Students need much more support and
feedback in the online environment than in a traditional course.
This is because the potential threat that students feel alienated
is quite high in the Virtual Classroom. Using effective feedback
strategies will enable the instructor to identify and meet individual
student needs as well as encourage students to participate and
continue to participate at a high quality level. Here are strategies
for providing feedback in the Virtual Classroom:
Clearly communicate exactly how participants will be graded. This information
should be available on the first day of the course and included with
the syllabus. Students must know what to expect from the course and
what you expect from them as the instructor. They are probably taking
your course for credit, and grades are their primary concern, so the
assignments, the weight each assignment carries, due dates, and an
indication of evaluation criteria for the course as well as for each
assignment is important to show up front. Here's an example of an online
Arrange telephone office hours if
you see that any of your students are having difficulty online.
Set evening hours if most of your students work during the day.
Be prepared to use a variety of
delivery systems for feedback in case the technological system
fails. Examples are one-on-one and conference calls, fax, electronic
mail, video and computer conferencing. When feasible, consider
personal visits as well (traditional office hours).
Take note of students who dont
participate during the first session, and contact them individually
after class. They may have technological difficulties, and it is
critical to get them resolved as soon as possible. If students
are focusing on the medium of delivery, they cannot focus on the
Return graded assignments to students personal
mailboxes within 48 hours. Provide substantive critique, comment,
and/or evaluation for work submitted by individual students or
groups, referring to additional sources for supplementary information
where appropriate. Feedback on grades must be PRIVATE communication.
The feedback process continues the
learning experience, adds depth and insight to the discussion already
provided by the student, and affords the instructor an opportunity
to reaffirm key concepts as well as provide closure to the weeks
discussion. This is a fundamental and vital part of the online
instructors role in the Virtual Classroom.
Provide private, weekly updates
to EACH participant on their grade status. A student must never
be more than seven days away from current grade status ever.
For example, a short message praising a student on his/her contributions
to the class discussions (or encouraging him/her to contribute
more), a list of assignments received to date as well as those
still outstanding, and a general overall course evaluation up to
that point. This serves to keep the student on track, lets him/her
know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed, and offers an
opportunity to resubmit any misdirected assignments.
Respond privately to personal messages
within 24 hours of receipt.
Thank students publicly for comments
submitted to the Virtual Classroom showing insight or depth. This
will serve to model the types of responses and critical thinking
skills you expect from other participants as well as give positive
reinforcement to the student who contributed the message.
Appear in the Virtual Classroom
no less than five times a week (ideally, and instructor should
appear every day).
Make comments that go beyond simple
questioning or agreement in order to the model critical thinking
you expect of your students. Make interpretive as well as descriptive
Integrate theory with observations
and applications when appropriate.
Know what you are looking for and
involve yourself to help make it happen. Irrespective of the specific
learning activity, the instructor should recognize quality work
and intervene as the work is being developed to steer students
in the right direction. When the instructor participates in a conference
providing extensive critique, feedback, and encouragement, students
cannot help but become more involved.
Do not comment on every student
posting. Much like in face-to-face class discussions let the conversation
develop and give students a chance to participate before jumping
in with in depth comments/feedback or analysis.
Use your students' feedback regarding
course content, relevancy, pace, delivery problems, and instructional
concerns to improve your course for the next time you teach it. If
possible, use this feedback as formative assessment and implement
small changes to the course as you teach it. This will show your
students that you are responding to their needs.