We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve. - Bill Gates
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

In online education courses, providing effective feedback is essential. It’s can be easy to provide students with a number or letter grade on their assignments, but it is the additional feedback where the opportunity for student growth occurs. While there are many forms of effective feedback, there are 5 elements that can help you provide more meaningful and effective feedback regardless of the method of delivery.

  1. Give Timely Feedback
    • Timely feedback to students sends the message that you are engaged in the course and the student’s work. Having just finished an assignment, the student is also going to be more open to the feedback you provide because their work is still fresh in their mind. They have the opportunity to immediately incorporate your feedback into the next assignment, improving their overall performance going forward. Students in a master’s degree program were more likely to ignore feedback comments on their written work that were not provided promptly. (Draft & Lengel, 1986) Including a statement in the syllabus about your expected time of feedback on assignments, and sticking to it, helps students understand your timeline and will reduce questions to you later on.
  2. Start with a positive message
    • Creating a feedback sandwich (compliment, suggestions for correction, compliment) for your student pairs together both specific positive feedback and any elements the students should work on. The positive feedback encourages the student and prepares them with a positive outlook when hearing about areas that need improvement. Finishing again with positive feedback such as “I look forward to seeing your next assignment” tells the student that even though they have corrections to make, their work is still valued and that they can improve on future assignments.
  3. Use Rubrics
    • One of the best tools that can be used are rubrics. A detailed rubric sets clear expectations of the student for that particular assignment. While completing their assignment they can constantly check their work against what you expect to see in their finished work. Another benefit to creating the rubric is that you can use it to analyze their papers with that same criteria. Some instructors have found that by using a rubric, it helps to be more consistent and fair with grading. No matter if it is the first paper, the last paper, or if you might be having a good or bad day, the rubric helps.
  4. Give personal feedback and help the students make the connection between the content and their lives
    • Connection is key. Providing personal feedback to your students while helping them see the connection between the content and their lives will show that you have taken time to personally respond to them instead of using “canned responses.” Students who don’t feel as if the content in the class will ever relate to their lives now, or in their careers later on, will often lose interest in  assignments in general as well as feedback because they don’t see the connection. Getting to know your students at the beginning of the term assists in giving good personal feedback while helping them see the connection between the content and their life.
  5. Consider using alternative formats of feedback
    • Students are used to getting feedback in written form and while that format can be very effective, using an alternative way to provide feedback can be equally or more effective. They enjoy the personal connections that can be created through audio and/or video feedback. Students appreciate receiving specific feedback relating to the grade, rubric, and overall assessment. In fact, some students say that: “..video encouraged more supportive and conversational communication.” (Borup, West, Thomas, 2015) Give it a try!

By employing these strategies, your students will be appreciative of the feedback you provide and you might just get some fantastic feedback yourself. In one case, an instructor shared a great comment from one of their students comparing past courses to the instructor’s:

…I never received personal feedback [in some other courses]. Your course however has been wonderful. Thank you for putting so much time into each of your comments on my writing. I can tell you really made personal feedback a priority. You don’t know how nice it was to really know that my professor is reading my work.” The student goes further to say; “Thank you for taking your teaching seriously and caring about your students. It shows.

Getting personal and effective feedback like this should inspire you to begin or continue that great feedback!

 

References:

Borup, J., West, R.E., Thomas, R. (2015) The impact of text versus video communication on instructor feedback in blended courses Education Tech Research Dev 63:161-184 doi: 10.1004/s11426-015-9367-8

Draft, R.L. & Lengel, R.H. (1986. Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32(5), 554-571

Gaining students’ attention is the first of Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. A great way to gain attention is to provide a catchy animated video about the topic you are presenting.

What’s that? You’re not a trained animator? Don’t let that stop you! If you can choose items off a menu and type some dialogue, you can create an animated video for free at www.xtranormal.com. The animation below was created for an upcoming professional development workshop at Ecampus. The whole project took about 10 minutes to create.

Have lots of papers to grade? Lots of student assignments that need your expert, detailed feedback? Instructors and students alike know the value of formative assessments, but instructors know how much time quality, detailed feedback takes to supply. Shortkeys is a helpful program that can help instructors provide detailed feedback and save time in grading by reducing the need to re-type the same passages repeatedly.

Shortkeys is a macro program, which is a program that allows you to set up replacement text for a small number of user-defined keystrokes. If there is anything you type multiple times, this program is for you. There is a limited-use free version, called Shortkeys Lite. The full program costs around $25.
Benefits of using this program:
  • Significantly reduces grading time – a clear benefit for instructors
  • Much more efficient than copying and pasting from Word files
  • Reduces errors due to typos
  • Significantly improves the depth of feedback instructors can provide, given time limitations – a clear benefit for students
  • Useful for URLs, HTML code, phone numbers, email addresses, library card numbers, page references in textbooks, or any other information you find yourself having to look up more than once

How it works:
The user programs each “shortkey” code and types out the replacement text. Once the shortkey is saved, it is ready to be re-used. For instance, for a shortkey that is programmed to explain a comma splice and how to fix one, a user could set the shortkey as “##cs.” As soon as the user types that code, a full explanation about comma splices is placed in the document: This is a type of run-on sentence called a comma splice, which is two complete sentences linked with nothing but a comma. Two complete sentences need more than a comma to separate them. To correct this, change the comma to a semi-colon, add a conjunction, or simply make two separate sentences.

Possible applications:

  • To explain common grammatical and punctuation errors
  • To provide examples to students, such as example thesis statements
  • To refer students to outside resources
  • To demonstrate proper citation styles for various types of sources
  • To include “here’s what I was looking for & here’s how your assignment measured up” notes for student assignments
  • To record summaries and announcements that you re-use in my courses from term to term
  • To remind students of course policies, such as late policies
  • To record HTML code you use frequently in Blackboard

Where to get it:

To order the software or to download a free trial version, visit www.shortkeys.com.

Part of quality online course design is ensuring that students have opportunities to practice with course content in active, engaging ways. Providing students with lectures to read and hear passively is a start, but is generally not enough to help learning happen. To make real learning happen online, it’s important to encourage students to engage with the concepts they are learning actively.

Another best practice of online course design and teaching is providing opportunities for formative assessments, that is, low- or no-stakes practice activities with feedback that lets students know if they are on track for summative assessments, such as final exams.

Yes, but who has the time?

These kinds of practice activities and formative assessments are great, but they can take time to create, facilitate, and respond to, and most of the instructors we know don’t have excesses of time!

Thankfully, there are tools available to help create quality learning activities quickly and easily. StudyMate games are a quick and easy way to include these sorts of activities in your classes. Furthermore, the feedback is built into the game, so once they are created, they don’t require additional time for facilitation. Best of all, students find the games to be enjoyable and effective ways to study course concepts.

StudyMate games are built using one of three types of questions:

  • Single answer (such as a term and its definition)
  • Multiple choice
  • Calculated (math problems)

Instructors provide the questions, and the OSU instructional design team can help create the games. Games include flash cards, matching, crossword puzzles, and a Jeopardy! – like challenge game.

You can even use this software to create a glossary of terms for your class:

Try some StudyMate games used in Charisse Hake’s Math 105 class.

To learn more about StudyMate and to see other sample games, visit the StudyMate Sample Games Page.

To learn how to create StudyMate games for your class, contact instructional design specialist Shannon Riggs at shannon.riggs@oregonstate.edu.