Questions and Items

Learn how to create questions and items using the Learnosity Author site. Author Developer


In this tutorial, we'll look at the basic content building blocks of the Learnosity platform: questions and items. We'll learn the role of each, and how to author them using the Learnosity Author site. In the next tutorial, we'll learn how to create a simple assessment using the items you created.

What are Questions?

Learnosity questions are very much what the word implies: tasks for a student to complete in the context of an assignment, study review, or quiz. Learnosity currently has 47 question types, with more on the way, ranging from the familiar to the advanced. You’ve likely seen multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, drag and drop, matching, and open response questions. Learnosity also offers many more question types, starting with classification, text highlighting, graphing, and charting, and moving on to types that include powerful math display and solving, and audio recording and playback.

What are Items?

Learnosity stores and delivers questions in a parent container called an item. Think of an item as a capsule that holds not only a question, but can also include additional support assets, such as images or text passages, or even additional questions, as when covering multi-part topics. Items can also be features—widgets that improve assessment delivery and promote reusability. Features include things like calculators, rulers and protractors, and audio and video players.

Adding material other than questions to an item is entirely optional. Often, items hold nothing more than a single question. The real power of items, however, comes from their ability to enhance and streamline assessments. For instance, rather than forcing a text passage into a question stimulus, that text could be placed into an item and easily flowed into a multi-column layout. Similarly, a support graphic such as the periodic table can be easily reused across many questions. By making the periodic table a feature, that reusable image can be delivered with countless questions by use of a simple item reference. Yet it remains a separate, single asset for efficiency and easy editing.

Item Examples

Figure 1 shows an example of an item in edit mode. In this example, two questions are provided to test reading comprehension. On the left a tinted feature box holds a scrolling text passage. On the right, a plain text question is followed by a cloze (fill-in-the-blank) with drop down menu question.

Figure 1

Figure 2 shows the question in preview mode to give you an idea of what the item will look like when delivered to a student.

Figure 2

Figure 3 shows another example of an item, this time including a reusable feature that supports the question. The question type is label an image with drag and drop. The student must drag the appropriate angle to the boxes marked by A and B. To help determine the angle, a protractor feature has been added to the item. The student can drag the protractor to the image, rotate the protractor as needed, and measure the angles.

Figure 3

Creating an Item

Authoring a basic item requires nothing more than a couple of clicks in the Learnosity Author site. Figure 4 shows the top of the Author site in use.

You can search or filter for an existing item, or create a new item by clicking the Create a new Item button in the upper right corner of the interface. New items will take on a default name based on your organization, and are easily renamed.

Figure 4


The item name, or reference, and additional information like description, acknowledgments, notes, and source information can be added by clicking on the Details button.

As shown in Figure 5, you can also set the status of the item to Unpublished, Published, or Deleted. The status of any new item is Unpublished by default, and is helpful for editing and review prior to making the item available for assessment. Once an item is complete, its status must be set to Published before it can be loaded into other items or assessments. By setting an item’s status to Deleted, you can remove it from the item bank UI without permanently discarding it. You can restore the item by searching for deleted items and changing their status.

Figure 5

Adding Content to the Item

To demonstrate a variety of simple features, we’re going to use an option or two from most of the button groups in the Item’s built in WYSIWYG editor. Figure 6 calls out the tools we’ll be using.

Figure 6

Layout Templates

Our first task is to set up a simple two-column layout by using the Templates tool. This will insert two columns with placeholder text into the item. You can choose from among three layouts: a left sidebar and column, a column and right sidebar, or equally spaced columns. You can also choose to separate the columns with a vertical line, or even add a tabbed interface to the left column if you want to switch between multiple tabs of content in the item.

Style Containers

In this tutorial, we’ll place a text passage on the left and a question on the right. Our next step is to select the left placeholder text, “Column 1,” and insert a tinted box using the Create Style Container option. Selecting Feature Box from the tool’s Style menu, will conveniently surround your selected text with the tint, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7

With the tinted area in place, we can select the left placeholder text again and repeat the process—this time selecting Scrollable Passage from the Create Style Container dialog’s Style menu, shown in Figure 8. For this tutorial, the default values are ideal, but you can customize the look of the passage using your own stylesheet class, or easily set its dimensions or add a border, if desired.

