical order. The other method uses an answer's score to calculate the grade. Usually a correct answer receives a score of 1, any wrong answer receive a score 0. It is possible to give a negative score or partial credit for any answer.

When a question page is added, the jumps have a default setting. The jump for the first answer is the Next Page and it is a good practice to keep this as a right answer. The jumps for the subsequent answers are set to Same Page. The score for the first answer is 1 and for the rest 0. These settings can be changed by editing the question. Remember the order of the answers is going to be random each time a student enters the question page.

When Custom Scoring is turned On in the Lesson settings, then each answer has a point value associated with it. Next we will discuss grading a student's lesson.


Above we introduced the concept of correct answers and wrong answers. This lends itself to the giving students a grade when they have completed a lesson. In order to keep the method of grading reasonably transparent a relatively simple formula is used. It is the number of correct answers divided by the number of question pages seen. This number is then simply scaled by the grade parameter of the lesson.

When Custom Scoring is turned On in the Lesson settings, then the grading algorithm changes. Instead of the above, the grade is based on earned points by the user, which is divided by the total points possible. The teacher can assign a score for each responce, this can be a negative or 0 (zero) or a positive number. Usually the score is 0 for a wrong answer and 1 for a correct answer. The point values associated with each of the user's answers are added up. That is then divided by the total of the maximum points that the user could have earned for each page answered. This number is then scaled by the grade parameter of the lesson.

A lesson is graded when the student reaches the End of Lesson. This point is usually reached by answering the question on the last (logical) page correctly.

The student does not have to go through all of the lesson in one "sitting". If a student goes through some pages and then breaks off, the next time they view the lesson they are asked whether they want to start at the beginning of the lesson or at the point where they left off. The latter point is actually the page they reached with their last correct answer. The previous "attempts" are recorded and the grade for "broken" sessions will include pages seen and questions answered in other sessions.

In a way giving a grade to a lesson is both a blessing and a curse. The main focus of a lesson should be the transfer of knowledge in a reasonably interesting way. Giving a grade may well turn the lesson into a kind of quiz where giving the answers correct is the sole goal. On the other hand, students like to get a perfect "score" and giving grades may well be the carrot needed to get the student to repeat the lesson until they get the magic 100%.

Although lessons do have grades, they should not be considered as assignments which lead to meaningful "marks". They are most useful as Formative Assignments where the grades, although some measure of activity, are not generally counted in the final mark for the course. If lessons are used in a formal way then it is probably best to use their grades in thresholds. For example "You must get an average of at least 80% overall in the eight lessons in this course before you can take the XYZ assignment." Lessons are mainly used to get across chunks of knowledge. Testing that knowledge is something else.

With that in mind, a lesson has a Retake option. That is the subject of the next part.


As mentioned earlier a lesson can be used as a formative assignment, imparting some knowledge while at the same time making some demands on the students. It seems natural that students should be allowed to re-visit lessons and because they are given a grade many will want to achieve a good grade. This promotes re-takes.

By default lessons allow re-takes. Each attempt at a lesson is normally recorded and the student can see a record of their performance (by viewing their complete activity page). The teacher when creating a lesson has the option of showing the "final" grade as either the mean of all the attempts or the best of all the attempts. This "final" grade is the one shown on the Grades page and the "Lessons" page. By default the mean of the grades is used.

Once a student has achieved the maximum possible grade in a lesson further attempts are allowed (although there is no benefit to their grade if the best grade is being used). They may well be exploring the various "wrong" paths in the lesson and may well come up with improvements.

In exceptional circumstances the teacher may not wish the students to have more than one attempt at a lesson. A particular lesson may be being used in an exam-like situation. Here the Lesson parameter for re-take is set to No. Once completed the lesson will then not allow students to re-take the lesson. If, however, the lesson is not completed in one "sitting", students are still allowed to restart the lesson at the beginning or at the point where they left off.

Building lessons

When creating a lesson the teacher is required to enter content into the first page. Once the first page is in place the teacher has the option of adding more pages in front or after that page. Once a question or branch page have been created, they can be edited by the teacher at any time. When the lesson contains more than one page the teacher also has the option of moving pages, that is, changing the order of the pages. Thus once the lesson is under construction the teacher can add pages, edit pages, remove pages and move pages.

A lesson will normally cover a limited amount of material. A topic or week might contain many lessons. Lessons are shown to the student in the home page for the course within "weeks" or "topics", and/or in the activity block when it is part of the course home page.

As with any lesson, it is a good idea to have a plan before starting the presentation. Simple lessons that basically go from the start to the end in a straight line path, one page after the other, can be created from an outline. More complicated lessons require more planning. The good news is that a teacher can create a simple lesson and then based upon feedback and performance, can add refinements or complexity.

