Extension Engine
Blog

Delivering High Quality Feedback Using Technology

As the COVID-19 global health crisis continues and many universities are now delivering the remainder of their semester’s lessons remotely, educators must grapple with the issue of providing students feedback using a combination of traditional and non-traditional methods.

Luckily, Associate Professor Michael Henderson and Dr. Michael Phillips from the Faculty of Education at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia have been providing their students feedback on their performance on summative assessments like essays, term papers, and even exams through digital technologies with great satisfaction from both students and teachers alike.

 

Table of Contents

 

What is multimodal feedback?

Multi-modal assessment feedback is feedback provided to students on their assignments either by a short (2-5 minute), unscripted, unedited video speaking directly to each student through a webcam, or by screencasting (where the instructor is making a video recording of their screen while interacting with a digital copy of the student’s assignment up on their screen), or by a combination of video and screencasting. The simplest way to deliver multimodal feedback is when the instructor makes an audio recording of themself talking about the student’s work.

There is a strong case for providing multimodal feedback after summative assessments like reports, exams, and term papers. In the case of formative assessments with objectively right and wrong answers, instructors can ensure students receive feedback immediately taking the assessment by encoding the feedback into an LMS. For summative assessments, students tend to either receive minimal feedback (notes in the margin of the assignment or if a student chooses to meet with the instructor to discuss their performance) or simply none at all (instructor gave written feedback on the assignments but students did not collect the exams after finals). 

Delivering assessment feedback in a multimodal format allows students to access the feedback later with 100% fidelity means they can easily refer back to the feedback at a later date and still reap the full benefit of the feedback. And it creates a lasting record of the student’s progress.

Here is an example video session of assessment feedback delivered through screencasting.

 

What does the research on multimodal feedback show?

Surprisingly, researchers at the Digital Education Research (DER) group at Monash University found that it took instructors half the amount of time to create video-based feedback than it took them to create text-based feedback

Instructors reported feeling that creating multimodal feedback allowed them to engage with their students in a way that was impossible to do via writing alone, they felt excited that providing multimodal feedback allowed them to deepen their relationship with each student and have the students trust them more and therefore trust the feedback they received from their instructor.

Students reported finding multimodal feedback to be more detailed and clearer to follow as well as more useful and actionable. Students also reported perceiving multimodal feedback to be more individualized than either written or verbal feedback. They also reported feeling a stronger connection to the instructors. A very small minority of students preferred text-based (written) feedback because they felt it was faster to skim through.

 

Why provide multimodal feedback?

It is quicker and deeper than written feedback: You can say a lot more in 2 minutes than you can write — or even type — in 2 minutes. Now imagine writing out the feedback that came to your mind for each student. That would take a lot longer than speaking for 2 minutes. This will allow you to give a deeper analysis of the student’s performance. (And, as an added bonus, no one has to be able to decipher your handwriting!)

Individual and personalized: Students perceived the video-based feedback as being personal, and specific to them, as individuals. In the case of feedback provided either via all video or all screencasting, students felt that the instructor was having a conversation with them. Creating multimodal feedback allows you to develop a deeper connection with each student in a way that writing a few notes on their paper simply cannot.

No special technical skills necessary: You really don’t need experience in media production. If you have ever made a video of your kids or your pets, you have all the necessary technical skills you need to create multimodal feedback. These videos are not meant to be polished and perfect. It is okay to fumble a bit, or have “Er”s and “Um”s in the final video.  

It is less ambiguous: Feedback provided through audio and video provide students with more cues than written feedback alone, which helps them interpret your feedback correctly. If you are sharing your screen during part of the recording to show the specific parts of their assignment your feedback is referring to, students gain a clearer understanding of which parts of their performance they need to work on. 

Your feedback will always follow the same structure: You are already an expert in your field; that’s why you are the instructor. There is nothing inherently different about the feedback you would have given a student in person and the feedback you will be giving through technology. There is no script. We have included a user-friendly version of the guide that researchers at DER created to help instructors structure their feedback. Once you create a few, you will likely not even need to refer to it. Following the feedback structure will ensure that you are providing each student with substantial and actionable feedback, whether they are the first assignment you graded or the last one. And, here’s a handy list of tools you probably are already familiar with to use to record your feedback.

 

When to record multimodal feedback

Multimodal feedback is best if recorded immediately after the instructor has completed grading the student’s assignment. The instructor’s analysis of the student’s work is topmost on the instructor’s mind and there is no chance of forgetting some comments or muddling feedback for one student up with the feedback for a different student.

 

How to structure your feedback

Table 1 describes in detail the seven structural elements that your multimodal feedback should comprise of. Figure 1 visually represents the relative amounts of time each structural element should take within your feedback recording. 

