Feedback In Learning: The Missing Link To eLearning Success?

Is Meaningful Feedback The Missing Link To eLearning Success?

Feedback Fuels Learning

Feedback in learning is critical for both instructors and students. For most instructors, feedback is meaningful when students craft time to read and implement suggested strategies, techniques, or ideas. For students, an opportunity to use feedback to demonstrate improvement is the core of its meaningfulness. Notwithstanding the varied perspectives and their relevance to different roles, establishing a common ground for meaningful feedback between instructors and students may serve as a bridge to success in online learning.

Factors To Consider When Providing Feedback

Length And Complexity Of Feedback

Some higher education institutions require diagnostic testing and have a formal process for reporting and decision-making. Collectively, a diagnostic may exist and the academic directive is to share it across professors teaching the same courses. Individually, the results can be used to gauge students’ strengths and areas for growth. Open-ended responses, which can be limited to one or two questions, provide an opportunity for instructors to assess reading, comprehension, and writing abilities. With this in mind, feedback on assignments is most effective when students comprehend the response. For this reason, general responses or a one-size-fits-all approach is discouraged. Critics may argue that having a response resource bank for copying and pasting is efficient, but there is still room to alter those responses to meet student needs. The students’ needs aligned with their abilities are the perfect indicator for the length and complexity of feedback.

Timing Of Feedback

The timing of feedback is of utmost importance as it precedes relevance and growth, two of the most dominant elements for student success. The challenge this presents for instructors cannot be neglected, but integrating technology and an intentional effort to make due dates reasonably spaced eases the pressure of grading. It is worth using textbook platforms that have preassigned questions with an interactive feature (immediate feedback), an eBook feature (link to textbook sources), a communication link (direct email to instructor), and supplementary features (additional practice, videos, calculators, and chapter guides). The timing of feedback should be considered during the planning phase of an online or hybrid course. When envisioned to proceed in parallel to the course sequence map, student success can be optimal.

Consistency Of Feedback

During the initial phase of the course, both instructors and students are enthused about the new learning. As time passes, there is a tendency for interest to dwindle, so hopefully the instructor will explore ways to reengage students. It is at this point that consistency in using feedback is most useful. One instance is a midweek check-in and feedback announcement, to supplement a weekly announcement (usually at the start of the week to guide students). Although one may point to the generalization of feedback in mid-week announcements, it is worth noting that there are opportunities for instructors to encourage students to view individual feedback. For example, “all assignments have been graded. Most students followed the template and checklist. Be encouraged to use the feedback to improve your project before final submission.” A timed release of announcements begets consistency and reduces the likelihood of missing a week’s announcement.

3 Creative Ways Instructors Can Incorporate Feedback In Learning

  1. Create a culture around feedback
    An icebreaker is a useful tool. A sample icebreaker could be: “Think of a time you were most successful in a class. What are some of the things you did? What are some of the things the instructor did?” If feedback was not mentioned in the response, then follow up with a direct question or comment regarding your intent to use feedback.
  2. Provide an opportunity for peer-to-peer feedback
    Instructors may assign a grade for peer feedback. Providing a rubric to score adds value to the process. Ultimately, there will be an increased use of feedback provided the reciprocity of students providing the feedback.
  3. Allow opportunities for students to use feedback
    Pacing a big-ticket assignment, like a project, into smaller segments can get the job done. When students get feedback, refine their work, and then resubmit, their success is optimized.


Feedback is critical in the eLearning process. Instructors err when feedback is inconsistent, incomprehensible, and irrelevant to the student’s experiential learning. Avoiding the pitfalls that negate the best use of feedback is recommended.