Adding_a_question_page- more help on adding question pages
Adding_a_branch_table - more help on adding branch pages

Types of questions available within a lesson


Question type tabs.GIF  

Multiple choice, multiple answer

There is variant of multiple choice questions called multiple choice multiple answer questions. These require the student to select all the correct answers from the set of answers. The question may or may not tell the student how many correct answers there are. For example "Which of the following were US Presidents?" does not, while "Select the two US presidents from the following list." does. The actual number of correct answers can be from one up to the number of choices. (A multiple choice multiple answer question with one correct answer is different from a multiple choice question as the former allows the student the possibility of choosing more than one answer while the latter does not.)

Again the correct answers are flagged using forward jumps, the wrong answers by same page or backward jumps. When there is more than one correct answer the jumps should all go to the same page, similarly with the wrong answers. If that is not the case a warning is given on the teacher's view of the lesson. The correct response, if required, should be given on the first correct answer and the wrong response, if required, should be on the first wrong answer. Responses on the other answers are ignored (without warning).

e.g. Which of the following are mammals? - A dog - An ant - A buttercup - A cow

Short answer

In a short answer question the student is expected to answer with one word or a few words. The student's answer is checked against one or more expected answers. These expected answers can be either correct or wrong. Each expected answer can optionally have a response (= a feedback message). If no response is entered by the teacher for an answer then the default response "That's the Correct Answer" or "That's the Wrong Answer" is shown to the student. If the text entered by the student does not match any of the expected answers then the student's answer is wrong and the student is shown the default wrong response feedback message.

There are two different student answer analysis systems available for the Short Answer type of question: the simple system is used by default; the "Regular Expressions" system is used if the "Use Regular Expressions" option box is checked on the Edit Question Page screen.

Simple analysis

In the (default) simple system of analysis, the comparisons ignore the case of the text. The asterisk (*) character can be used in answers as a "wild card" character. It stands for any number of characters (including no characters at all). For example, the answer "Long*" will match "longer", "longest" and "long". Please note, however, that the answer "Long*" will also match "longing", "longer than yours" and so forth. If a "wild card" type of student answer analysis is required, it is strongly recommended to use the regular expressions analysis system explained below. The matching process goes through the answers in the order they appear on the screen. Once a match is found the process stops and the corresponding result (and response, if present) is returned. So, if for example the expected answers are "Longest", "Long*" and "*" (in that order), the student's answer "longer" will match the second expected answer and, in this case, the third expected answer, although a match, is ignored. If one of the expected answers is just "*" (a single *) this expected answer will match anything. This is used as the last "catch-all" expected answer. You will use this "catch-all" asterisk if you want to provide the student with your own "wrong answer" feedback message instead of the default system "That's the Wrong Answer" message (or the equivalent in your own language pack). If an asterisk (*) is actually needed in an expected answer, you'll have to use the Regular Expressions analysis system and enter the asterisk as \*, backslash asterisk.

Regular Expressions analysis

This system gives you access to a more powerful but more complicated system for analysing the student's answers. For a complete introduction to Regular Expressions, see these sites http://www.zend.com/zend/tut/tutorial-delin2.php regular-expressions or http://rezeau.org/eao/developpement/expandRegexpToString.htm.

Correct answer matching a regular expression pattern

It is not possible to give complete examples of the vast possibilities offered by this system, and the following are just some possibilities.

Example 1. Suppose your question is "What are the colors of the French flag?". In the Answer 1 frame you type this regular expression: "it’s blue, white(,| and) red/i". This will match any of those four student answers:

  • it’s blue, white, red
  • it’s blue, white and red
  • It’s blue, white, red
  • It’s blue, white and red

Please note that by default a regular expression match is case sensitive; to make the match case insensitive you must add the /i parameter right at the end of your expression.

Example 2. Question: "What is blue, or red, or yellow?". Answer: "(|it's )a colou?r". This will match:

  • a colour
  • a color
  • it's a colour
  • it's a color

'Notes.-' The beginning of this regular expression "(|it's )" will match either nothing or "it's " (i.e. "it's" followed by a space). The ? (question-mark) means: preceding character zero or one time; it is used here to match British English as well as US spelling.

Example 3.

  • Question: "Name an animal whose name is made of 3 letters and the middle letter is the vowel a".
  • Anwer: "[bcr]at". This will match: bat, cat and rat.
Detecting missing required words or character strings

Regular expressions alone cannot detect absent character strings, so you have to add a little code in your Answer to take care of this. Any Teacher Answer which begins with a double hyphen will analyse the student’s answer to find out whether the following string is present or absent. If present, the analysis continues to the next question; if absent, the analysis stops and the relevant Response message is displayed.

Example 4.

