Evolving Learner Feedback For The Digital Age
Educators have always recognized the value and necessity of providing effective feedback in moving students toward educational growth and enhanced performance. In today’s digital age, however, feedback can take on an entirely new form and function.
Why do faculty give feedback, and what do students want from that feedback? Outside of the obvious answers, feedback supports learning. “Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement,” John Hattie and Helen Timperly write in The Power of Feedback. Adult students want feedback that is purposeful, specific and content related. Students must also know how to interpret the feedback and apply it in their next assignment. Powerful feedback should be the goal of all educators.
I predominately teach online adult learners at all levels of educational attainment. In my teaching practice, I follow this intentional, yet straightforward, feedback model:
Personal: Address the student by name in your feedback. It creates a meaningful connection, which is essential in the learning process.
Specific: Be sure to reference specific material from the student’s submission. Your specific feedback should match the learning outcomes of the assignment. It should also give real-world examples that adult students can apply to their world of work. Specific, timely feedback lets the student know that you have spent time reading the responses he/she has worked hard to write.
Constructive: Be positive and encouraging. Seek to inspire, not crush. When grading, provide feedback that promotes further learning. This gives the student something to build upon for the next assignment. Constructive feedback extends teaching beyond the lesson.
Timely: In order for feedback to be useful, students must receive it as soon as possible.
Some of the challenges in providing traditional, written feedback can be a misinterpretation of tone, comments, or time-intensive grading assignments. Written comments can also be illegible and less personal, providing only one-way communication. Using technology could alleviate some of these challenges.
Integrating technology in the feedback process has the potential of improving student engagement. The use of video technology can provide opportunities in an online environment to make personal connections with students and promote active learning rather than passive learning. Video feedback also allows faculty to provide detailed explanations and information, and it appeals to both the affective and cognitive domains.
Since I predominately teach online learners, I was seeking a more inclusive way of connecting with my students. Online learning can often be a solitary way of learning. Incorporating video technology when providing feedback allows me to make a deeper connection with students. I can enhance their learning outside of the constraints of the online learning platform.
Giving feedback using video technology does not have to be an either/or proposition. Let me give you an example. I have an online doctoral student who will send drafts of his dissertation for review. In this situation, it is best to give written feedback on his chapters to ensure he knows the exact errors to correct and how to correct them. However, I will also send video feedback discussing more significant concepts related to the draft. Therefore, he is receiving feedback using multiple methods. This allows me to avoid any miscommunication. It is not the tool itself that provides this meaningful connection, but rather how you use the tool and the course-related information you provide.
There are countless platforms for emerging users, many of which are free or very inexpensive. You do not need to be a technology expert to get started. You only need a true desire to enhance your pedagogy. Here are three of my favorite platforms:
Loom: This is an easy-to-use video recorder that has screen-capture technology. You can use it as a Chrome extension, or you can download it directly to your desktop. It has editing capabilities, and the best part is that you are notified when or if your students have watched your video. It is free, but for heavy users, it is best to pay for the premium option.
Flipgrid: This platform allows all learners to share their voices as they respond to, explain and demonstrate their learning through brief video responses. It is a true social learning platform. Flipgrid is a free, Microsoft product focused on students and educators, with instant video availability and webcam capture.
Screencast-o-Matic: This easy-to-use video recorder also has screen capture technology and integrates directly into many learning management software systems, such as Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, and D2L. You can publish your recordings to a variety of platforms or a private channel. It is free, but for heavy users, it is best to pay for the premium option.
These are only a few of the myriad online tools enhance a student’s learning experience. As faculty interests in active learning continue to increase, these tools can help bridge the divide in the online learning environment. The true success is not the use of such technology, but how you will deepen your connection with your students—which should always be the desired outcome.
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 Hattie, J., & Timperley. H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 81-112. doi: 10.3102/003465430298487, p. 81
Author Perspective: Administrator