Guest Author - Elizabeth Stuttard
Students feel that feedback is very important in distance learning classes. Lack of feedback is one of the most often identified criticisms of online courses taken by students. Usually those students are referring to feedback from the instructor. However, feedback can also come from other students and from self-reflection. Here are some suggestions for using feedback to increase everyone’s learning in distance learning courses.
1. Set learning goals for your course based upon the particular course so that you know throughout the course whether you are meeting those goals. You should also be aware of how those goals lead to your longer term goals. The feedback you receive will help to accomplish and/or adjust these goals.
2. Use a journal or a learning portfolio to document what you have successfully learned and what you still need to study for the goals you are working towards. It can also be a place to reflect upon any feedback you have received or to reflect upon the work you have done. This is a way to give some feedback to yourself.
3. Do a self-analysis of your work before you hand it in and after it is returned. Some time will have passed and you will see it with fresh eyes.
4. When you receive your assignments back, read the instructor’s comments on them and think about them. This will help you to learn how to do better on future projects. If there are no comments but your grade is less than what you expected or desired, read the general comments given for the assignment. Maybe many students made similar types of errors and the instructor addressed them in a posting for the whole class. If you still don’t know how to improve, send an e-mail to ask the instructor.
5. Ask for feedback from peers.
6. Give good and thoughtful feedback when requested from others. Keep in mind what would be helpful to you when giving feedback to other students. Tell them why something is good or bad. Is it easy or difficult to understand, confusing, an idea well supported or in need of supporting evidence, etc. Instructors also ask for feedback at times. Sometimes they have tried a new technique such as video for example, or it is the end of the course and they want to know what worked well for you and what didn’t. Being honest about what worked well for you and why some things didn’t work for you at all, will help the instructor to make positive changes to the course which will benefit future students. The most important factor in your feedback is that it be constructive. Don’t just be negative. Tell how something can be improved.
7. Use questions as a method of giving feedback e.g. “Is that a fact or an assumption you have stated?” or “I understand that you are saying.......Is my interpretation correct?” Such questions often help others to see that they are not writing clearly.
There are many things you can learn from feedback and that feedback can come from various sources – your instructor, other students, and your own self-analysis. Try to learn as much as you can from each of these sources. This will increase the amount you learn in each distance learning course. You should also try to learn how to provide good feedback in each of these ways. Giving good feedback is an important skill that you will use in all areas of your life.