  • Answer 2: --.*blue.*/i
  • student answer: "it's red and white"
  • Response 2: The color of the sky is missing!
  • Jump 2: this page

Here, the . (dot character) stands for “any character” and the * (asterisk) means “preceding special character repeated any number of times”. The Answer2 regular expression above means: check whether the character string "blue", preceded with anything and followed by anything is absent from the student's answer. Please note that the use of the asterisk is different in the Simple analysis system and in the Regular Expressions system.

Example 5. Question: "Name an animal whose name is made of 3 letters and the middle letter is the vowel a". Answer: "--[b|c|r]". Response: "Your answer should start with one of these letters: b, c or r"

Detecting unwanted (incorrect) words or character strings

You may want to detect, in the student's answer, the presence of one or several words which should be not be there (because they are wrong) and to single them out with a specific response. Just start your teacher Answer by a double plus sign (++).

Example 6.

  • Answer 3: ++(yellow|black|orange|green|black|pink)/i
  • student answer: "it's blue, orange and white"
  • Response 3: One or more colors are wrong!
  • Jump 3: this page

If any of these (wrong) colors is detected in the student’s answer, then the negative feedback message (Response 3) will be displayed and the wrong strings will be colored red (or the color of the .incorrect class will be used if it exists in a CSS stylesheet of your current theme).

Example 7. Question: "Name an animal whose name is made of 3 letters and the middle letter is the vowel a". Teacher Answer: "++hat". Response: "You might wear one made of an animal's skin, but a hat can't be considered as an animal."

Escaping special characters

If you need to use characters which are part of the regular expressions set of special characters, you need to "escape" them (i.e. precede them with a backslash). E.g. if you want to accept the answer "My computer cost 1000$", you must write the regular expression as "My computer cost 1000\$".

The special characters which must be escaped are .^$*()[]+?|


There is a fundamental problem with this type of question. If you ask a question like "Who wrote Elegy written in a Country Churchyard?" as a Short Answer question it's fine for the students who know the answer. But how about those who do not? To avoid those students getting stuck in a loop the Lesson module has a "Maximum number of Attempts" parameter which sets an upper limit on the number of times a student can attempt a question. The default value is 5 times. (This can be reduced to 1 if you wanted students to have only one attempt at each question.)

There is a slight complication here . The "Maximum number of Attempts" mechanism relies on looking at the record of attempts. That is fine for students as their attempts are all recorded. However, when - as a teacher - you preview a lesson, your attempts are not recorded. (The attempts are used to calculate grades and as teachers aren't interested in their own grades...) So teachers are not subject to the number of answers limit. But they should know the answers, shouldn't they!

True / false

The True/False question is a special case of the multiple choice question.The student is prompted to choose which is the correct option.

Matching questions

Matching questions are much more interesting than the last type of question. They can make quite powerful and flexible questions. They consist of a list of names or statements which must be correctly matched against other list of names or statements. For example "Match the Capital with the Country" with the two lists Japan, Canada, Italy and Tokyo, Ottawa, Rome. It is possible to have repeated entries in one of the lists but care should be taken to make the repeats identical. For example "Identify the type of these creatures" with the lists Sparrow, Cow, Ant, Dog and Bird, Animal, Insect, Animal.

When creating this type of question the items for the first list go into the Answer boxes and items for the second list go into the Response boxes. Once created a more sensible labelling scheme is shown. When the student successfully matches the items the jump on the first answer is used. An unsuccessful answer jumps to the page on the second answer. The question does not support custom responses, the student is told how many matches are correct or if all the matches are correct.

Numerical Question

This type of question requires a number as the answer. In it's simplest form it requires just one answer to be specified. For example "What is 2 plus 2?" with the answer 4 given a forward jump. However, it is better to specify a range because the internal rounding of numerical values can make single numeric comparisons rather hit or miss. Thus, if the question were "What is 10 divided by 3" it would be necessary to give the answer as Minimum:Maximum, that is two values separated by a colon. Thus if 3.33:3.34 is given as the acceptable range for the answer, then the answers 3.33, 3.333, 3.3333... would all be taken as correct answers. "Wrong" answers would include 3.3 (less than the minimum) and 3.4 (greater than the maximum).

More than one correct answer is allowed and the answers can be either single or pair of values. Note that the order in which the answers are tested is Answer 1, Answer 2... so some care needs to taken if the desired response is to appear. For example the question "When was Larkin born?" could have the single value of 1922, the exact answer, and the pair of values 1920:1929, the 20's, as the less exact answer.The order in which these values should be tested is, obviously, 1922 then 1920:1929. The first answer might have the response "That's exactly right" while the other answer's response might be "That's close, you've got the right decade, it is was actually 1922."

Wrong answers can be given but depending on their actual range, care should be taken to place them after the correct answers. For example in adding the wrong answer 3:4 to the "10 divided by 3" question it needs to come after the correct answer. That is the answers are ordered 3.33:3.34 (the "correct" answer) then 3:4 (the "wrong" answer, but not wildly wrong answer!).

