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eLearning Frenzy

eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

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feedback

Connect With Online Students – Make Feedback Personal

banner-people-connectedOne of the challenges for any online instructor is making students feel a sense of community or connectedness in their online course.  There are multiple strategies that can be put into place to meet this challenge head-on.  Today’s blog post will focus on the feedback the instructor gives in an online course and how it can connect the student more personally with the instructor.

The type of feedback an instructor provides can have a tremendous affect upon the student/instructor dynamic in an online course.  Students who feel like they know their instructor report higher satisfaction levels and tend to be more engaged with the courses they are taking. Conversely, students that don’t sense instructor presence in the course tend to feel less satisfaction and engagement, and that can be reflected in course evaluations.

The following are steps an instructor can take to connect with online students via course feedback:

1. Leave specific feedback.

Be purposeful about leaving feedback that deals specifically with aspects of a student’s submitted work. A side-effect of a good best practice to save time for online instructors is that sometimes generic feedback can be used to a fault. The online instructor can counteract this by leaving specific feedback about the students’ attempt every few assignments.

2.  Use student names when leaving feedback.

Starting assignment feedback with a student’s name immediately personalizes the interaction.  Placing emphasis on the personal before leaving the feedback of the assignment, points to interest on the part of the instructor in the student’s individual attempt. The idea that an instructor cares about student success is vitally important in any course, online or otherwise.

3. Use multimedia to personalize the interaction.

To a student sitting at their workstation/laptop/tablet, a grade or text-based feedback in an online course can seem almost sterile and devoid of the human touch that comes from the professor handing back grades in a face-to-face course.  Luckily, most LMS’s these days come with tools that can make the feedback interaction more personal.  Just the sound of the instructor’s voice will add a personal dimension to the feedback experience.  The addition of video to assignment feedback kicks it up a notch!

Audio Feedback with Blackboard Collaborate Voice AuthoringAt SHSU, Blackboard is the Learning Management System for online, hybrid and web-enhanced course offerings, and it comes equipped with tools that can enhance the feedback experience.  It also interacts well with third party tools and other types of files that can fulfill the same type of need for students.  For example faculty can use the Blackboard Collaborate Voice Authoring Mashup to leave audio feedback directly in the feedback of the assignment.

As a bonus a student is not just limited to hearing the disembodied voice of the online instructor for feedback.  Faculty members can also use the Video Everywhere tool to drop a recorded video into the feedback shown to the student.  The Video Everywhere tool utilizes YouTube to either link to a video uploaded to the instructors YouTube account or record a video at the point of feedback and place it directly.

Using Video Everywhere for FeedbackIf the instructor does not have ready access to a webcam or microphone on their computer, he or she can record a video with their smartphone and upload it to YouTube as an unlisted video, then link to the video with the Video Everywhere tool.  Instructors can also use voice recording apps to attach audio files to feedback for online students.

Personalizing feedback for an online course is an important best practice for any instructor. However, personalizing every feedback entry for every student would take too much time away from grading and other important interactions.  As with all things, moderation is key.  Try provide a few personal interactions for each student, each semester, letting them know that the instructor is committed to their success and is willing to connect with students on a more personal level.

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The Course Blog: An Online Instructor’s Best Friend

Course BlogAn online instructor has many “friends” or tools to help facilitate communication, assessment, collaboration and learning in their online course. In many instances a faculty will chose one tool over the other for obvious reasons. A course blog can cover a number of bases and it is a medium that many of your students will already be familiar for helping to digest information. This blog post (<– see what I did there) will cover just a few ways that a course blog can benefit you and your students.

  1. Engage StudentsA Blog Can Keep Your Students Informed and Engaged

    It is already a best practice for you to communicate regularly with your students. A blog can help facilitate that practice by helping you to post weekly (or more depending upon your need). Ensure your students have a expectation of having to check the blog regularly and can expect (from you) a post each week.

    Part of what you are trying to do here is remind your students of upcoming assignments, readings, or research as well as giving them waypoints or signposts where they should be paying attention.

