Earning an A+ in Online Feedback

-By Ashley Canning, Educational Technology Instructional Designer

A+Receiving feedback is an important part of the student learning process. By providing students with constructive feedback, instructors give them the opportunity to reflect and build upon what they learned. Providing feedback also gives students an idea of where they stand in terms of meeting course objectives.

In the traditional classroom, feedback may consist of paper annotations, rubrics, and one-on-one meetings. But how does this translate into the online classroom?

Digital Markup Solutions

Digital markup solutions have replaced the traditional pen and paper when it comes to providing feedback in the online classroom. In the past, many instructors have relied upon using Microsoft Word’s markup tool to give feedback via comments and by correcting student text. As learning management systems (LMS) have evolved, they have included similar markup tools within their systems. Blackboard, for example, has an inline grading feature that allows instructors to add comments and markup text directly within Blackboard. This eliminates the need for downloading assignments and using outside tools to give students feedback.

Rubric Tools

A rubric is a great, free tool for setting clear expectations and providing informative feedback to students. There are many tools to help with creating new or digitizing existing rubrics.

RubiStar is a great tool to help with creating new rubrics. It provides customizable templates based upon subject or assignment type. After you’ve created your rubric, you can print or save it to your computer.

LMS’s like Blackboard now have rubric tools integrated within the system. The Blackboard rubrics tool allows instructors to create rubrics within Blackboard that can then be associated with assignments, provided to students, and easily used for grading.

Recording Feedback with Screen Capture Tools

While some students can learn a lot from written feedback, others get more out of verbal feedback. That’s where screen recording tools can help. These tools allow instructors to open student assignments on their computer, capture their screen as they scroll through or annotate the assignment, and record their voice as they offer verbal feedback.

Here at Duquesne, we offer MyMediasite as a screen recorder option. MyMediasite allows you to record your screen, upload it to a school server, and share it with students via a link. Screen-cast-o-matic is a great free alternative for others that don’t have access to MyMediasite.

Verbal Feedback Options

If you don’t have a need for sharing your screen but would still like to give verbal feedback, you still have options. Some LMS’s have voice recording tools integrated within them. At Duquesne, we have the Blackboard Collaborate Voice Board tool, which allows an instructor to record verbal feedback for the entire class or individual students. Those that don’t have this option are likely to have a voice recording tool integrated into their own computers. Using this software, instructors can record feedback and then post it within their own LMS or email it to their students.

Providing Live Feedback with Web Conferencing Tools

When possible, live feedback can greatly benefit students. Web conferencing tools offer a solution to traditional office hours by giving instructors and students the ability to meet online in real time. Such tools offer voice, webcam, and screen share capabilities. Using a web conferencing tool, students and instructors can pull up an assignment, share it, and talk through any questions or concerns. Duquesne offered tools like GoToMeeting are great for this use case.

There are free web conferencing options available for those that don’t have access to GoToMeeting. For more information on these options, check out this article from eLearning Industry. Note that since this article was written, some of the tools have switched from completely free to free trials. Keep this in mind when choosing a solution that works for you.

Things to Consider

One important thing to keep in mind is that, just like in the traditional classroom, constructive feedback is key. Things like “good job” or “work harder” are not good feedback. Effective feedback points out student strengths and weaknesses and provides students with the opportunity to build upon their knowledge. For tips on providing effective feedback, check out this article from Edutopia.

Another thing to consider when providing online feedback is the public nature of some online tools. When publishing student feedback online, remember to keep FERPA in mind. Never share student information publicly. Many tools offer the ability to set uploaded content to private so that the only way others can view it is by clicking on a specific URL. Pay close attention to these options. You wouldn’t want to make student feedback searchable so that others outside of you and the student could find it.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn more about providing meaningful feedback, check out our Assessing Diverse Learners and Blackboard Rubrics workshops. Keep an eye out for our May workshop schedule to see when these sessions will be offered next!

How do you provide online feedback to your students? Share your ideas by leaving a comment!


Pappas, C. (2013). 15 Free Web Conferencing Tools. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from http://elearningindustry.com/15-free-web-conferencing-tools

Stenger, M. (2014). 5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/tips-providing-students-meaningful-feedback-marianne-stenger

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