Unfortunately this question differs from the numerical quiz question and the numerical embedded question (Cloze) in a couple of ways. 3:4 in those questions means "3 plus or minus 4", in other words from -1 to 7. The embedded question doesn't support interval boundaries. The numerical question, if imported in GIFT format, can use "3..4" as the interval from 3 to 4. Another difference is that those questions accept , as decimal in student answers, but the lesson numerical question doesn't.

Essay Questions

Short essay questions were introduced in Moodle version 1.5. These are meant for short, paragraph or two type of essays one often finds on exams. Thus we did not use the html editor, preferring a simple text field. For longer essays, the assignment module is a better choice.

The student simply enters their essay in the box provided.

To grade lesson essay questions, first click on the name of the lesson in your course page. If there are essay questions to be graded, there will be a link saying "Grade essay questions" (see red arrow). Click that link.

This will open a screen showing you how many ungraded essay questions there are. Ungraded essay questions will be in listed in red. Click the link for the essay you wish to grade.

The essay grading screen shows the title of the question, the student's essay response, and a place you can write optional comments and give the essay a score.

Click the Submit grade button to record your score and comments.

Graded questions will be displayed in green.

Repeat the process to finish grading. Click the "Email graded essays" link to email your responses to your students.

Branches and branch tables

If your lesson delivers quite a lot of information, you can divide it into chapters or sections. These sections within a lesson are called branches in Moodle.

Branch tables are simply pages which have a set of links to other pages in the lesson. They look similar to question pages. They have a title, content section, student choices and jumps that the student selects by their choice. There is no score for a student's choice. Branch tables also have some special uses.

Typically a lesson may start with a branch table which acts as a Table of Contents. Each link in a branch table has two components, a description and the title of the page to jump to. A branch table can effectively divide the lesson into a number of branches (or sections). Each branch can contain a number of pages (probably all related to the same topic).

The end of a branch is usually marked by an End of Branch page. This is a special navigation page which, by default, returns the student back to the preceding branch table. However like any other jump, the "return" jump in an End of Branch page can be set to anywhere in the lesson.

There can be more than one branch table in a lesson. For example, a lesson might usefully be structured so that specialist points are sub-branches within the main subject branches. (Thus the name used is Branch Table rather than Table of Contents page.) Also branch tables can be used instead of question pages. For example, a series of pages with information that continue to the next page, with the series ending with a question page about the content which was just covered.

The number of links shown when setting up or editing a branch table is set by the lesson setting "Number of Answers/Branches". This parameter can be changed on the fly by simply clicking on the Update the Lesson button at the top of the teacher's page and changing the value.

It is important to give students a means of ending the lesson. This might be done by including an "End Lesson" link in the main branch table. This jumps to the (imaginary) End of Lesson page. Another option is for the last branch in the lesson (here "last" is used in the logical ordering sense) to simply continue to the end of the lesson, that is, it is not terminated by an End of Branch page.

When a lesson includes one or more branch tables and you are not using custom scoring (where you enter a point value for each question) it is advisable to set the "Minimum number of Questions" parameter to some reasonable value. This sets a lower limit on the number of pages seen when the grade is calculated. Without this parameter a student might visit a single branch in the lesson, answer all its questions correctly and leave the lesson with the maximum grade!

Further, when a branch table is present a student has the opportunity of re-visiting the same branch more than once. However, the grade is calculated using the number of unique questions answered. So repeatedly answering the same set of questions does not increase the grade. (In fact, the reverse is true, it lowers the grade as the count of the number of pages seen is used in the denominator when calculating grades does include repeats.) In order to give students a fair idea of their progress in the lesson, they are shown details of how many questions they are answered correctly, number of pages seen, and their current grade on every branch table page. (This is one other thing teachers don't get to see - sorry!)

The Flash card lesson

The Lesson module can be used as a type of Flash Card assignment. The student is shown pages (cards) in random order. Usually these are question pages. There is no set beginning and no set end. Just a series of cards shown one after another in no particular order.

There are two very similar variants of Flash Card behaviour. The option "Show an unseen page" never shows the same page twice (even if the student did not answer the question associated with the Card/Page correctly). The other option is "Show an unanswered page" which shows the student pages that may have appeared before but only if they answered the associated question wrongly.

When using either of these Flash Card lessons the teacher can decide to use either all the Cards/Pages in the lesson or just a (random) sub-set. This is done through the "Number of Pages (Cards) to show" parameter when setting up the lesson.

When using the Flash Card mode of presentation, setting the jumps is important. A correct answer jump should point to the Next Page, a wrong answer should stay on the same page.

The Lesson Flash Card mode is very similar to a random ordered Quiz, the difference is that the questions are shown one page at a time. And Further extra text can be included with each question in the Flash Card.

See also