Feedback on class work has been consistently cited as one of the most powerful influences on student learning and achievement (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Ongoing or formative feedback, given throughout the semester, helps students judge how well they understand the course concepts and recognize where they need increased effort or support to achieve the desired course outcomes. Without formative feedback, students won't have a clear sense of where they have gaps in knowledge and what steps they need to take to grow and meet the instructor's expectations before submitting their final project or writing their final exam. Good ongoing feedback also helps clarify exactly how their assignments will be graded, and on what grounds. Providing specific feedback to each student also helps them take control of and responsibility for their own learning, and builds trust and connection with the instructor.
One of the significant challenges of teaching online is losing direct much face-to-face contact between the instructors and students. A remote course doesn’t have as many opportunities to interact with your students simply in passing, and give them feedback on the fly. Some of this can still be achieved through the use of common instructional technology, though. Your online course feedback can still be effective, engaging, and timely using tools like Speedgrader, email, or virtual office hours on Zoom. Here are a few specific tools you can use to offer your students regular feedback on their progress in your course.
Comments and annotations on small assignments. Gradescope or Canvas Speedgrader both allow you to leave feedback for your students in the comments section in the forms of text, an attached file, audio, or video. In Speedgrader you can also annotate .pdf, .doc/.docx, and .ppt/.pptx assignments directly, with tools like highlight, draw, and in-line commenting. Using these tools for drafts or intermediate assignments during the term lets you comment on what you would most like your students to address in future work, just as richly as you would be able to by marking up paper assignments.
- Audio-based or Video-based feedback. Beyond written feedback, you might consider other modalities such as audio or video to communicate with remote students. Students who hear your voice or see your face on camera will find it easier to connect with you as another live human being, who they might go to with questions. Audio is a good option if you are looking for a fast way to provide feedback on a student's work, especially if you teach a large class and find writing feedback to be time-consuming. Canvas Speedgrader allows you to record audio or video comments on-the-spot, during grading. If you need to give detailed feedback on a project or an assignment with a strong visual element, it might be better to download and open the assignment on your computer, and record your screen with Kaltura Capture, so you can more easily point out specific visual elements as you go. You can upload Kaltura videos to Speedgrader, as well.
Rubrics. Rubrics are very helpful tools to give students a clear sense of how you are going to grade, and what evaluation criteria you will use to assess their work. In Canvas, you can build rubrics and attach them to any assignment or quiz. This displays the rubric to students and also lets you grade with them in Speedgrader simply by clicking on the appropriate level for each criterion. This can also greatly speed up the grading process! Providing rubrics as a regular part of assignments will help students manage their own learning and answer a lot of common questions. While this might not seem like a feedback tool, a rubric can actually be considered the very first step in establishing ongoing feedback to your students.
Peer Review. While it’s important for the instructor to provide feedback on student work, students can also provide useful feedback for each other. In an online or hybrid course, especially, including peer review opportunities helps sustain social engagement between students. It also ensures that your students get extra chances for feedback before final submission. In Canvas, you can use peer-review features in Canvas assignments or create a discussion board for students to give and receive feedback from peers on their projects or papers. In Zoom class meetings, you can use breakout rooms to give students a chance to discuss their work with peers. Peer review is especially useful when students work on scaffolded assignments (projects with multiple checkpoints and multiple opportunities for feedback). You can ask students to evaluate the first draft of an assignment or a project for their peers so they make improvements before submitting the final version to you. Since peer feedback works best with some direction, consider combining it with a rubric for the assignment. Applying the rubric themselves will help students understand it more deeply and apply it more effectively to their own work.
At this point of the semester, it’s worth mentioning that gathering feedback from students through surveys or Mid-semester Feedback (MSF) offers a valuable chance for you to target and refine your teaching material, especially online. Soliciting student feedback at the middle of the semester lets you learn your students' concerns and account for their suggestions while there is still time in the semester to make appropriate adjustments to the course.
If you’d like assistance choosing feedback tools for your particular courses, please reach out to us at: LSATSLearningTeachingConsultants@umich.edu or request a consultation here.
 The Chronicle of Higher Education, How to Give Your Students Better Feedback With Technology (2019)
 Stanford university, Feedback and Assessment
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112.