Table 1: Template for providing useful and personalized assessment feedback using technologies with examples.
Table modified from M. Phillips. “Technology Mediated Feedback: Powerful, Clear, and Personalized.” MIT xTalks. October 23, 2019.

Structural Element

Description

Example(s)

1. Salutation: Greet your student

Conversational and informal way to begin the call. 

This should be personalized for each student.  

“Hi, Lee!”

2. Relational Work: Connect the feedback to a prior event

Recognizing and valuing the student’s personal circumstance and/or history. This will deepen your relationship with the student.

This could even include a sympathetic comment if you know the student has been ill recently.  

“Thank you for submitting X; I can see how much effort you have put into researching Y!”

“I can see you have made a lot of changes to the introduction based on my last feedback.”

3. Goal of the Recording: State the primary focus of the feedback

Explaining which issues the feedback will primarily focus on so as to give the student continue to strengthen their work. This will allow you to (a) focus most of your recording on the key issues, and (b) clarify that the purpose of the feedback is not to justify the grade they got. 

“I’ve seen a lot of great work in this piece, and I want to call out some of those specific points but then spend most of this time focusing on a few key issues that I think could really strengthen your work.”

4. Evaluative Summary: Provide the summary of your evaluation

Giving a general statement of evaluation of the work provides an introduction to the feedback.

It is not necessary to bring up the grade received by the student. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed . . . but there are some issues with X we need to talk about, namely . . .”

“The essay is very strong in its theoretical approach . . . needs work in . . .”

5. Textual Issues: Highlight key textual issues

Briefly describing the nature, pattern and extent of textual issues with an occasional example should suffice here. This should be a broad overview of textual issues only. 

“The sentences you have used to describe the procedure for X are long and complex. Consider breaking them up in this way . . .”

6. Substantive Feedback: Provide substantive feedback emphasizing opportunities for improvement

Engaging with the specific conclusions, arguments, logic, justification, literature review, gaps and flaws is the focus here. Talk about what they could have done differently, alternative theories. This section should provide the students enough help to improve their work. Usually, 2-3 issues are discussed in detail, regardless of the student’s grade. 

This section should form the bulk of your feedback recording. 

Phrase your comments to emphasize how the student can improve their performance in future assignments or future work in the field.

“While this is a good summary of the research done to date in furthering digital genetic logic, your analysis of the current state of synthetic biology is incomplete without an analysis of analogous or continuous logic genetic circuits.”

7. Valediction and Invitation: Empathise with the student and invite them to continue the conversation on their progress

This is relational work, similar in a way to the second structural element (connect the feedback to a prior event). Use the student’s name again. Congratulate or commiserate with their result on the assignment, and invite them to to reach out to you or other resources to continue the discussion of this feedback and future work. 

“I understand that you feel disappointed with the grade you received on this assignment. I hope you find my comments and suggestions helpful. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss my feedback in more detail, or would like support outlining your next essay, and I can set up a time for us to talk about it.”

 
Figure 1: A schema for structuring technology-enhanced feedback.
M. Phillips. “Technology Mediated Feedback: Powerful, Clear, and Personalized.” MIT xTalks. October 23, 2019

Schema-feedback

This video shows a professor commenting on the substance of a science report by a student. This feedback in this video corresponds to section 6 of the structure template and the widest part of the visual representation of the feedback structure in Figure 1. The depth of feedback is similar to what you would expect in a face-to-face conversation with the student on the substance of their report.

 

Tips for recording multimodal feedback

Pick a quiet place: With all of us stuck at home right now, it can be challenging to find a quiet place in which to make your recordings. Your students will understand if it is not 100% distraction free. However, try to pick a quiet place and time in your home -- maybe after your children go to bed, or not when your dog is having a case of the “zoomies”. Remember, we're all human, and it's ok if something does interrupt your recording. As long as you're comfortable sharing what interrupted your recording with your student, you don't need to start all over again.

Your face should be clearly visible: The student should be able to see your face so pick a spot where the light is on you and adjust your laptop distance or webcam so that your face and shoulders are visible. This is not a polished video, so it is okay to move and to use your hands to express yourself. Below are some stills taken from various points in a video feedback file. You can see that the instructor is smiling and using his hands to express himself. 

Figure 2: Frames from a video feedback recording.
Henderson, M. & Phillips M. (2014) Technology-Enhanced Feedback on Assessment.

Video-feedback

Keep file size low: Keeping the file size low will keep your files manageable. Recording in 4K or full HD resolution is entirely unnecessary. As long as your students can see your facial expressions and clearly hear your voice, your video quality is good enough. Smaller file sizes will make uploading a batch of video to the LMS faster.

How to record your feedback

The links below will take you to the instructions for creating the type of feedback on the type of machine you are using.