Figure 8

Finally, you can select the placeholder text and add your own copy. If the text exceeds the size of the area you specified, it will automatically scroll.


You can easily add an image by placing your cursor where you want it to appear, and using the Insert Image tool. You can upload images or specify the URL of a remote image, as well as edit properties like alternative text and width and height, as seen in Figure 9.

Once inserted, you can apply basic styling to the image, such as center alignment, and go on to add any other images required. After the supporting content of the item is complete, you can click the Create button to save your progress.

Figure 9

Saving the Item

The finished passage, shown in Figure 10, now includes both text and image, and neatly scrolls within a scrolling box on a tinted background. Save the item to make sure you don't lose your work, and let's add a question.

Figure 10

Adding a Question

To add a question to the item start by selecting the placeholder text, “Column 2,” in the right column. While you can drag the question later to a new location, starting by highlighting the placeholder text will put the question right where you want it, replacing the highlighted content. Click on the Questions and Features button to open the question editor, shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11

The Question Editor

The Question Editor is where a content author will spend most of his or her time creating questions. When creating a question, you can pick a category of question types from the left menu, and select any of the configuration presets from the large pane at the right. You can even make your own presets, complete with description and custom thumbnail, to speed content creation and standardize input from many authors. For this tutorial, we’ll choose the MCQ Block UI preset.

[Info] You can create questions in the Learnosity Author site, as discussed herein, but you can also embed the Question Editor into your own CMS for tighter integration with your existing systems. The Learnosity Demos site shows a few ways you can customize the Question Editor, and we'll cover this concept in more detail in a future tutorial.

Stems and Distractors

The initial entry point for question creation is typically the Basic pane, shown in Figure 12. The Basic pane allows you to enter the question stimulus, or stem, and a variable number of answer options, or distractors. You can also specify single- or multiple-response behavior. When not using the block UI, these will display as radio buttons or checkboxes, respectively.

Figure 12


You can change the look of the question by using the Formatting pane. Here you can change things like font size, number of columns, horizontal and vertical orientation, and the distractor label type (such as uppercase or lowercase letters, or numbers).


Validation criteria is set in the Validation pane, shown in Figure 13. Here you can specify the number of attempts allowed, select from question-type-specific scoring types, select the correct answer, and specify optional alternative correct answers.

Figure 13


The Metadata pane provides a mechanism for entry of any custom data a client wants to add to the question. Examples include sample answers, hints, and distractor rationales (feedback), and Learnosity can even add new custom fields to a client’s organization settings allowing for extensive customization. Clients can then use this custom content by providing display logic and formatting that is best suited to their specific delivery.

Advanced Settings

The Advanced pane allows question authors to add LaTeX or MathML to content, shuffle distractors, and even provide an alternate view of the question’s stimulus in review mode. For example, long questions, or perhaps those containing images or tables, can display an abbreviated view of the question in when being reviewed after submission.


A preview of the question is always available throughout editing. Shown in Figure 14, you can test your progress by selecting an answer and checking the validated result.

The score will be updated based on the test input, and you can also see the question in Initial and Review modes. When a question is too big to fit in the preview area, the Zoom button can be used to show the question in a full-window modal dialog.

Figure 14

Saving the Question

Once you’ve finished editing the question, click the Save and Close button in the upper right corner of the Question Editor to return to the item.

Publishing the Item

You’ve now completed the item, and you can look at it in Edit mode (Figure 15) or Preview mode (Figure 16). If satisfied, save the Item again to be sure it’s current. That's all there is to it! You now have a finished item that includes both a question and a scrolling text passage, and which can be added to an an assessment at any time.

Figure 15

Figure 16

What you learned

In this tutorial we learned the fundamental differences between questions and items. We learned that items can function simply as a question’s parent container, but can also include additional markup or support materials, such as images and text passages. We also learned how to create questions and items, including custom layouts and support features such as images and text passages.