Home  /  Blog   /  Course creation   /  The importance of open-ended questions in training
A diverse woman stands among other business people to ask / answer a question

Side view of young mixed race businesswoman asking question during seminar in office buildingLet’s think back on a common question you may have been asked today: Did you have a good day today?

You likely answered this with a simple yes or no and continued with your day. But what if there was more to the answer? The question above is a type of closed-ended question. These types of questions can either have answers of “yes” or “no” or involve a scaled number response, such as on a scale of 1 to 5. While closed-ended questions have their place, especially in gathering very specific data, they aren’t the most effective in interactions requiring more detail.

Let’s take that same question and turn it into an open-ended question that requires more detail in a response: What did you do today? Notice, the question wasn’t “How was your day” as that could be answered with simple answers of good, okay or horrible.

The responses to “What did you do today” can be as varied and detailed as determined by the person answering. In fact, you may get more information than you even wanted! However, open-ended questions provide an avenue for more than a basic response.

When you incorporate questions into online, in-person or hybrid learning modalities, it’s important to consider the worth of open-ended questions. These types of questions allow a wide range of answers that give you more detail. Additionally, they may provide you with insight in unexpected ways, which may help you further develop or redirect training. Open-ended questions also allow for more creativity as well as give you insight into the learner’s thought process.

This doesn’t mean that your questions within elearning need to be either or. In fact, you want to have a good balance of closed and open-ended questions. We suggest you balance them out as you think through what you want your learners to actually document they have learned but also to encourage further processing beyond a simple response. Of course you want to make sure someone is reviewing these responses in a timely matter if they are answered strictly in an online format.

As we work together to develop your online and hybrid training, we won’t leave you to develop these questions alone. In fact, we will collaborate on them; however, it is still important for you to consider thinking about the usage of each type of question. A great way to further consider this is to adapt your own questions when interacting with others. Next time you catch yourself asking a closed-ended questions, quickly change it to an open-ended question. You might just be surprised at what you learn!