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Re-navigating the digital doldrums?

Tamed Teams, collaborating with Blackboard brilliantly, Moodle does more than you thought possible?!, but are you heading for the digital doldrums?

Installation by Yan Feng

The initial excitement, trepidation, dubiousness has been managed and steered away from the immediate shock wave and now are you heading to a place where the tech works, mostly, but does the pedagogy? You may not be there yet and you are still trying to leave the harbour of our usual ways of teaching, but they may be a time when you become becalmed.

What are the questions we need to ask about how we are going to teach and learn online at LCC/UAL?

It is different yet we still need to motivate and engage our students? How much can we expect our students to engage online and when we are not physically present? What other questions should we be asking?

How to assess online ?

How to Give Your Students Better Feedback With Technology By Holly Fiock and Heather Garcia. . I found this site to give clear and useful advice about giving feedback online. (medium length read)

“Make sure your choices are accessible for everyone. As with all course design, accessibility should be taken into consideration when giving feedback. If you create audio or video feedback, make sure all students can access it. If you are unable to provide captions or transcripts, ask students if they prefer written comments. If the tool you are using provides automatic captioning, make sure you speak clearly for the greatest accuracy. A broad range of students benefit from accessible feedback tools, not just those with particular needs.”

Turnitin Feedback Studio Walkthrough

If you ask your students to submit via Turnitin on Moodle you can directly annotate into their submission. It is much more than just a plagiarism checking tool. You can also leave a 3 minute audio recording for further feedback. More information can be found here:

Creative Critique in Visual Communication: Effective Feedback in Design Projects Through Voice Centred Studio-Based Communication and Online Delivery. By Mary-Jane Taylor & Dr Coralie McCormack . This academic paper gives useful insights into the difference between f-2-f and online verbal feedback (long read).

“Creative review and critique in visual communication education is critical to the knowledge construction and learning associated with creative design project outcomes. If we accept that the objective of design critique is to construct knowledge around a design project, then the deconstruction of the design critique – to inform the process of giving and receiving effective feedback – is a priority, particularly in the rapidly evolving virtual and online environment of contemporary education.”

Online Learning in a Hurry’ There is some great advice from the very thoughtful and experienced Dave Cormier on his blog at:

“Before you figure out anything else: how you will record your lecture, how you will build the quizzes, how you will collect assignments….First figure out a way to communicate with your students…Then figure out a back-up channel of communication, in case your first method fails…Then communicate your communication plan to your students.”

HEA’s Feedback Toolkit

This comprehensive report gives an overview of what makes effective feedback.

“Effective feedback should be produced for the student, with the student’s learning needs as the central concern.”

In this, to be effective feedback:

• Is feedback which is picked up, read, and acted on by students. Feedback will have no impact on future student learning, unless they actually pick it up, read it and act upon it!

• Is Timely To be effective feedback should be provided for students while it still matters to them and in time for them to use it as feed forward into their next assignment.

• Helps students take action to improve their learning. Feedback should be for learning, not just evaluation of learning. It should help to 13 close the gap between current performance and the expected standard of work, written to take into account students’ understanding of what they are supposed to be doing.

• Is clear, detailed and specific It is important that students can understand the feedback you give, and to achieve this feedback should be specific about where, for example, mistakes were made or where additional information can be found in the literature. It is important too to avoid too much academic jargon, and word feedback in language students will understand.

• Has a forward-facing focus. Feedback should be constructive, not just backward-looking, with a focus on aspects of the work which are relevant to later assessments. For example, a focus on generic issues such as study skills or presentational factors helps feedback to also function as feed-forward, building skills for future work.

• Builds motivation and self-esteem. Feedback should help students want to learn by being encouraging and supportive in tone, and including a focus on existing strengths and, where there are weaknesses, guidance how to improve.

• Is realistic and focuses on students’ performance. Make sure your students realise that the feedback is about their work, rather than about them as people, with an appropriate level of challenge, asking them to do things they are able to do, not things they do not know how to do.

• Is targeted to the purpose of the assignment and the criteria for success. The functions of feedback vary according to the nature of the assessment and to its criteria for success. Be flexible and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.

• Encourages dialogue with tutors and peers as a way to make sense of their learning. Feedback should not be seen simply as something which is delivered by tutor to students, leaving individuals to try to make sense of what has been said about their work. Dialogue between tutor and students, and in the form of peer-to-peer feedback and discussion around the meaning of feedback can help students learn more.

• Helps students develop their ability to make informed judgements on their own work. The goal of feedback is enhancement of learning and improvement of future work and should therefore develop students’ abilities to self-audit the quality of their own work.

Are their ways you have given feedback online that you would like to share?

For instance, have you used PDFs of projects/portfolios/presentations to annotate directly into? How have you done this and what was the reaction to this type of feedback from your students?

Here is how Tony Pritchard uses PDFs as a way of feeding back to his students.

“With the PDF annotations. The student can start the dialogue off by putting the first annotation to alert me to their concerns. I then start clicking the sticky notes into specific locations. There is a reply section on these sticky notes. I don’t usually keep the PDFs so I tend to delete them once I have emailed them back. You can hover over the yellow marks and the comments appear or click directly on them to see the box open up.”

On the full-time Postgraduate Diploma and part-time Postgraduate Certificate Design for Communication courses we provide formative digital feedback on PDFs using either ‘sticky notes’ or ‘comments’. These PDFs will be emailed back and forth quickly. This strategy is used particularly when a deadline for assessment is imminent and time is more scarce. The part-time group for example will not be in a position to wait an entire week for feedback. They often have family and work commitments so appreciate this more informal and time efficient approach. The feedback unaided by the more personal face to face approach can seem blunt. Students are forewarned of the nature of quick and direct feedback. There is a sense of urgency and I am aware that if I don’t write the criticism up front I will be writing it in the summative assessment feedback. It is better that students have the feedback at a point where they can act upon this.

Email as feedback? Often the most direct, quick and simple methods work best? How do we get feedback back to students in a timely way that they will pick up?

Answers on a postcard!

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