  2. FeedbackUse the Blog for Feedback

    One of the best ways to utilize your course blog is to make it a feedback mechanism. Letting your students know that you are reading their assignment submissions, discussions and other assessments assures them that you are taking an active part on their learning journey. For example, use the blog post to sum up student discussion posts or submitted papers for the week giving kudos (by name) to students who are really bringing it home and challenges where the class maybe coming up a little short. You can turn the feedback around and have them comment on a blog post to collect feedback.

  3. Searching Made EasyThe Course Blog Makes Finding Information Easy

    Have a course blog means that your students will know where to go to find the out what’s happening in your course. They know that they can use the tool to search for the data they want.

    Digging through a syllabus or checking old announcements can be time consuming for some students. The course blog provides a familiar interface that is easy to search for needed information. In many instances, students can search by category, key word or date (week, month etc..). The blog keeps an archive of old posts so your students will know exactly where to look.

Keeping your students informed, engaged and in the loop is key to ensure they have a successful leg in their educational journey. The course blog allows you to let your students know what’s going on, provide feedback and provides an easy way to find all of that information.

*Blackboard Learn provides the added benefit of associating your picture with each post and your students’ pictures with each comment, thereby making the experience more personal and connecting.

Feedback Strategies for your Online Course

Feedback Strategies in your Online Course

I originally posted this over at the SHSU Online blog in March.

Engagement in online courses is key for student success, teacher evaluation and the overall course experience.  A great way to promote student engagement in your online course is to work on feedback. Students that receive regular feedback tend to perform better and as a result have good opinions of their time in the course.  There are many sound strategies for providing feedback in an online course.  For our purposes, we will focus on four of them: Audio Feedback on assignments, Summing up Student Discussions, Peer Feedback and Feedback from the Future.

Audio FeedbackAudio feedback on assignments:
Adding your voice to feedback on assignments can be very beneficial for you and your students.  Giving voice to your thoughts cuts down on misconstruing the intent of the message and allows for emphasis to be easily related.  The students also feel more connected with you and will be more likely to become engaged in the course.  Having different types of feedback helps with content retention so more of what point you were trying to get across is retained.  Finally your students will feel like you take a more personal interest in their learning in that you are leaving audio feedback that is specifically for them.

Summing up discussion – providing kudos and challenges
Discussion SUmWe all know that asynchronous discussions are powerful tools in any online course.  What is also known is that they can be a lot of work for any online instructor.  Trying to post replies for all students in a larger class, across multiple boards throughout a semester can be a daunting task under the best of circumstances.

A great way to provide feedback for classes with a large amount of discussion board traffic is to provide a weekly summation post/e-mail/announcement.  This summation not only allows you to wrap up the topic and direct further research and review, it also allows you to give out kudos for well thought out posts (by name) and challenge postings that may have fallen short for one reason or another.  The kudos and challenges promote engagement by letting the students know you are reading and letting you know that they are thinking critically about the topic.

Peer FeedbackPeer Feedback
Peer feedback in online courses serves the wonderful purpose of reinforcing concepts the student is learning, but it also promotes accountability and engagement in the course.  In order to comment intelligently on each other’s work the students must have at least a basic understanding of the concepts they are discussing.  Not only do they have to think critically about the content they are posting, but they also must put thought into how to respond to the ideas of others.

Making peer feedback part of your course structure promotes accountability.  For example if group members know that part of their grade will take into account member feedback about their performance in the group they will be more apt recognize that they will be held accountable in terms of group work.

Feedback from the FutureFeedback from the future!
Another title that might more aptly describe this concept is “preventative feedback”.    This could be something as simple as popping an e-mail to a student who hasn’t checked into the course in the past couple of days, or looking at how the student is trending in your course gradebook to come up with a roadmap for their success.

Be giving preventative feedback, you might reconnect with a student lost in the jumble of ones and  zeros or help the student who is struggling with a particular part of your course, thereby avoiding the ultimate in bad feedback: the failing grade.

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