Providing Effective Online Feedback

Effective feedback is important to help students succeed, but critical in an online classroom where there is no physical instructor presence.  A lack of effective feedback may cause a student to feel alienated which can impact their ability to succeed in the course.

Feedback, defined

Feedback is not about evaluating a student’s performance, nor to give advice, praise, or criticism.  Feedback is information about how a student is doing in their efforts to reach a goal.

Principles of feedback

There are seven key principles of feedback when working with students:

  • Goal-referenced:  Is a student on track to reach their goal? Are they on course or need a correction? For example, a student may be writing a document to make a reader laugh.  Feedback for the document to see if they are reaching the goal is to ask “how funny is this” or “how can it be funnier”.
  • Tangible and transparent:  Is there a tangible result related to the student’s goal?  Use specific examples related to specific points of the student’s work.
  • Actionable:  Can the feedback be acted upon by the student?  “Good job”, “incorrect”, and similar are not actionable.  What specifically should be adjusted, and for what purpose?
  • User-friendly:  Feedback should be simple and in plain language.  Feedback that is overly technical or conceptual may be detrimental to a student who is having trouble grasping a concept.
  • Timely:  Feedback must be given in a timely manner, and not delayed by days or weeks. Feedback given within a pre-defined time period helps students know when to expect feedback and gives them the ability to incorporate it within their future learning.  Feedback about content from a course’s second week that’s given when the course is in its eighth week does not aid a student in their growth.
  • Ongoing:  Along with timeliness, students must have an opportunity to use the feedback they have been given.  New feedback based on student progress & growth must also be given to aid a student in improving their performance.
  • Consistent:  Be consistent in the feedback given! Students need a steady stream of accurate feedback to ensure they are progressing successfully, meeting the goals/objectives of the course and any of its assignments.

Strategy ideas

There are several great articles on the web with ideas for feedback in the online environment:

Tools & technology to help with feedback

Multiple tools and technologies can aid in providing feedback to students that can help students.  Tools can include, but are not limited to:

  • Panopto, the college’s video management system, can be used to provide one-to-one direct video feedback.
  • The Canvas SpeedGrader allows for providing assignment comments.  Comments can be text, or can be audio and/or video recorded directly into Canvas.  No extra software is needed to record.
  • One-on-one video conferencing can provide live feedback to students, allowing a student to ask questions to clarify feedback and tasks.  Multiple options exist for video conferencing, including Canvas Conferences, WebEx, Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts.

Additional information