Give feedback to groups and individuals online

This guidance focuses on giving effective feedback online on both formatively and summatively assessed student work. It augments, but does not replace, general advice on effective assessment feedback. The Gibbs and Simpson (2004) and Carless and Boud (2018) references at the end of this guidance are useful sources for this and freely available online.

About this guidance

The following guidance focuses on:

  1. The particular affordances of online feedback
  2. Students’ engagement and use of online feedback.

Why would a teacher use this approach/tool, and link to the 4C features

This guidance emphasises student engagement and learning from feedback. Even expertly designed and carefully crafted feedback can be wasted if students cannot make sense of it and do not engage with the advice.

We have for some years at Brookes, where possible, provided feedback online. Many of us are well-versed in the technical aspects of online feedback. However, the current situation and the Programme Study Maps and Student Study Plans in the Framework for Digitally Enabled Programmes provide an opportunity to give students a more coherent feedback experience with enhanced opportunities for feedforward. The transparency afforded by online processes can also support consistency between the feedback and marking criteria, assessment guidance and across a tutor team and promote inclusivity and accessibility. However, it is perhaps the opportunities provided by online learning to enhance the relational dimension of feedback, including connections and dialogue between student peers and tutors that can maximise feedback effectiveness within learning communities.

How to use this approach/tool

The affordances of online feedback

  • Online feedback is more accessible and available for students to view multiple times. Moodle also enables tutors to ascertain which students have at least looked at it. (The greyed-out heads by the student mark show whether the student has clicked on their mark and feedback.) This gives us the opportunity to nudge those who haven’t, and identify students who need further support.
  • Online provision can enhance the relational dimension of feedback. The use of audio or video feedback can enhance social presence, and promote dialogue and student engagement (Espasa et al., 2019; Mahoney et al., 2019). It can also enhance a personal approach even when anonymous (Huang, 2016). Recordings don’t need to be polished, students often appreciate the informality (Mayhew, 2017). The use of Screencastify can show how comments specifically link to a piece of work.
  • Use of Moodle QuickMarks and In-text Comments can locate particular issues in the work and save assessor time, although overuse of standardised QuickMarks can make the feedback seem more impersonal.
  • Video summaries or narrated PowerPoints on what has been done well or things that could be improved at group or cohort level can be used to create engaging, visual, generic feedback. And can, if warranted, be used as pre-assessment advice for subsequent cohorts. Also consider designing generic feedback.
  • Peer feedback. The peer review feature within the TurnItIn plugin in Moodle can enable students to give commentary on each other’s work. Such peer review can support students to develop their own self-evaluative ability: a key component of feedback literacy (Carless and Boud, 2018).

Engaging students with feedback

  • Feedforward. In completing Programme Study Maps, programmes have an opportunity to explicitly share the sequence of assessments across a programme of study. Thereby creating opportunities for feedforward and encouraging students to use feedback in subsequent assessments.
  • Synchronous virtual drop-in sessions can enable students to seek clarification on feedback comments. Asynchronously, Moodle discussion fora can be used to encourage and answer general questions on assessment and feedback.
  • There are opportunities to encourage further dialogue - on how students will use their feedback to inform their work on subsequent assessments - that can be shared across programme teams and with academic advisers.

Inclusivity and Accessibility review

Ensure all relevant activities are added to the Student Study Plan for the module in question.

All online resources should be compatible with the UK Digital Accessibility Standards 2020. See Creating Digitally Accessible Learning and Teaching Materials Brookes Moodle course.

Use the Blackboard Ally tool to help check the accessibility of the content you have prepared (available within Moodle late July - early August 2020).


  • Berry O’Donovan

Further resources/references