EOTP - Providing Useful Feedback



“Decades of education research support the idea that by teaching less and providing more feedback, we can produce greater learning” (Wiggins, 2012).


To provide useful feedback for online learning, we’ll discuss practices you can use to:

  • Offer individualized feedback demonstrating your presence
  • Provide timely, targeted, and actionable feedback
  • Recognize both strengths and areas for improvement
  • Provide more detailed feedback on early assignments
  • Offer in-text feedback to ensure students know how to revise
  • Give students the opportunity to practice revising
  • Post a document or create a video addressing common challenges
  • Use video or audio recordings to provide feedback
  • Incorporate links to relevant resources


Download a skeletal outline to take notes on the key practices included in this module.

Course Demonstration

Feedback is one of the most important parts of our work with students, so watch the videos Ensuring Your Feedback is Effective and Helping Students Use Feedback to Improve to see best practices for offering feedback that students can appreciate and utilize to effectively improve their work. You may also watch the last video to learn how to leverage technology that students will appreciate and that will save you time when offering feedback.

Ensuring Your Feedback is Effective 

Download the transcript for this video

Helping Students Use Feedback to Improve

Download the transcript for this video.

Employing Technology to Increase Efficiency in Providing Feedback 

Download the transcript for this video.

Expert Insights


José Bowen, a scholar in online teaching and learning, provides ideas for scaffolding high quality and timely feedback that ensures students use feedback to improve their work.

Download the transcript for this video.

Common Challenges & Misconceptions

In this section, you’ll read about some common challenges and misconceptions associated with practices designed to embrace diversity in online learning.

Read each challenge or misconception and give a thumbs up  if it is a challenge or misconception you have encountered or thumbs down  if it’s not.

CHALLENGE : I really like providing feedback to my students. As an online instructor, it seems like this is my opportunity to have a conversation with them and I look forward to seeing their improvement over time. However, I do feel that there are many times when my feedback is going unread.

Have you encountered this misconception? Yes No


Studies show that, left on their own, students do not spend much time reading teacher feedback. In one study, 39% of the students indicated they spent five minutes or less reading the feedback and a total of 81% spent 15 minutes or less (Weimer, 2014). There are steps that you can take to make it more likely that students will both read and benefit from your feedback.


1. Limit feedback to the amount of information that the student can absorb.

Rather than writing notes on every area of needed improvement for an assignment, identify two to three key areas that need additional work. This makes the feedback digestible and will help students feel that they can take action. If students see a great deal of feedback, they may feel overwhelmed and stop reading. Targeting feedback can enable students to receive the feedback that may resonate with them more than a sea of red ink.

2. Post a positive comment at the very beginning of your feedback.

Make a note at the very beginning about successes that you noticed or growth the student has made. This will encourage them to keep reading.

3. Require students to reflect on their feedback.

Create a short assignment that requires students to comment on their feedback. For example, you could have them respond to three questions:

  1. What surprised you about the feedback?
  2. What made you proud?
  3. Based on your feedback, what are your next steps?

You could use similar questions as a reflective discussion post. You can also accomplish this by not showing students their grades until they see and respond to their feedback. To separate grades from feedback, don’t release student grades until they have at least opened the feedback. In most LMSs you can set this up as a conditional assignment, or you can have them submit their answers to the three questions in the prior suggestion and you can send back their grade.

4. Try using video or audio feedback.

Crook et al. (2012) found, “In excess of 90% of students rated video feedback as more valuable than written feedback, with 74% completely understanding the feedback provided by the marker, showing that technology may ‘provide the innovative edge that can help students engage more effectively with their feedback’” (as cited in Turner & West, 2013, p. 288). Use Screencast-O-Matic or Evernote. Detailed directions are provided for each of these technologies on YouTube. Start with providing feedback for an assignment using one of the technology options. Then survey your students to learn their reactions and to find ways to improve.

Download the transcript for this video.

CHALLENGE : Because it takes so much time to grade, I tend to spend most of my time correcting the work of students who did not meet expectations and find myself providing less feedback for those students who seem to “get it.”

Have you encountered this misconception? Yes No


If you view grading and giving feedback on papers as correcting, then you may be missing an opportunity for teaching. Feedback is an integral part of student learning, and researchers argue that “taking the time to provide learners with information on what exactly they did well, and what may still need improvement” is beneficial to all students (Stenger, 2014). All students, even those who seem to be doing well, benefit from receiving feedback on what they are doing well so they are more likely to repeat it.