Video-only Recording

Click on the link for the type of device you will be using for instructions on how to provide feedback in the form of a video recording of yourself talking “directly” to each student”:

  • Apple laptop
  • PC/Windows 
  • Smartphone 
    • You don’t need a tripod, just use a pile of books on a table or counter to get the phone to the right height and prop the phone up against something.
    • The process for creating a video using an Android phone is the same even if the apps have different names. 
  • Online/Web-based

Screen-Recording 

Click on the link for the type of device you will be using for instructions on how to provide feedback in the form of a screen-recording where the student can see their assignment on your screen and hear your feedback as audio simultaneously:

  • Apple laptop
  • PC/Windows - unfortunately, there aren’t simple options for doing directly on a PC laptop, however there is a workaround:
    • Zoom: Set up a 30 minute Zoom call for yourself. Start recording the call, and share your screen with the student’s assignment on it. Record as many feedback videos as you can in that time. Remember to minimize all the other student assignments except the one you will be recording feedback for next to preserve your students’ privacy. You will have to cut the video so that each student only sees feedback on their assignment. 
  • Online/Web-based

Combination of Video and Screen-Recording

  • Apple laptop
  • PC/Windows - unfortunately, there aren’t simple options for doing directly on a PC laptop, however there is a workaround:
    • Zoom: Set up a 30 minute Zoom call for yourself. Start recording the call, and share your screen with the student’s assignment on it. Record as many feedback videos as you can in that time. Remember to minimize all the other student assignments except the one you will be recording feedback for next to preserve your students’ privacy. You will have to cut the video so that each student only sees feedback on their assignment. 
  • Online/Web-based

Once you have finished recording, reduce the size of your video file so it is easier to upload to the web or to share by email. Export your video (usually under the File menu of whatever recording app you are using whether on an Apple or a PC laptop) as a 720p or 480p for lower resolution videos, or “Audio Only” to create just the audio file of your feedback.

 

How to share your feedback

Once you have recorded feedback for all your students, upload it to the LMS your school uses (Canvas, Blackboard etc.) along with the class grade. Your students will be able to download their feedback directly from the LMS. It is advisable to avoid uploading the feedback files to a public hosting service such as YouTube in the interest of student privacy.

 

Additional Resources

Prof. Henderson and Dr. Phillips and their team at the Digital Education Research (DER) at Monash University have outlined principles for the design of teacher-created assessment feedback artifacts. These principles apply to all feedback, not just multimodal feedback.  

Table 2: Principles for the design of effective assessment feedback.
Table modified from M. Phillips. “Technology Mediated Feedback: Powerful, Clear, and Personalized.” MIT xTalks. October 23, 2019.

Principle

Description

Be timely

Give feedback when details are still fresh and in time to assist the student in future 

Be unambiguous

  • Phrases such as “good work” are ambiguous because they are not specific.
  • Do not assume that the student has the same understanding of academic language (jargon) or discourse. 

Be educative and not just evaluative

  • It is more helpful to suggest how something can be corrected or improved compared to simply pointing out incorrectness.
  • For students that did well and have scored high marks, focus on strengthening and extending what has been done well.

Be proportionate to criteria/goals

Spend more time providing feedback on the more significant goals of the assessment.

Point out how the student performed in relation to:

  • the stated goals of the assignment
  • clarifying what they did well, and what they could have done better on
  • where they should focus their energies in the future in order to improve their performance

Focus on the task, not the student

Feedback should be directed at the task and not the self or the personal attributes of the student. Your feedback should answer the question: What should the student do to improve their understanding of the topic or their performance of the assigned task?”

Be a conversation starter, not an endpoint

The feedback should make the students feel that they can continue working on and talking about their development. The feedback should not feel like an end-point to their learning, even if the assignment is the final assignment in the course. Instead, mention how growth and improvement in the skills assessed will help the students in a later course, or in their careers.

Be sensitive to the individual

Feedback should encourage positive self-esteem and motivations. You should be mindful to not reinforce any cultural, historic, or identity biases that either you or the student may have about themselves.

 

Keep learning

How User Experience Designers and Instructional Designers Should Work Together?

It's time to step outside the standard way of designing learning experiences. This article describes a better way to design a learner-centric experience by incorporating user experience design (UXD) with learning experience design (LXD).

READ THE ARTICLE

Dr. Swati B. Carr

Swati Carr is a Research Fellow at Extension Engine. She took an unusual route into education design coming from a 10+ year stint doing bioengineering research through her MS and then Ph.D. At Extension Engine, she designs and creates effective educational experiences on digital platforms and evaluates existing educational content against defined learning outcomes to find ways to improve them. She brings the scientific method, evidence-based decision making to all her work. Prior to Extension Engine, Swati designed authentic assessments for blended and digital learning in biosciences at MIT.

Let us teach you about learning.

We'll send you an occasional email with resources from our team of learning experts.

Subscribe to Updates