One of the most important learner-instructor interactions occurs when instructors leave feedback. Online students need communication and feedback on their assignments. They crave feedback, wanting to know not just their grade but also why they received the grade and what the instructor thought of their work. Even students who earn As need to receive qualitative feedback.
Our standards are that every student (even A students) should receive feedback on every assignment before the next assignment of the same type is due (meaning, feedback on a discussion post before the next is due, etc.). That turnaround time may seem daunting, but remember, it’s less natural for students to check in with an online instructor than it would be in a face-to-face course, where they may hang back after class one day to touch base on an assignment. Almost nothing feels more isolating to an online student than simply getting a grade without any explanation as to why, and you can imagine how confusing it would feel to a student to have to attempt future assignments with no idea of how they performed on the previous ones.
Ideally students would even receive qualitative feedback on auto-graded multiple choice exams, even if that feedback was directed to the whole class as an announcement.
It is important to give students their feedback when they were expecting it, in a timely fashion (remember, feedback on the early assignments is the most important and highly anticipated). Luckily, the LMS offers some time savers to help with this task.
- Rubrics: Rubrics are a great way to let students know why they got the grade they did, and you can easily modify it to include personal messages as appropriate.
- Audio/video feedback: Not a fast typist but have 30 papers to grade? Use the audio feedback tool. We have instructors who swear by this. Even “Nice job! I loved the point you made in the third paragraph. Please remember to spellcheck your submissions,” is quicker to say than to type, and it boosts your instructor presence more than written feedback.
- Announcements: This can be a great tool to leave feedback for the whole class. You might drop an announcement that clarifies some points on the exam that many students missed (leaving out the students’ names of course). Or, you might leave a quick, “Nice job on the discussion assignment, gang! Here are some ‘best of’ quotes.” (Hint: keep a Word document open for swift copy and pasting as you read through the discussions to collect these quotes).
- Quiz statistics: our LMS offers some very useful quiz analytics. Did many students miss one particular question (and you know the question was written correctly)? They might benefit from an explanation in Announcements. Did many students miss questions on the same topic? Perhaps they need a refresher on the entire topic.
- Praise is so important in written communication.
- Write feedback like it’s an email. Here are a few tips for personalizing your feedback:
- Use the student’s first name
- Sign your name
- Keep a spreadsheet/”cheat sheet” with students’ names, majors, interests, etc. for reference while grading. This can be helpful in connecting the assignment with their goals/life.
- Meaningful feedback should improve students’ performance by explaining what they did wrong and what they can do to improve. A numeric score or letter grade alone is not sufficient.
- For problem-based feedback, instead of telling a student that he or she got the problem wrong, explain how to analyze problems, and determine how to solve the problem.
- When grading student writing, consider the following:
- Limit feedback to improve student learning – focus on providing just three big ideas that require action.
- Students need feedback on their ideas more than on their writing (unless quality writing is one of the learning objectives). Focus the feedback on the subject matter you’re teaching. Use the opportunity to interest the student further in your field by sharing your expertise.
- Start a dialog with students through submission comments.
- If you are requiring an action from a student, for example, to answer a question or resubmit, email the student directly. A student may miss such a request in the feedback posted in the LMS.