One of the most important things to consider when teaching online, is about finding ways to provide appropriate and effective feedback to students. Giving students feedback is even more important for online classes simply because the opportunities to communicate with your students are more limited. In an online environment, you need to be intentional about your interactions with students including communications about students’ performance. Students should be able to keep an eye on how well they achieve the learning goals, and you should be able to communicate your expectations so they can improve the work they are doing. Lack of feedback can leave students unsure about their work in the class and this could eventually discourage them.
At the same time, you might not want to spend too much time giving feedback to your students. Giving meaningful feedback is especially challenging if you have many students enrolled in your online class. Finding the right balance between giving enough feedback so your students can be successful in your class, and spending an acceptable amount of time should be one of your goals since day one. Here are some strategies to help you save time:
Develop a system or a routine
You can become more effective to give feedback to your students when you decide on a system. Schedule time in your calendar to grade assignments soon after they turn it in. Consider giving small amounts of feedback often rather than letting many assignments pile up for several weeks. Set a pattern to communicate your expectations incorporating positive & negative feedback, because the students will be more likely to follow your recommendations if you include their strengths and weaknesses. For example, celebrate your students’ success before you tell them they did something wrong and then you focus on a couple of important things students should improve. You might want to keep a bank of comments with constructive criticism or a document with most frequent sentences used to give feedback for a project or an essay. Once you have your template bank of comments you can add the student’s name or other details to personalize it. Personalized feedback keeps the students engaged in the class.
You might be using rubrics to inform your students how you will grade their assignments and communicate the criteria for what you consider to be quality work. Rubrics should be tailored to a specific assignment or project; avoid having one general rubric for all the assignments in your class, because this is confusing for the students (one-size doesn’t fit all). If you have taught your class before, remember what were the most common errors the students made or what were the errors that bothered you the most in an assignment. Divide them in topics; for example: analytical skills, grammar and spelling, teamwork, etc. Make a rubric with 3 to 5 performance levels for each topic (i.e., exemplary, acceptable, below expectations, etc.) and include a description for each level with some keywords that help students remember your expectations. You can use this tool to create a rubric online.
Written Feedback vs Audio Feedback
Usually faculty give feedback to students using text, but that is not the only way to do it. Some faculty find it better to record audio comments about the students’ work, especially when it takes them less time than writing comments. There is an option in Canvas that allows you to record audio feedback (or video feedback) for students submissions in Speedgrader. Most students find audio feedback more personal, easier to understand, and more engaging than written feedback, especially when they are in a writing intensive class or when the instructor is not very clear. However, visual learners and English as a Second Language (ESL) students might prefer written feedback; in this case, combining written feedback with audio would be a solution for them. Another option to give feedback is to make a short video to communicate with students about their performance.
Automated Feedback in Canvas
There is an option to give automated feedback to students on the Canvas Quizzes for the following questions: multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, multiple answers,Likert scale, matching, numerical answer, etc. You can write comments for each possible answer the student can select, including right and wrong answers. At the end of the options for each question, you could write general comments for your students.