A Helping Hand.

Feature Image for Hints and Worked Solutions in Technology Enhanced Items

The Use of Hints & Worked Solutions in Assessment.

Part 4 of a 5 part series exploring the benefits of technology-enhanced items in education & assessment. Brought to you by Learnosity and A Pass Educational Group.

 The use of technology-enhanced items (TEIs) in assessment has gained immense popularity in recent years due to the numerous advantages these item types offer.

Through the use of these interactive questions, student engagement is increased substantially, especially in comparison to more traditional forms of assessment. Furthermore, advanced assessment features also exist to further improve and complement TEIs.

This paper explores the use of hints and worked solutions as aids in technology-enhanced assessments. This feature offers a wide range of benefits to both learners and assessors, from the way it can be used to prompt learners so that they have the opportunity to utilize what they can remember, to how it enables educators to track hint usage and identify which topics may require further attention.

The Advantages of Utilizing Hints and Worked Solutions

Learnosity’s hints feature allows authors to create customized scaffolding that students can use to answer questions. Using the feature is quite simple for both authors and students. Question creators simply input the hint or hints in the order they should be shown. The hint can then be presented to the student as required. In many instances, this is via a clickable button on the screen. Students can then choose whether or not to utilize the hints. They can answer the question without using any, or they can use only as many as they need.

Demo: Student asks for hint. Technology Enhanced Items series.

How and when metadata, including hints and worked solutions, is displayed is 100% controlled by the host page. 

The advantages of this feature are easy to see. On the most basic level, hints can help guide students toward the answer, rather than creating a strict question-answer, correct-incorrect dynamic. Hints can sometimes help students demonstrate knowledge that was learned but not fully mastered. Hints further act as teaching tools to prompt students to utilize what they can remember, which further reinforces what they have mastered and allows them to focus more fully on what they have not.

Because authors can utilize more than one hint, instructors can create a scaffolded approach to help students work their way to the answer. Students can even choose whether or not to reveal the hints. Authors can start with more general hints and then progress to more specific ones. The final hint can even include a worked solution that either shows the students how to answer the question or stops one step short of the final answer. These worked solutions also model for the student what is expected of his or her answer. This flexible approach allows students who need additional help to receive it.

Students can decide how much or how little help they need getting to the answer. The hints feature is therefore a self-customizing learning tool for every individual student.

Demo: All hints taken. Technology-enhanced items series.

The hints feature is also a valuable learning tool for teachers, as hints can be tracked and teachers can identify trends on both an individual and group level. For example, teachers might want to see which questions students got correct, which were incorrect, which questions weren’t attempted, and which questions were “correct with help.” This information can provide a useful teaching assessment.

Based on which questions or subject matters students viewed the most hints, teachers can adjust their lessons or review key topics in which students are struggling.

On a more individual level, teachers can use the tracking feature to determine which students need additional help and to what extent. Teachers can subsequently customize their approaches on either a class or student level.

Finally, the hints feature enables a more efficient teaching dynamic. Instead of students individually requesting help from the teacher directly, they can utilize the hints first to try to work out the problem themselves. Especially when worked solutions are included, the hints also provide an additional level of teaching and/or reinforcement, allowing for a more complete mastery of the subject matter than if a basic question-answer format were used. These uses decrease the demand on a teacher’s finite time and conserve this important resource.

Employing Hints and Worked Solutions

Because the hints can be customized and scaffolded, the uses of the hints feature are literally endless. Often, the level of specificity of the hint will directly correlate with the level of complexity of the question. Simple questions will likely require only minor prompting, while more complex, multi-step problems present numerous opportunities for providing structured help to the student.

For a basic question like “What is the capital of North Dakota?” authors can include a basic hint like “The capital of North Dakota begins with the letter ‘B.’” Another simplistic example is asking for the name of the first satellite successfully deployed into space. A possible hint would be to give the name of the state that sent the satellite (USSR). These two hints provide students with a small piece of information that would ideally prompt their memory to recall the correct answer.

A slightly more complex example of utilizing the hints feature is providing students with a definition. For instance, a teacher could provide students with a short passage and ask them to highlight an example of alliteration. The hint could provide students with the following definition: “An alliteration is a series of words in close succession that share the same consonant sound.” This hint would remind students of the definition of alliteration, but still require them to apply that definition to the passage given.

Similarly, a science question could present data in a word problem, asking for a value, such as the force required to complete a task. A hint could give students the equation for calculating force. Students would still have to interpret the word problem, substitute the proper numbers for the correct variables, and perform the correct mathematical calculations.

The most complex hint structure is likely to be employed in multi-step math problems. A common algebra question might ask students to solve for a variable in an equation like the one below:


A good first hint would be to remind students to clear the fractions first. A second hint might show the students the steps for clearing the fractions, along with the final “fractionless” equation. For example:

The three fractions have denominators of 2, 5, and 10. The lowest common multiple of these numbers is 10, so multiply the entire equation by 10:



A third hint could prompt students to use inverse operations to isolate the variable. Finally, a worked solution could be provided in a fourth hint to visually guide students to the answer. Authors could opt to show the entire worked solution (as below), or stop one step short of the answer, leaving “x=?” as the final step.