Grading, scoring, and providing feedback can take up a significant amount of time which can make providing feedback, on a timely basis, challenging. However, it is important because students may become demotivated if they don’t receive feedback when expected (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016). Therefore, it is important for online instructors to set reasonable expectations regarding when they will provide feedback, and then consistently meet those expectations. When planning assignments, take into consideration when you will be able to evaluate the work and provide feedback for all students, and then schedule the due dates accordingly. For example, it may be best to stagger due dates for different courses.

Once you have organized your schedule to set aside enough time for scoring student work, it is important to provide feedback for all students because that is how they will know if they are meeting the expectations and making progress on core learning outcomes in the course. Feedback is especially useful to students who have demonstrated improvement from one paper to the next, noting what the learner did differently than in previous assignments (Stenger, 2014) helps them to develop a growth mindset. As Nilson (2010) writes, “Give praise where deserved, because students often do not know what they are doing right” (p. 278). Explain to students why the work was effective and encourage them to apply the same strategies to future assignments.

CHALLENGE : I teach in STEM so diversity and inclusion really don’t matter as much.

Have you encountered this misconception? Yes No

Providing feedback is especially important in an online course. It is often one of the few ways that you communicate directly to individual students. It is also an opportunity to communicate both your cognitive and social presence.

  • Begin by setting expectations around the timing of your feedback and work hard to meet those deadlines. If you are going to be delayed in providing feedback, send out a quick email to let students know when they can expect to receive their grades.
  • When giving feedback, begin by recognizing the strengths of the work. This may include showing growth from their last assignment. Then go into a few targeted areas of improvement stated as actions they can take to improve this work or future submissions. 
  • Video or audio recordings are an excellent way to “shake up” feedback and encourage students to actually listen or watch to the end. Many LMS programs can provide one or both integrated into the gradebook.
  • If your LMS allows it, consider releasing feedback before releasing the grades. This will encourage students to actually read your feedback.
  • Please check the implementation guides offered for additional ways to provide quality feedback. 

For additional suggestions on how to implement the practices highlighted in this course, please see the implementation resources.


In the Observe and Analyze (OA) section, you’ll view the video depicting developing practice where an instructor implements some of the module practices effectively, while other practices may need slight adjustments or improvements. Analyze how effectively Dr. Hirsch handles the challenges his students experience in the course discussion forums.


#Download the transcript for this video.


  • Online Instructional Practices
  • F2F Instructional Practices
  • Additional Resources

This section includes resources to support your implementation of the practices presented in the module.

Download the online instructional practice implementation resources for this module.

Examine how implicit bias affects your understanding, actions, and decisions

Become aware of your implicit biases

In an online environment, there are fewer physical cues about students’ backgrounds and identities than in a face-to-face setting. However, research suggests that implicit or unconscious biases can still be triggered simply by seeing a name and can impact how students are evaluated and judged.

Download a resource to help you reflect on implicit biases.

Consider how your implicit biases may impact students

Implicit or unconscious biases often lead to microaggressions, which are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults (whether intentional or unintentional) that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based upon their marginalized group membership (Sue, 2010).

Download a resource you can use to take steps to mitigate the impact of implicit bias on your students.

Mitigate the impact of implicit bias in assessment and feedback practices

The grading process can be impacted by implicit bias through your knowledge of students’ previous scores, work ethic, and race or ethnicity (Malouff, 2008; Malouff et al., 2013). Fortunately, there are grading practices, such as anonymous grading, that can be used to reduce the impact of implicit bias on student grades.

Download a resource you can use to mitigate the impact of implicit bias in your grading and feedback practices.

Use student feedback to reflect on your role as an inclusive educator

The goal of asking for student feedback is to gauge student perceptions of the impact of your use of inclusive practices. Seeking feedback early in your course can allow you to make adjustments for your current group of students.

Download a resource you can use to gain feedback on your role as an inclusive educator.

Create an inclusive online course and learning environment

Create an inclusive syllabus

Creating an inclusive classroom or online environment means making intentional and ongoing efforts to ensure that all students feel they belong and can thrive in the learning environment. One step you can take right at the beginning of your course is to set the tone for diversity and inclusion in your syllabus.

Download a resource to help you create an inclusive syllabus.

Download a resource on helping students overcome imposter syndrome.

Ensure your curriculum incorporates diverse perspectives and experiences

Critically examining your course from multiple viewpoints to ensure it includes materials that accurately represent various perspectives can help your students feel more motivated, with a greater sense of belonging.

