Friday, March 25, 2016

Online Discussions

David Backer, The Purpose of Online Discussions They are not the same as classroom discussions, of course we knew that, but they still serve a great purpose.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where to Post Feedback in Online Courses

OK, on one hand, it is pretty straight-forward that you are going to post your feedback through your course management system.  But that is not as simple as it sounds.  For example, in BB, you could post feedback on a rubric; it could be directly on a submitted paper; it could be in the "feedback to learner" box; or it could even be through email.  The important thing is that your students understand where your comments are going to be, and maybe even more importantly, know how to find those comments.  For example, in our courses a lot of students are unable to find the rubrics.

You should also consider sending out to the entire class some general feedback on an assignment; that can be done either before the assignment due date (so students have some ideas of what to, or what not to, do on the assignment) or you can send out some general notes after an assignment has been graded.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quality of Feedback in Online Courses

Well, I've already covered speed and quantity of feedback in online courses, and then I thought about quality of feedback.  The more I thought about it, I realized that is kind of tied up with what I wrote about quantity of feedback.  It is far better to be spot on with some specific feedback then to ramble on and on and on with thousands of minor errors in a student assignment.

Two important points about quality: (1) you should always find something positive about the student's work, even if it is only the fact that the student actually submitted something; (2) you always add the encouragement that you are more than happy to review a resubmitted assignment.  That gives the student the opportunity for improvement and also let's the student know that there was something worthwhile in his/her work that can be improved on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Amount of Feedback in Online Courses

My last post was on the importance of speed, i.e., timely feedback in online courses.  In this post, I'd like to make some comments about the amount of feedback.  Of course, the amount and details of your feedback depend on your course, whether it is a graduate-level seminar of nuclear mechanics or a musical composition course or an introductory survey to western history.

Your feedback should be appropriate for your course goals/objectives and appropriate to your audience.  Let me restrict myself to the survey history courses that I teach.  If my primary goal in the courses is to teach critical analysis of primary sources, then feedback that targets a student's analysis is most important, and red-pen markups of grammatical errors on a paper is of secondary importance.  Yet what students see when they look at their feedback is the grammar corrections.  They are not going to get the important feedback that you are trying to give them about developing analytical thesis points and then supporting that analysis with evidence.

You do not want to swamp students with feedback, because then a student will be less likely to discern the key parts of the feedback.  A student is not quite sure what you are really asking them to focus on.  So, for example, on a typical, five-paragraph, or one-page paper, feedback might be 25 words max.  Short, succinct, and to the point.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Speed of Feedback in Online Courses

It is absolutely crucial in online courses that turn-around for feedback/grading be quick and happen with a defined time frame.  That could be 12 hours, could be 24 hours, could be 48 hours, but it shouldn't be longer.

Gone are the days when students would hand a paper in class one week and get back a graded paper two weeks later.  Because students are often working around their own schedules, and at their own pace online, you've got to get feedback back to them swiftly so that they can stay on their schedules.

The feedback doesn't have to be exhaustive; you can also offer more to students if they request it, but it does have to be speedy.  That also let's students know that you are engaged with them in the learning process.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


A lot of instructors struggle to develop an appropriate amount of feedback to students, often straying in the direction of too little or veering off on the opposite tangent and providing copious amounts of feedback.  No doubt, a lot depends on the kind of assignment  (free write, in class prompt versus a formal, twenty-page research paper.  But an important point to always remember is that if the student does not read, understand and learn from feedback, then the feedback is pointless.

Since I deal mostly in the online world, it is double critical that instructors get the feedback equation correct.  I'm going to try out a MOOC in a few weeks on Performance Evaluation in the Online Classroom with the hope of finding some quick resources to be able to share with instructors.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yes, Virginia Lecture Can Be a Good Thing

See the nice, quick video "Lecture isn't a Bad Word" by Dr. Lodge McCammo, which reminds us that there is a role to be played by "lecture" in both the campus and online settings.   But that doesn't mean 75 minutes of lecture is an effective teaching technique, nor is reading from one's lecture notes.