The hints feature can be employed in any subject matter at any level of difficulty or complexity. Authors can adjust the specificity of the hint in accordance with the amount of help they want the student to receive. Likewise, students themselves can choose how much (or how little) help they need. Learnosity’s hints feature thus allows assessments to become customized teaching tools.

Implementation of Hints & Worked Solutions

When authoring questions, Learnosity provides an optional metadata section where additional information about the question can be stored. This could include student hints, worked solutions, sample answers, distractor rationale, rubrics, glossaries, etc. Custom fields are also available.

Employing hints. Authoring technology enhanced items.

How this optional information is displayed can vary significantly from client to client, and even from case to case. As such, Learnosity provides the infrastructure to store the data and the code to retrieve the data at runtime. The client then chooses how and when to display this data to the student. Because they are so familiar with their students and their learning outcomes, it is important for clients to have this control, as their knowledge is of the utmost importance for the appropriate use of this feature.


The ability to provide student guidance through hints and worked solutions is a valuable feature of technology-enhanced assessments. With the aid of hints and worked solutions, learners are often prompted to remember information they otherwise would not. The feature has the additional benefit of giving students the choice of whether or not they require this kind of assistance. From a teacher perspective, information on whether or not the student decided to use the hint or not is tracked. This means that the teacher can identify areas that require more targeted instruction.

Interested in learning more about technology-enhanced items in assessment? Our next angle will explore adaptive testing, where we will discuss how offering a more personalized testing experience can improve students’ testing experiences significantly. From shorter testing times to reducing the risk of cheating to increasing student motivation, computer adaptive testing provides numerous benefits to both learners and educators.
To learn more, look out for the next edition of our technology-enhanced items series: “Getting Personal: The Use of Computer Adaptive Testing in Assessment”.



SAVE THE DATE: Interactive webinar, November 19th 1pm (EST)

Don’t Just Check the Box! Technology-Enhanced Items in Assessment

Join our interactive webinar, hosted by Learnosity CEO Gavin Coney and Lynsey Peterson, Director of STEM Development at A Pass Educational Group on November 19th at 1:00pm (EST). This hour-long webinar aims to explore the overall benefits of using technology-enhanced items in assessment, and will give a hands-on demonstrations of the authoring experience for some of the more advanced technology-enhanced solutions, such as spoken response, rule-based grading for math and chemistry, creating worked solutions and hints for students, and adaptive testing.

Button to Register for Technology Enhanced Items Webinar

About Learnosity:

Learnosity Assessment SoftwarePartnering with companies across a range of sectors—including K-12, Higher Education, and Corporate Education—Learnosity provides the technology framework for authoring, assessment delivery, and reporting for many of the world’s best assessment solutions. Leveraging the Learnosity offerings enables clients to enhance any digital product, new or existing. It also reduces the need to reinvent the wheel, significantly increases speed to market, and decreases the overall cost of ownership.

Learnosity offers one of the widest ranges of technology-enhanced items on the market, with over 55 distinct question types currently available, ranging from the more basic fill-in-the-blank question types to spoken-response capture, Cartesian graphing, handwriting-recognition technology as well as advanced Math and Chemistry formulas. The authoring experience is designed to allow any user—professional content author or the more casual teacher author—to create advanced technology-enhanced items in minutes. It’s as simple as using any word processor. A wide range of implementation and storage solutions are also available. Clients can choose to use the Learnosity item bank, which uses a flexible, tag-based system for organizing Items as well as providing test-construction facilities. Alternatively, clients can choose to simply add the Learnosity TEI editor to their existing Content Management System.

The Learnosity reporting solutions allow clients to easily embed HTML reports, with useful insights from individual and group analytics, on any webpage. Clients also have on-demand access to the raw data, providing the flexibility to use as needed at any time.


About A Pass Educational Group:

A Pass EducationA Pass Educational Group, LLC is very proud of its reputation for delivering high-quality work on time. We are also proud of our reputation as being responsive, friendly, and easy to work with. Finally, we cherish the loyalty of our staff and contract associates. We offer the following services: Instructional Design. A Pass recognizes that high-quality learning requires exemplary instructional design. Students and teachers must fully understand expectations and easily engage in content for optimum learning. Read More Assessment Design. A Pass develops many types of assessment questions, including multiple choice, true/false, constructed response, short essay, technology-enhanced items (TEIs) and more. We design assessments to accompany textbooks and study aids as well as high-stakes assessments for state and national standardized exams. Read More Course Development. The A Pass team can develop courses and /or lesson plans in any subject area. If we do not have the appropriate resources in house, we have the ability to find them. Read More Editing. A Pass has deep experience editing client content and resources—this includes developmental editing, copy editing, fact checking, and more. Read More



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