A Visual Multi-Choice Question in an Online Quiz


I recently gave my students, in the course Digital History (U of T), an online quiz that includes ten multiple-choice questions. One of the questions is about a video game titled Tag Attack, which was submitted by Antonio to the British Library Labs Crowdsourcing Game Jam. This project took place in 2015 utilizing gaming and crowdsourcing to add information to the 19th-century image collection of the British Library.

In Tag Attack, a fox moves from the right to the left side of the screen carrying an image from the library’s collection. The player’s task is to classify the image into one of four given categories before the fox gets to the edge of the screen. The fox’s speed challenges the player to tag the images quickly; this, in turn, excites the player and ensures efficient classification of the images for the library. It’s not clear, however, how the library ensures that the classification is correct. To do so, they need to have the information they seek to gain through the games.

I became familiar with the project through watching an interview with Adam Crymble, who initiated it and is currently a professor of Digital Humanities at University College London. The project, according to Crymble, intends to distribute such games in public spaces on 1980‘s style arcade machines attempting to engage people through physical objects rather than websites. He argues that the fact that websites are available for everybody reduces the chances that people will look for a specific website. On the other hand, “stumbling across” an interactive object like an arcade machine in public places, may better attract individuals to engage with the game.

The multiple-choice question in the quiz asks the students to select an answer that describes the task in Tag Attack accurately. By doing so, it resembles the task in the game as both challenging the participants with the need to decide about an image in a limited time. In the quiz, however, the right answer is known before the students take the quiz. Interestingly, the rate of success in answering this question was the lowest among all ten questions, indicating that only slightly more than half of the students knew the right answer.

In my opinion, this question is not more complex or challenging than any other question in the quiz, therefore, the low rate of answering it correctly, requires thinking. First, it was the only visual question in the quiz. All the other questions were articulated verbally, focusing on insights and concepts from three texts we read and from the interview with Crymble. Perhaps, the use of visual material in a multi-choice assessment is not common and thus required the students to approach the question confidently without having substantive experience with this kind of question.

Second, 24% of the students chose the fourth answer suggesting that the players in the game have to make their decision before “The fox disappears with the image.” This possible answer doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, I regarded it as one of the answers, I included in the quiz, which deliberately makes no sense. Considering a rationale of a game, an action within a timeframe (until the fox disappears) without a spatial scope (the space the fox acts in), makes the elements in the game arbitrary and thus meaningless. Moreover, since the game’s objective is to yield useful information about the images from the players for the library, there is an obvious interest to build a game that is easy to understand, rewarding, and enjoyable.

Why did 15 students choose the disappearance of the fox as the moment until which the players have to tag the image? Why did that disappearance make more sense to them than the right answer or the other two? I’m wondering whether the students subconsciously held an image of the quiz “disappearing” before they managed to answer the question. As mentioned above, the question resembles the game as it asks the participants to choose one out of four alternatives in a limited time. The similarity between the content of the question, on the one hand, and its structure and conditions, on the other, suggests that formalistic aspects influence students’ ability to succeed. If so, we should consider these aspects as part of the content.

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