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 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
We 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 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 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.