Providing Feedback in Your Distance Learning Course
Introduction to Feedback in Distance Learning Courses
In 1987, Chickering and Gamson identified seven principles for good practice in teaching. One of those principles is that good practice gives prompt feedback. Chickering and Gamson summed up the importance of providing feedback to students by claiming that “Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses your learning.” Hattie and Jaeger (1998) found that positive feedback focused on an assignment has a positive effect on learners in terms of their attitude and achievement.
Providing feedback to students in all class formats is important. In distance learning classes, it can be a bit more challenging than in the classroom. You often end up exchanging multiple e-mails and playing phone tag with students. When it comes to providing feedback on assignments, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to provide individual comments to students and return their written work with meaningful feedback.
Providing quality feedback to distance learning students is particularly important because students have fewer opportunities to ask you for clarification on assignments or your comments about their assignments. Distance learning students often feel a bit disconnected by the technology and are left wondering if you received their messages and assignments and how they are doing in the class. By providing quality feedback you help your distance learning students learn. Quality feedback does not all have to be generated by you. Certainly you should provide substantive replies to questions and comments on assignments, but there are also ways you can automate feedback to students.
Benefits of Providing Feedback to Distance Learning Students
Providing quality feedback requires planning for feedback. The benefits of providing feedback are:
- Students feel more connected to the class, making them feel more comfortable.
- Students get a better sense of what content they have mastered and what areas they are weak in, allowing them to focus their efforts where they are the weakest.
- Students feel more positive about the learning process because they feel as though someone is interested in their progress.
Types of Feedback
There are two main types of feedback:
- Information Feedback - this type of feedback is informational or evaluative in nature. It is often given in response to a student question or as an assignment grade and comments.
- Acknowledgement Feedback - this type of feedback confirms or assures the student that some event has taken place.
Strategies for Providing Feedback
Not all of the strategies listed below are appropriate for every course. Try implementing a couple of the strategies suggested in each feedback category in your distance learning course.
|Put a plan in place for grading and returning assignments in a timely manner.||Students need timely feedback on assignments, especially if one assignment leads to another. Schedule time immediately after due dates to grade assignments and return them to students. One week or less is a reasonable time frame.|
|Set a schedule for responding to discussions in myWPI.||
|List grading criteria for the course and for individual assignments.||If you clearly state how students will be graded on assignments, they can compare their graded assignments, with your comments, to the assignment criteria you stated. In this way, assignment criteria can be used as feedback.|
|Arrange office hours or live class discussions.||
|Use the PDF Scanner to return assignments with your written comments.||If you normally write written comments on print copies of assignments for students in your campus-based classes, you can do the same for distance learning students using the PDF scanner. The PDF scanner scans the print copies and simultaneously turns them into PDF documents and e-mails them to your students. Print out student assignments that are submitted to you, write your comments on them, and either visit the ATC in Fuller Labs B24 to send them to students via the PDF scanner, or drop them off with your ATC coordinator and the ATC staff will use the PDF scanner to send them back to students for you.|
|Use the Assignment Manager in myWPI to indicate grades and comments on assignments.||The Assignment Manager in myWPI allows you to enter a grade and type comments that the students can see in myWPI. The grades also appear in your gradebook, making it easy for you to track grades.|
|Use Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat to insert electronic comments into assignments that you return to students.||
|Use the Test Manager in myWPI to develop tests and quizzes.||
|Use the Gradebook in myWPI.||
|Structure assignments so students provide feedback to each other.||
|Set a response policy and state it in the syllabus.||
|Take note of students who fail to participate or whose participation drops off.||
|Set aside time to let students know their assignments have been received.||Schedule some time immediately after an assignment is due to send a quick message to students to let them know you have received their assignments. Simple quick messages such as this often alleviate anxiety in distance learning students.|
|Use the Assignment Manager in myWPI for assignment submission.||If you use the Assignment Manager in myWPI, you can eliminate the need to send e-mail acknowledgements to students because they can easily see in the Assignment Manager that their assignments have been successfully submitted.|
Black, P. & William, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7-74.
Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, March, 3-7.
Graham, C., Cagiltay, K., Craner, J., Lim, B., & Duffy, T.M. (2000). Teaching in a web based distance learning environment PDF File . Retrieved September 7, 2005.
Illinois Online Network. (2005). Strategies for providing feedback. Retrieved August 30, 2005.
Padavano, D. & Gould, M. (2004, December). Best practices for faculty who teach online PDF File. DEOSNEWS, 13(9). Retrieved September 7, 2005.
Last modified: Aug 13, 2007, 09:49 EDT