Q&A Design for Online Learning

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Contents

Module Summary

Q&As (question and answer types of interviews) are quite popular in journalistic publications but also are used in online learning contexts. Knowing how to create an engaging and informative Q&A for a learning context may be helpful to maintain learner interest—by offering a mix of content for learning. This module describes some basic guidelines for setting up Q&As for either asynchronous or synchronous information collection, highlights some methods for revising and editing Q&As, and explores how to set up digital Q&As with augmentary contents or with placing Q&As in the context of an article or module.

Takeaways

Learners will...

  • consider a question-and-answer (Q&A) method of packaging information, in its classic format in journalism and consider the online education version of a Q&A
  • review who the subjects of Q&As tend to be in Q&As designed for online educational contexts
  • list the typical order of creation of Q&As sent asynchronously to respondents and also consider the typical order of creation for creating Q&As for synchronous interview contexts
  • consider how to revise and edit Q&As
  • consider including supplementary elements to a Q&A and / or to integrate a drafted Q&A within a larger article or module


Module Pretest

1. What is a question and answer (Q&A) piece of writing? What is the main format of a classic Q&A? What are the main elements of a Q&A? What are the typical purposes of Q&As in journalistic contexts? What are the desirable features of a Q&A used for educational purposes?

2. Who should be the subjects of Q&As on online educational contexts? Why? Can there be panel or group types of Q&As? Team-created questions? What are the legal considerations to bring to mind when creating Q&As, and what are the sign-offs that are necessary? Why is it important to reserve the right to reject a Q&A after responses have been received from the Q&A subject(s)?

3. What is the typical order in the creation of a Q&A that is sent asynchronously? What is the typical order in the creation of a Q&A that is conducted synchronously?

4. How are Q&As typically revised? Edited? Why? Why can’t factual elements of a Q&A usually be revised? Why are voice and personality important elements of a Q&A? How are Q&As used in online educational contexts?

5. What sorts of imagery and multimedia may be integrated with a Q&A? Datasets? Data dashboards? Where do these come from? How are these set up to contribute to the Q&As? When Q&As are emplaced within a larger article or learning module or sequence, how are the Q&As integrated?


Main Contents

1. What is a question and answer (Q&A) piece of writing? What is the main format of a classic Q&A? What are the main elements of a Q&A? What are the typical purposes of Q&As in journalistic contexts? What are the desirable features of a Q&A used for educational purposes?

A Q&A piece of writing is typically a question-and-answer piece of writing with a target individual or group answering the questions and the questions created by an individual or group. A Q&A gives the authors less control than in a full-blown interview because in the latter the interviewer can be selective of the data and can contextualize the words of the respondent. A Q&A consists of a headline or title, an introduction, the questions, the answers, and a conclusion. There may be image and multimedia elements that augment the questions and answers, of course. There may be pull-quotes that showcase especially salient or memorable comments by the Q&A subject(s). Or the Q&A may be contextualized in a larger reading or learning context.

Questions in a Q&A generally do follow a trajectory or arc. Usually, there is a short biographical intro of the respondent. The context of the Q&A’s capture may be described. The questions ease readers into the topic and how the individual is positioned in relation to the target. The questions progress in depth to the topic. Interspersed may be insights about the individual. The Q&A may end with an anecdote or story…or something light…some wrap-up of the topic.

A Q&A can be engaging in an online learning context because learners are curious about professionals in a field. They are responsive to the charisma and expertise of others. A Q&A, if done well, is accessible and informative. Augmented with relevant imagery, audio, video, simulations, and other elements, a Q&A can be highly informative and enjoyable.


2. Who should be the subjects of Q&As on online educational contexts? Why? Can there be panel or group types of Q&As? Team-created questions? What are the legal considerations to bring to mind when creating Q&As, and what are the sign-offs that are necessary? Why is it important to reserve the right to reject a Q&A after responses have been received from the Q&A subject(s)?

Who should be the subject of a Q&A? That all depends on the reasons why a Q&A may be desirable in the first place. If the point is to highlight how creativity is an important part of research, then it is important to find a speaker who can address that particular issue. If the point is to find a learner who has a few years of experience in a career trajectory, then that will determine who may be included. Of course, the target speaker has to be available and willing. Based on those contextual details, the questions then have to be designed to meet those needs in an open-ended way. The questions should not be “leading” in the sense of only enabling a narrow range of responses, but they should be sufficiently broad to elicit a range of possible responses and to leave the respondents with a sense of freedom in terms of how they plan to respond. The questions should also leave the person with sufficient room to fully express himself / herself and to convey personality, values, anecdotes, biographical information, and other details.

Respondents should be given room to add their own questions, and if they’re uncomfortable, to ignore any questions that they generally may choose to. (If there are contentious issues which are unavoidable and should be addressed, then these should be asked.)

Sometimes, follow-on questions may be necessary to ensure clarity. In those cases, additional questions may be asked, and a note may be made indicating the backstory about the Q&A.

All Q&As have to have legal sign-offs for the uses of the interview, imagery, audio files, video files, and so on. There have to be media releases.

The interviewer / publisher / course designer / instructor reserve the right to simply not use a Q&A if it does not meet their needs.


3. What is the typical order in the creation of a Q&A that is sent asynchronously? What is the typical order in the creation of a Q&A that is conducted synchronously?

