Providing Online Feedback in a Timely Manner

Online testing and assessment, quality monitoring
Online feedback should be specific, actionable, and timely to help students advance.

Why is it So Important to Provide Specific Feedback for Online Students?

Online Feedback is More Prevalent than Ever

Online classes are more popular than ever, even before COVID-19 health measures required distance learning throughout the globe. Before 2020, the number of students taking courses entirely online at high school and college levels is growing immensely. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, almost one-third of all students in higher education are enrolled in at least one online class, and this number has been increasing steadily for the last 15 years. 

The National Education Policy Center reports that students taking online courses perform the same or slightly better than students taking the same courses in a traditional classroom setting. There is no drop-off in gained knowledge when switching to online classes. In addition, some evidence suggests that students are more actively engaged with the online content than when sitting in a classroom.  

(For a great discussion of online learning and why it has such a negative connotation around it, head to Those Who Can’t Do’s podcast for their “Virtual Learning” Episode. Those Who Can’t Do is a podcast hosted by two L.A. based teachers discussing all things education!)

Grading and Feedback in the Online World

Having been on both sides of online instruction—as an instructor of online courses, and as an online graduate student—I have noticed there can be a lack of one-on-one communication and feedback between the online instructor and individual student. 

Teachers want to provide guidance to make sure the student knows what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. With online tests and quizzes, if the questions are multiple choice, it’s easy for a student to find the correct answer when reviewing their corrected work. But for essay and short-response questions, just seeing that they answered incorrectly is not enough. The students need to know why. How can you make a connection with each of your online students?

Feedback allows for the teacher to do a bit of coaching, and for students to use this feedback in future assignments. Research indicates that feedback will promote better learning for all involved. Sending an email explaining a grade for each assignment to every online student, though, is extremely time consuming. 

How to Give Helpful Online Feedback to Students

  1. Be actionable and specific: Once they read the feedback, the students should know what step(s) they can take next to improve their writing, and where exactly in their piece they have to improve.
  2. Be timely: Providing feedback in a timely manner helps students continuously make improvements throughout your course.
  3. Be focused: Is your feedback relevant to the prompt? Are you focusing on the most important items your student needs to work on? For example, are you giving feedback on their lack of thesis, or a word they misspelled?

An example on great online feedback could use the following sequence:

  1. Restate the expectation from the prompt (“The prompt says…”)
  2. Give a specific example from the student’s work (“You stated…”)
  3. Explain why this met or did not meet the expectation of the assignment
  4. Elaborate!
    1. If this was something the student did well, how and why was it effective?
    2. If it was something the student needs to work on, provide actionable next steps or questions they can use to advance their writing or work

But how do we do all this in our already-packed schedule? This is where LessonWriter proves to be invaluable to the educator. Assigning work using LessonWriter allows automatic scoring when it comes to multiple choice questions, as well as enables the teacher to leave feedback using a 4-point rubric on any questions that require the student to write out an answer. Plus, there are comment boxes with each of the questions so the teacher can explain the score and provide suggestions.

If you have not tried LessonWriter, whether you teach online or in the classroom, check out all of our options online. The LessonWriter Premium Teacher or School accounts allow you to simplify scoring and give feedback to your students in a short amount of time.

Need more time in the day? Use LessonWriter to make your lessons! LessonWriter was made by a group of teachers who knew how much time they could save teachers by putting all their lesson-writing work in one platform. Just copy and paste a link into, and then customize your lesson as much or as little as you want! Oh, and did we mention it’s free? Try it today

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