Download a resource to help ensure your curriculum incorporates diverse perspectives and experiences.

Hold both individual and group virtual office hours

Since many online courses are asynchronous and can sometimes be isolating, virtual office hours are a good way to give students an opportunity to connect with you and their peers to create a supportive learning environment (Nilson & Goodson, 2018).

Download a resource on holding both individual and group office hours.

Ensure your course examples reflect a diverse society

Meaningful examples that are relevant to your students and reflect a diverse society can contribute to students’ sense of belonging and increase their motivation.

Download a resource to help ensure your examples reflect a diverse society.

Share resources that demonstrate attentiveness to students’ diverse needs

Including information in your syllabus or course shell that supports students from different identity groups communicates to them that you are aware and that you care.

Download a resource that will help you develop resources that support all students.

Foster respect for diverse student identities

Diverse campuses give college students the opportunity to learn from peers with different perspectives shaped by a variety of life experiences. Provide opportunities for students to engage with people of different backgrounds and help them develop an appreciation for people different from themselves.

Download a resource that will help you foster respect for diverse students.

Set expectations and manage for respectful dialogue

Working with your students to set clear expectations for how they should interact with each other early in the course helps to create a productive learning environment. Introduce a basic set of community norms for students and facilitate a discussion about them. Use them to address any offensive comments or other incidents that disrupt the learning environment.

Download a resource that will help you and your students create community norms that can be used should hot moments arise.

Explicitly invite diverse perspectives and viewpoints

Encouraging students to share their diverse viewpoints enriches discussions, encourages creative problem solving, and helps students develop critical thinking skills. Students also learn to respectfully listen and respond to various viewpoints, a key career-ready skill.

Download a resource that will help encourage your students to share diverse viewpoints.

Understand and mitigate the impact of stereotype threat and microaggressions

Understand the impact of stereotype threat and implement practices to reduce it

Stereotype threat is defined as a phenomenon in which a person’s concern about confirming a negative stereotype of one or more of the groups with which they personally identify can lead that person to underperform (Spencer, 2016).

Download a resource that will help you understand and mitigate the impact of stereotype threat in your course.

Recognize, avoid, and mitigate the impact of microaggressions

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership (Sue, 2010). Microaggressions can have a negative impact on students. However, there are steps we can take to mitigate their impact.

Download a resource that will help you understand and mitigate the impact of microaggressions.

Teach students to recognize and address microaggressions

It is important that as instructors we do not ignore microaggressions as they happen, which can further marginalize students from underrepresented groups. In doing so, we can also miss an opportunity to promote understanding of the impact of microaggressions (Sue et al., 2009).

Download a resource that will help you teach students to recognize and address microaggressions.

Use language to validate student identities

As instructors, the language we use can work toward or against building an inclusive learning environment. For example, research has shown that using “he” to indicate “he or she” in professional settings affects women’s sense of belonging and lowers motivation (Sczensy, Formanowicz & Moser, 2016).

Download a resource that will help you use language to validate student identities.

This section includes additional resources to support your implementation of these and similar practices in a face-to-face course.

Implementation Resources

Download or print the following resources to practice our techniques for embracing diversity in your classroom:


Dana Autry, PhD, MCHES
Director of Adjunct Faculty Engagement
Academic Affairs Department
Park University

Tracy Burt, EdM, Instructor
Child Development and Family Studies Department
City College of San Francisco

Darvelle Hutchins, MBA, MA
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Communication
University of Missouri

Kevin Kelly, EdD
Lecturer, Department of Equity, Leadership Studies, & Instructional Technologies
San Francisco State University

Kate Kelley, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Religious Studies
University of Missouri

José Antonio Bowen, PhD
Former President, Goucher College
Former Dean, Miami University and Southern Methodist University
Author, Teaching Naked

Santiba D. Campbell, PhD
Associate Professor, Psychology
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Bennett College

Marlo Goldstein Hode, PhD
Senior Manager, Strategic Diversity Initiatives
University of Missouri—Saint Louis

Jennifer Imazeki, PhD
Associate Chief Diversity Officer for Faculty and Staff
Professor of Economics
San Diego State University

Sharoni Denise Little, PhD, EdD
Vice Dean/Senior Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer
Professor, Business Communication
University of Southern California
Marshall School of Business 
CEO, The Strategist Company, LLC

