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4. Opportunities for Feedback

Students want and need feedback on their learning. In online environments, there are a variety of opportunities for students to get feedback from the instructor and from their peers. Keeping marking time down while still giving students opportunities to practice can be a balancing act.  It can be tedious to provide feedback on every single discussion forum and other online activity, but not all feedback has to be one-on-one. For example, you can post sample answers to questions for certain kinds of assignments at the end of the week for students to self check. This might include videos of instructors walking through answers or an annotated document. In a discussion forum, instructors can provide a summary of feedback to the group after reviewing all contributions (in the form of either text or a video). When doing this, be sure to highlight a few students' responses as you discuss the points.

Other activities, such as online quizzes can provide automatic specific feedback to students based on their incorrect answer to a question. Depending on which answer they choose in a multiple-choice or true/false questions, instructors can provide specific explanations to common misconceptions and links to resources for each specific question. For short answer or essay questions, you can also give a feedback prompt to help students determine if their answer was complete: "If your answer includes _________, then you are on the right track. If you left out any of these, review___________." (Nilson, 2017).

Finally, do not overlook peer feedback. Many students find it very helpful to get feedback (Cundell & Sheepy, 2018). In particular, students can benefit from getting feedback on assignments, or parts of an assignment before submitting the final draft. In this case, it is advised to provide a structured framework for students to guide feedback.

As you develop individual activities, consider:

  • How does the task align with the Learning outcome? Does the activity require (or help build up to) the level of thinking identified in the Learning outcome?
  • What kinds of support mechanisms can be used (cues, hints, prompts, examples, models, templates, etc.) to help students complete the task?
  • How will you provide for multiple means of presenting content and expression of learning?
  • How can feedback be built-in to the activity?
  • How can student interaction be built-in to the activity?

As you develop the group of learning activities for a unit or module, ensure that you:

  • Provide sufficient modelling of skills (i.e. worked examples, frameworks for advanced higher-order thinking, etc.) and have scaffolded practice (smaller tasks that build to more difficult and/or complex)
  • Do not rely too heavily on synchronous (i.e. real-time) activities, as this may pose challenges for some students.
  • Provide variety in the way content is presented and learning is expressed. Do not rely too heavily on one mode of learning, but rather vary the modes. For example, provide a mix of videos, readings and graphics, and allow for multiple modes of expressing learning (i.e. a video, text, sketch, mind map, infor graphic, etc.). Where possible, provide both “read” and “watch” options for a particular concept, idea or theory.
  • Provide sufficient opportunities for students to engage with the content before any kind of formal assessment.
  • Provide sufficient opportunities to receive feedback for the targeted skill or concept.


Cundell, A., & Sheepy, E. (2018). Student Perceptions of the Most Effective and Engaging Online Learning Activities in a Blended Graduate Seminar. Online Learning22(3), 87-102.

Moore, M. G. (1989). Three types of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1–6.

Nilson, L. B. (2017). Online Teaching at its best: Merging instructional design with teaching and learning research. John Wiley & Sons.

Soo, K. S., & Bonk, C. J. (1998). Interaction: What does it mean in online distance education? ED Media & ED-Telecom. Frieburg, Germany. [link]

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