The Rapid Elearning Blog

Many elearning developers are working with limited resources.  So any time you can find a free solution, you’ve won. The other day I was playing around with Urtak.  The site lets you build simple surveys.  The value is its simplicity and how the questions engage people.  It also lets you, the survey taker, to ask additional questions—another way to engage.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of Urtak

Ask Questions to Engage Your Learners

Most elearning courses I see are info-centric and just push content out.  Often there’s little concern about how relevant the information is to the learner.  Thus the learner is usually not engaged and has to wade through a lot of information.

A great way to switch from an info-centric course to one that’s learner-centric is by asking questions. These aren’t quiz questions.  Instead they’re questions to get the learner to reflect on the content.  Good questions can challenge the learner’s understanding and perspective.  This is something an information dump can’t easily do.

And once you challenge what they believe, people tend to be engaged.  In addition, the process of having to create engaging questions forces us as course developers to put the content into a context that’s relevant to the learner.

If even you don’t use the Urtak site, there’s something in how it’s structured that can help in your own course design.

Engage Your Learning Community

Now let’s go back to Urtak and discuss how we could use a free tool like this in elearning.  As I mentioned before, Urtak provides an embed code.  This means you can easily add your survey to your elearning course.

In the example below, we created some information about student/teacher ratios.  And then we followed it with an embedded Urtak survey.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning example of Urtak survey in a rapid elearning course

Click here to view the demo.

In this example, we asked some questions about public education.  We purposely asked questions where we know people have strong opinions.  The goal isn’t to ascertain their understanding of the content.  Instead it’s to engage them in the process.

The problem with yes/no questions is that you can’t fully qualify your opinion. It begs another format to strengthen your position and discuss it in more detail. Thus the questions are a great way to prompt reflection for further discussion offline or in an online community.

Urtak would work great in a blended course where you combine elearning and facilitated discussion.  Create an elearning course and then use the survey to ask questions that spur some thought and engage the learners.  The trick is to ask questions that you know will elicit strong opinions.  Use them to prime the pump for further conversation outside of the course.

What questions can you ask that are controversial or engage strong opinions in your elearning course?

YOUR E-Learning Survey

How often do you get to ask a question in those industry surveys about elearning?  Well, now’s your chance.  I used Urtak to create an informal industry survey.  For the sake of simplicity, I started the survey by only asking 20 basic questions.

You can also add your own questions.  What do you want to know?  For example:

  • Want to know about gender?  Are you female? Are you male?
  • Want to know about income?  Do you make between $50K and 60K? Do you make between $60K and $70K?

What do you want to know about your peers?

Click here to view the survey.

Once the community’s answered some questions, click on the “results” page and see how they were answered.  You can also compare two questions.

Here’s a quick tour I did of the Urtak site to point out how it works.

Urtak’s a cool application that could be useful in elearning courses or your online community.  What are ways that you’d use a tool like this? Share your ideas via the comments link.


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21 responses to “Are You Asking the Right Questions?”

[…] Here is the original post: Are You Asking the Right Questions? » The Rapid eLearning Blog […]


I love what the web object functionality has the potential to achieve in Presenter. This is another great example.

When thinking about “asking the right question”, many of my questions are not “yes/no”, but are better addressed via threaded discussions.

Do you have any suggestions on how to embed a threaded discussion as a web object? Do you have any specific embeddable apps you have used (Disqus? Nabble?)

@Mike: there are all sorts of embeddable forums/chats. They would all work as web objects. But you make the point of why the yes/no approach adds value. You want to ask more or state more and yes/no just doesn’t cut it. That’s why I think a Urtak blended with a facilitated discussion would be good.

Hi, I want to know how I can use a background image?

@Toni: I’m not quite sure what you’re asking.

August 30th, 2011

Hi Tom

Having looked at the demo, I assume that the benefit of this example (Urtak in particular) is that it is somewhat interactive. You can answer questions but also add them to the process, right?

And I assume this is a good solution as it can’t presently be built out of the box via Quizmaker / Engage? (No Storyline queries here 😉

I can see the benefit and validity in some cases. However, the use would need to be carefully considered as it is like the difference between a Lecture and a Tutorial (Aussie uni / college lingo).

Sometimes it is hard enough to keep the attention of students no matter who. I would worry that once they have the abiltiy to navigate away from the primary course and spend time looking at all of the new questions and thinking more about questions to add that the primary learning mission may be lost at sea.

Just a thought.


Hi Tom,

Does this have to be embedded on an online e-learning course? Is there an option for e-learning courses that will be taken via intranet, for instance?

August 31st, 2011

I am appalled that the survey indicated that nearly 90% of college graduates (BOTH undergraduate and masters) believe in learning styles. What are they teaching in our colleges? Whatever it is, it apparently is not evidence based.

@Tony: It’s a simple Y/N question so I wouldn’t read much into it. Plus learning styles or preferences isn’t the same as trying to create specific training programs that cater to them which is where I think people run into problems.

@Eize: the Urtak content embeds from the Urtak site. So it would work via intranet if the site isn’t blocked. In addition, there’s no reason why you couldn’t create a similar process using your own quizzing tool.

@Rob: I see the value in using something like this as a way to stimulate thought and conversation. Tony’s comment is a good example of this. The learning styles question is loaded and ripe for ongoing dialogue. The fact that 90% answered one way opens the door to great conversation. It’s just a matter of how to facilitate it.

Given that this is a third party service, what is the life expectency of the survey to be available for a blended learning experience? Would the application be used for short term training? We have a lot of informational elearning courses and they are ‘static’ for 3-5 years. Just wondering where this functionality it best applied.

@Linda: like most of these internet service, I’d expect them to not have a long shelf life.

I like your article – and especially that you put a tour of Urtak online. I’m looking forward to reading more from your blog.

Best regards,


@Tobias: thanks and hope you enjoy the blog

I’m liking this Tom – could be pretty useful.

How did you get the window to display only the survey and not the surplus stuff around it on the Urtak site?

I’ve tried embedding it as a web object (using my Urtak’s URL) into Presenter but it defaults to showing the whole page.

And is there a way to use the ’embed code’ from within Presenter? I thought this would only work with normal HTML pages.


@Simon: it’s an iframe

Ah, so you’re pulling the original Urkat URL into an iframe and then pulling that into Presenter as a web object?

I like this site Tom, however, do you have any suggestions for it’s use in an elementary music classroom? Perhaps an embedded recording with students listening and providing their reaction? Just wondering!

[…] Are You Asking the Right Questions? » The Rapid eLearning Blog Many elearning developers are working with limited resources. […]