Office for Digital Learning

Assessment and Feedback

Digital feedback

Posted on: 01 Feb 2016

This section focuses on formative feedback that feeds forward from one assessment to the next, allowing students to improve, based on feedback to complete the feedback loop.

The importance of feedback for students is well recognised in higher education. It consistently gets relatively low student ratings in the National Student Survey. Academic experts recognise that feedback should be a formative process; lead to improvement; be an on-going dialogue; and promote self-regulated learning (Gibbs & Simpson; Black & William; Nicol & MacFarlane-Dick; Boud & Sadler). Nicol (2010) argues that feedback should be understandable, selective, specific, timely, contextualised, non-judgmental, balanced, forward looking, transferable and personal.

Digital technology can help achieve effective feedback practice in higher education, with potential benefits for students and staff. Digital feedback can provide variety to students - including written, audio, video, rubric-based, general and personalised feedback. This range can cater for diverse students needs and learning styles.

The Ulster Digital Learning Environment (DLE) collates digital feedback, making it available to students via My Grades. This provides a record of feedback, allowing students to access and re-access it at any time from any location. The learning design can be structured to provide staff with evidence that students have digested their feedback, for example, using the Bb Journal tool to reflect on feedback.

Digital feedback can feed-forward from one assessment to another and can be created by the student (reflective), tutor or peers. Tutors can save time by using reusable comments or by creating audio feedback instead of typing. The DLE can help with the administration and management of feedback - enabling anonymous feedback, helping manage large cohorts and organising peer feedback.

Digital feedback aligns with the Ulster Principles of Assessment and Feedback for Learning, in particular timely high quality feedback (Principle 3) and opportunities to act on feedback (Principle 4). It can promote positive motivational beliefs (Principle 5) and develop self-assessment and reflection (Principle 6) and encourage interaction and dialogue (Principle 7) around feedback.

In 2014, Moorhead and Hazlett investigated how Blackboard supports feedback in small and large group teaching at Ulster, with 314 student participants. The study found that the Blackboard tools are accessible, easy to use and effective for feedback. It found that students prefer online feedback; including Bb Assignment, Bb Test, Wimba, Rubric and Turnitin. Both students and staff preferred MCQs (Bb Test), liking the instant feedback that can help with revision.

Digital opportunities

Automatic feedback Instant and automatic feedback using quizzes (Bb Tests) helps students to self-correct, by providing feedback for the correct and incorrect answers. Bb Test statistics can inform teaching. Once set up, Bb Tests can be easily reused with other cohorts.
Feed forward The Bb Assignment tool and Turnitin Feedback Studio allow for multiple submissions. A draft can be submitted, feedback provided to help the student improve their work and then re-submit a final version.
Multimedia feedback Audio and video feedback can provide personalised and authentic feedback to students.
  • Use Turnitin Feedback Studio to easily provide up to three minutes audio for each student assignment (via desktop or app), or add multimedia feedback via a Grade Centre column for any assignment
  • Use Bb Assignments to attach an audio or video file to each student assignment. This works effectively via the app, upload audio or video using your microphone or camera on a mobile device.
  • Use ShareStream media streaming to upload video feedback to a content area.
Annotated feedback Digitally annotate online assignment - by typing comments, strike-through text, highlight text, etc. This is possible via the Bb Assignment tool and Turnitin Feedback Studio. Reusable and sharable QuickMark comments can also added to assignment papers in Turnitin. Bb Assignments also has a freehand annotation tool.
Criteria-based feedback A Rubric can be attached to a range of assessment and feedback tools in the DLE, e.g. Turnitin Feedback Studio, Bb Assignment, etc. This gives students access to criteria based feedback based on the learning outcomes. This can help ensure feedback consistency in a student cohort.
Peer feedback Peer review involves students constructing feedback for their peers based on criteria, review questions and model answers. This allows students to compare their work with that of their peers and improve their own due to this. Peer review can be achieved using the Bb Self and Peer Assessment tool or Turnitin PeerMark. These tools provide easy administration, management and the option for anonymity.
Feedback dialogue The Bb Blog and Bb Discussion Board tools can provide opportunities for students to discuss feedback, allowing them to contextualise it. The discussion tool structures the dialogue by forum, threads and comments, whereas the blog sorts via person and date. Bb Collaborate Ultra could be used to create a real-time online classroom to discuss feedback.
Group feedback The Bb Group tool gives students access to a Group Assignment submission area and a range of communication and collaboration tools to help them work together. Group feedback can be provided via the Group Assignment tool. The Bb Wiki tool could be used by students to work collaboratively on a range of feedback related topics.
Reflect on feedback The Bb Journal and Bb Portfolio enables students to reflect on their feedback. This can provide evidence that the feedback has been accessed and digested by the students. It can allow for ipsative feedback, where students consider their progress by comparing their work to their own previous work. A Bb Survey could be used to evaluate the student thoughts on the feedback process.
Portable feedback Students can conveniently access their feedback on handheld devices via the Blackboard app. They can access all their feedback via My Grades in Blackboard at any time.