Online formative MCQs to supplement traditional teaching: improving retention, progression and performance – the longer view


Paul Catley

Following on from the publication of One Lecturer’s Experience of Blending E-learning with Traditional Teaching, further analysis of the long-term impact of the online quizzes on student performance was undertaken. Engagement with formative online MCQs was explored generally and the links between MCQ engagement and a range of student characteristics: seminar attendance, “A” level performance, age, nationality, gender and prior study of the discipline were analysed. The relative impact on performance of online formative quiz taking in one 15 credit first year module was compared to the impact of these other characteristics at modular, year and degree level.

The case study involved in total 897 students, with particular focus on the results of one year’s results (n=201). Analysis of the data for this year found the A level grades of those who engaged with the formative MCQs were identical to those who did not engage. However, the research identified certain groups as more likely to make use of the online support: namely mature students, international students and non-A level entry students. Students who took the online quizzes offered in the first year module performed better in the module, in the first year of their studies and over the degree as a whole.

The conclusion is that engagement with online formative MCQs had a very significant impact on performance: an impact that was more significant than that for any other variable: being nearly twice as significant as seminar attendance and five times more significant than prior qualifications.

The full report on these findings, entitled Online formative MCQs to supplement traditional teaching: a very significant positive impact on student performance in the short and long run can be accessed here.

Paul Catley

Paul Catley worked at Oxford Brookes University from 1990-2005. He then moved to the University of the West of England where he became Head of the Department of Law, a University Learning and Teaching Fellow and an Associate of the UK Centre for Legal Education. Paul is now a course designer for The Open University Law School, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the University of the West of England and a member of the executive of the Committee of Heads of University Law Schools. In addition to pedagogic research Paul’s main research focus is the interface between neuroscience and law. Paul is a founder member and on the steering committee of the European Association for Neuroscience and Law. Email:

Creative Commons License
This paper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Double Blind Review
This paper has been subject to a double blind peer review by at least two reviewers. For more information about our double blind review process please visit:

How to cite this paper.
Posted in Academic Paper

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to BeJLT

Get email alerts when there is a new issue.
* = required field

Send this page to Kindle

your kindle user name:
(, without
Approved E-mail:
(Approved E-mail that kindle will accept)
Kindle base email |
(Use to download on wispernet or wifi, use for wifi only.)
using may incur charges)