Suzanne Elise Walsh, JD
Bennett College

Lilisa J. Williams, MBA
Director of Faculty and Staff Development
Hudson County Community College

Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2017)
Digital learning compass: Distance education enrollment report 2017. Babson Survey Research Group. https://onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/digtiallearningcompassenrollment2017.pdf

Baker, R., Dee, T., Evans, B., & John, J. (2018)
Bias in online classes: Evidence from a field experiment (CEPA Working Paper No. 18-03). Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis. https://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/wp18-03-201803.pdf

Blackburn Center. (2020, March 4). 
Why sharing your gender pronouns is important. https://www.blackburncenter.org/post/2020/03/04/why-sharing-your-gender-pronouns-is-important#:~:text=When%20cisgender%20people%20take%20the,this%20into%20practice%20is%20easy

Cullen, M. (2008)
35 dumb things well-intended people say: Surprising things we say that widen the diversity gap. Morgan James.

Elsesser, K. (2020, July 8)
How to use gender-neutral language, and why it’s important to try. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2020/07/08/how-to-use-gender-neutral-language-and-why-its-important-to-try/#1b50f95f26ba

Estrada, M., Burnett, M., Campbell, A. G., Campbell, P. B., Denetclaw, W. F., Gutiérrez, C. G., … & Okpodu, C. M. (2016)
 Improving underrepresented minority student persistence in STEM. CBE—Life Sciences Education15(3), es5. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.16-01-0038

Kerby, S. (2012, October 9)
10 reasons why we need diversity on college campuses. Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2012/10/09/41004/10-reasons-why-we-need-diversity-on-college-campuses/

Johns, M., & Schmader, T. (2004, January 29–31)
Knowing is half the battle [Paper presentation]. Society for Personality and Social Psychology Fifth Annual Meeting, Austin, TX, United States.

Malouff, J. M., Emmerton, A. J., & Schutte, N. S. (2013)
The risk of a halo bias as a reason to keep students anonymous during grading. Teaching of Psychology, 40(3): 233–237.

Moss-Racusin, C. A., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Graham, M. J., & Handelsman, J. (2012)
Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(41), 16474–16479.

Nilson, L. B., & Goodson, L. A. (2018)
Online teaching at its best: Merging instructional design with teaching and learning research. Jossey-Bass.

Sczesny, S., Formanowicz, M., & Moser, F. (2016)
Can gender-fair language reduce gender stereotyping and discrimination? Frontiers in Psychology, 7, Article 25.

Reeves, A. N. (2015)
Colored by race: Bias in the evaluation of candidates of color by law firm hiring committees. Nextions. https://nextions.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/colored-by-race-yellow-paper-series.pdf

Riley, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2012)
Self-fulfilling prophecy: How teachers’ attributions, expectations, and stereotypes influence the learning opportunities afforded Aboriginal students. Canadian Journal of Education35(2), 303–333.

Spencer, S. J., Logel, C., & Davies, P. G. (2016)
Stereotype threat. Annual Review of Psychology67, 415–437.

Steele, C. M. (1997)
A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist52(6), 613–629.

Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995).
Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology69(5), 797–811.

Sue, D. W. (2010)
Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation. John Wiley & Sons.

Sue, D. W., Bucceri, J., Lin, A. I., Nadal, K. L., & Torino, G. C. (2009).
Racial microaggressions and the Asian American experience. Asian American Journal of Psychology, S(1), 88–101.

Tatum, B. D. (2011)
Talking about race, learning about racism: The application of racial identity development theory in the classroom. In S. R. Harper & S. Hurtado (Eds.), Racial and ethnic diversity in higher education (3rd ed., pp. 438–456). Pearson Learning Solutions.

Uhlmann, E. L., & Cohen, G. L. (2005)
Constructed criteria: Redefining merit to justify discrimination. Psychological Science, 16(6), 474–480.

University of Washington Center for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Addressing microaggressions in the classroom.https://www.washington.edu/teaching/topics/inclusive-teaching/addressing-microaggressions-in-the-classroom/

Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011)
A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science331(6023), 1447–1451.

Wilson, D., Jones, D., Bocell, F., Crawford, J., Kim, M. J., Veilleux, N., … & Plett, M. (2015)
Belonging and academic engagement among undergraduate STEM students: A multi-institutional study. Research in Higher Education, 56(7), 750-776. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11162-015-9367-x

Yeager, D. S., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., Hessert, W. T., Williams, M. E., & Cohen, G. L. (2014)
Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General143(2), 804–824.