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Providing Timely Feedback in Blackboard

CHSS Online Teaching Initiative

Providing Timely Feedback

Timely feedback is associated with improved learning outcomes (Sadler, 1998), as well as self-regulated learning (Nicol & MacFarlane-Dick, 2006). In the digital age, immediate feedback is sometimes expected. Instructors must make it clear when they will provide feedback to students after submission of their work and what type of feedback they should expect (grading rubrics, comments, or level of edits). This information can be provided within the assignment description and grading criteria, the course syllabus, or both.

Make sure to post an announcement in Blackboard reminding students to view feedback in conjunction with their grades. Also, offer further directions for resubmission if revisions are allowed.

Clear assessment, including formative and summative feedback, are essential to student learning in online courses. Shute defines formative feedback as the type of feedback that is intended to modify the learner’s thinking or behavior for the purpose of improving learning” (1). If an instructor asks students to write and revise drafts of projects, he/she uses formative feedback. When offering formative feedback, concentrate on evaluating students’ level of performance (how well a student has responded to the task) and provide simple and clear directions for improvement. Summative feedback refers to the final assessment of student learning that can be done by, for instance, administering quizzes and tests that cannot be revised.

Formative feedback, and the types of assignments that require revision, is associated with improved student learning outcomes (LeClercq, 2001) and self-regulated learning (Yorke, 2003), in comparison to summative feedback, and should ideally be included in online classes. Below are sample types of assignments and procedures that support formative assessment and feedback.

Types of Assignment and Procedures
Methods of clarifying performance standards to students
  • Provide grading criteria with assignment descriptions.
  • Encourage peer review using grading criteria.
  • Encourage self-assessment using grading criteria.
  • Make reference to a grading rubric or grading criteria.
  • Create a discussion board where students can post questions about grading standards.
Nicol & Milligan, 2006; Palloff & Pratt, 2005
Methods to facilitate self-reflection
  • Ask students to produce summaries of learning activities.
  • Ask students to reflect on assessment.
  • Organize group discussions about assessment.
  • Ask students to produce a chart of learning assessment and related learning outcomes.
  • Assign portfolios.
Cotterlli et al., 2005; LeClercq, 2001; Nicol & Milligan, 2006; Palloff & Pratt, 2005
Methods to facilitate self-assessment
  • Create and use self-mastery quizzes with informative feedback for each answer.
  • Use self-scoring quizzes.
  • Create interactive games or laboratory assignments with feedback provided.
Bulls & McKenna, 2004; Nicol & Milligan, 2006
Methods to provide high quality information about learning
  • Offer model answers to tests.
  • Share sample written assignments.
  • Provide sample answer keys.
Nicol & Milligan, 2006; Orsmond, Merry, & Reiling, 2002
Methods to encourage dialogue among students and between a professor and students
  • Ask for draft submissions on written assignments.
  • Publish a model for revised written assignments.
  • Use peer review.
  • Use student tutors and/or student instructors.
Davies, 2003; Nicol & Milligan, 2006
Methods to increase student motivation and self-efficacy
  • Provide positive comments.
  • Recognize effort.
  • Encourage improvement and offer opportunities to succeed.
LeClercq, 2001; Nicol & Milligan, 2006
Methods to close the gap between actual and expected performance
  • Provide specific clear guidelines for improvement.
  • Use draft submissions.
  • Give opportunities to edit discussion posts.
  • Offer opportunities for re-testing.
Davies, 2003; Nicol & Milligan, 2006