The typical order in the creation of a Q&A sent asynchronously is as follows:

  • acquire permission to send the Q&A
  • brainstorming a list of topics and questions of interest
  • organizing the questions in a logical trajectory or arc
  • including an invitation for the respondent to add questions of her / her / their own
  • eliciting a professional biography and photo
  • acquiring the legal sign-offs for the Q&A and related imagery and multimedia
  • sending all the materials to the respondent
  • receiving the answers for the Q&A and revising and editing
  • packaging the contents in a digital format with augmentary materials (whether within the Q&A or by placing the Q&A in a different context)
  • publishing the Q&A to readers and learners

The typical order in the creation of a Q&A conducted in an interview synchronously is to have a set of questions pre-designed…but to adapt to respondent comments and to add elaboratory questions as the interaction unfolds. In a research context, the approach here is more of a semi-structured interview. The subject should also be given opportunities to add questions that were not conceptualized prior.

Then, the rest of the sequence of legalities, packaging, and such is followed.


4. How are Q&As typically revised? Edited? Why? Why can’t factual elements of a Q&A usually be revised? Why are voice and personality important elements of a Q&A? How are Q&As used in online educational contexts?

In terms of revisions, Q&As that are captured by rough notes and not pre-recorded and transcribed have to be verified with the original subject as contemporaneously to the interview as possible. It’s extremely rare nowadays just to go with notes, given the widespread use of digital recording on smart phones and on mobile digital recorders. The point of the checking in with the original Q&A respondent / responding team is to ensure that the details are correct.

What is not generally acceptable is to have the respondent or responding team changing facts on the ground about what was said. If something is to be added, that can be done in the addenda or in follow-on text.

Individuals’ voices and personalities are important in a Q&A because part of the appeal of a Q&A is the human element—beyond the mere information. People respond to each other’s personalities.

In online educational / learning contexts, Q&As are used to introduce some individuals in a field to the learners. The Q&As could be with major movers in a field. They may be with people less centrally related to the work, but who have unique insights to the field. They may be with co-learners who may be a year or two out from where the current learners are, to give a sense of the lived experiences. There are many ways to integrate Q&As, and these offer a way to break up the monotony of the presentation of learning contexts. Q&As can integrate video, audio, imagery, simulations, and other multimedia, to further enrich the learning experience.


5. What sorts of imagery and multimedia may be integrated with a Q&A? Datasets? Data dashboards? Where do these come from? How are these set up to contribute to the Q&As? When Q&As are emplaced within a larger article or learning module or sequence, how are the Q&As integrated?

Augmentary contents may enrich a Q&A. For example, is there a video of the respondent on social media? Publicly-released datasets from his / her work? Sidebar boxes of colleagues speaking about the person targeted in the Q&A? Links to topics of interest to the speaker? The point of the additional contents is to bridge from the Q&A to more learning but also to add value to the Q&A (which as a form of contents is necessarily limited).

Within a larger article, Q&As can be sidebars (augmentary to an article). They may be the main focus…and other elements of the article can be the sidebars. (A Q&A can be the main focus or just a side piece.) In general, Q&As are run as one object, not broken into separate pieces.

Within learning modules, a Q&A can help set a scene or cap a learning sequence. It may be included part-way through a sequence to emphasize certain aspects of the learning. There are no set formulas per se about when a Q&A may or may not appear.

Examples

There are a number of Q&As that are publicly available in terms of journalistic and open-educational contexts. Please explore further in particular topics of interest in order to see how these may instantiate. These may take some time to find.


How To

The “how-to” aspects of building questions for Q&As and then presenting these in online learning contexts have been mentioned earlier.


Possible Pitfalls

What are some possible pitfalls in the uses of Q&As in online learning? A few come to mind.

Sometimes, a topic will require prior knowledge and context before learners can fully appreciate a Q&A. In such a case, the prior learning has to be designed, developed, and implemented first, before the Q&A is introduced.

If the topic is fairly clear already, then Q&As can be introduced earlier in a learning sequence to raise learner interest.

Sometimes, learning contents may be a little too inherently complex to be addressed in a Q&A alone. If so, as before, it may be helpful to have academic readings, cases, videos, or simulations introduced prior to the Q&A.

Certainly, Q&As may be presented in mixed media forms—text, audio, imagery, video, simulation, and other media types—to enhance the learning as well. The personality and professional background of the speaker should enhance the learner, so the target speaker(s) should be a critical element in the Q&A.

Module Post-Test

1. What is a question and answer (Q&A) piece of writing? What is the main format of a classic Q&A? What are the main elements of a Q&A? What are the typical purposes of Q&As in journalistic contexts? What are the desirable features of a Q&A used for educational purposes?

2. Who should be the subjects of Q&As on online educational contexts? Why? Can there be panel or group types of Q&As? Team-created questions? What are the legal considerations to bring to mind when creating Q&As, and what are the sign-offs that are necessary? Why is it important to reserve the right to reject a Q&A after responses have been received from the Q&A subject(s)?

3. What is the typical order in the creation of a Q&A that is sent asynchronously? What is the typical order in the creation of a Q&A that is conducted synchronously?

4. How are Q&As typically revised? Edited? Why? Why can’t factual elements of a Q&A usually be revised? Why are voice and personality important elements of a Q&A? How are Q&As used in online educational contexts?

5. What sorts of imagery and multimedia may be integrated with a Q&A? Datasets? Data dashboards? Where do these come from? How are these set up to contribute to the Q&As? When Q&As are emplaced within a larger article or learning module or sequence, how are the Q&As integrated?


References

Extra Resources