Better Feedback with Technology

Decorative: "Better Feedback for Better Teaching"


"How to Give Your Students Better Feedback with Technology: Advice Guide" (post; doc) suggests that "[t]echnology has the potential to make course feedback better — more effective, more engaging, more timely — but that won’t happen automatically ... [it] must be thoughtfully applied."

  • This guide provides information "on how to use technology to better evaluate and comment on students’ work."
  • "Whether you’re a novice or an expert user of technology, you will find useful tips and answers to common questions here."
  • Note: Each point (and sub-point) outlined here is developed more fully in the post/doc.

1. Essentials

a. What Students Want

  • "Students want feedback with specific, detailed directions for future improvement, offered in a manner that is both constructive and encouraging."
  • "And they want that advice sooner rather than later."

b. Benefical Time Frame

  • "[T]he ideal time for learners to receive feedback ranges from two to 15 work days."
  • "Beyond that point, students have moved on to other topics and learning activities and the feedback is much less helpful."

c. Technology Oprions for Feedback

  • "Rubrics: online scoring guides to evaluate students’ work."
  • "Annotations: notes or comments added digitally to essays and other assignments."
  • "Audio: a sound file of your voice giving feedback on students’ work."
  • "Video: a recorded file of you offering feedback either as a 'talking head,' a screencast, or a mix of both."
  • "Peer review: online systems in which students review one another’s work." 

2. Qualities of Good Feedback (See text for fuller discussion of each point.)

  • "Frequent"
  • "Specific"
  • "Balanced"
  • "Timely"

3. Time-Saving Approaches (See text for fuller discussion of each point.)

  • "Peer review can be a major time saver in large classes." 

4. Audios/Video and Text Feedback

a. Privilege Audio or Video When You Want To ... (See text for fuller discussion of each point.)

  • "[P]ersonalize your feedback."
  • "[C]onvey nuance."
  • "[D]emonstrate a process." 
  • "[A]void miscommunication." 
  • "[I]mprove your pedagogy."
  • "[B]e more connected and 'present' in your classroom."
  • "[K]eep up with the times." 

b. Digital Options for Text-Based Feedback

  • "Annotation tools"
  • "(Built-in) rubrics"
  • "Automated feedback" ("computer-assisted assessment ... [that] lets you reuse your written feedback")
  • "Electronic surveys or live polling"

5. Tips

a. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

  • "Most digital tools have online support forums."

b. "Start with tools your institution already has. "

  • "[U]se the digital-feedback tools integrated into your campus LMS" -- i.e. D2l/mycourselink
  • "Contact the Teaching Commons to learn about available tools, "getting-started tips, reference videos, dedicated support staff, FAQs, and the like." 

c. "Try the digital-feedback tools of a system with which you are already comfortable."

  • "[C]onsider ... screencasting software or web-conferencing tools you use for other work purposes."

d. "Mix it up. One size does not fit all."

  • "Use a mix of rubrics, written comments, annotations, and audio or video."
  • "The feedback tool should fit the student and the activity." 

e. "Make sure your choices are accessible for everyone." 

f. "Ask your students." 

  • They will "tell you how they feel about your teaching methods or other aspects of the course, especially when granted anonymity." 

g. "Expect a few roadblocks." 

  • Be aware of "technology limits — on file sizes or on downloading or access issues (for those with slow or limited internet) ... cost limitations," etc.

6. "Common Pitfalls and Smart Solutions"

a. "Don’t assume technology will solve every problem." 

  • "[V]ary your feedback techniques and select the most appropriate method for each assignment."

b. "Avoid making long videos." 

  • "[A]n overly long recording ... may deter them from watching/listening at all, especially if it takes a long time to download." 

c. "Video and audio feedback doesn’t have to be perfect."

  • "You can’t go back and delete those verbal tics in real-time, so don’t worry about doing so digitally."
  • Still, "practice what you are going to say before you hit record." 

d. "There is such a thing as too much information."

  • "Make sure you only talk about whatever it is you are pointing to on the video."
  • "[U]se the cursor or a highlighting tool to point out exactly what you are talking about so that your voice and the image(s) align for the learner." 

e. "Have a plan."

  • "Become familiar with the tool and its limitations ... [and] [p]lan how you will use it."
  • "As you teach ..., take notes on what technologies would or would not work in different situations." 
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