Instructor Feedback, Learner Satisfaction, and Online Learning

Instructor Feedback, Learner Satisfaction, and Online Learning

Yuliang Liu (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3.ch029
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Abstract

Instructor feedback, learner satisfaction, and online learning are currently significant topics in online instruction. According to Blignaut and Trollip (2003), there are six response types for the instructors to provide formative feedback in online courses. These include: administrative, affective, other, corrective, informative, and Socratic. The first three types involve no academic content, while the last three types are related to academic content in the online course. Each type serves a unique purpose for online instruction and learning. This article integrates, summarizes, compares, and contrasts the author’s two recent studies. The first study involved 42 graduate students in the Summer semester of 2008. The second study involved 48 graduate students in the Fall semester of 2008. In both studies, the instructor used these six response types to provide formative feedback to improve learner satisfaction and online learning in an online graduate class at a Midwestern university in the United States. Results indicated that all six response types are required to ensure maximum online learner satisfaction and effective online learning. The results have implications for teacher education and other online courses.
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Introduction

Feedback was classically defined as “knowledge of results” (Fleming & Levine, 1978). Public Broadcasting System (2007) described feedback as a communication process in which an individual asks questions to improve understanding. In educational settings, feedback typically refers to “what the instructor writes on and about student work products” (Wolsey, 2008, p. 312). Thurmond and Wambach (2004) defined feedback in online education as information exchange between the instructor and the student about course activity and assignments which will promote student learning. According to Palloff and Pratt (2003), instructor feedback is provided exclusively in written format in online instruction. In this article, instructor’s formative feedback usually refers to the fact that the instructor continuously provides the informative assessment and clarifications for the results of students’ learning throughout the semester.

There is an agreement that feedback plays an important role in instruction and learning, especially in online instruction and learning. Recent studies (e.g., Straub & Lunsford, 1995; Davis, 2007) pointed out that instructor’s constructive feedback can mediate learner anxiety. According to Espasa and Meneses (2010), “Feedback as a tool to promote the regulation of learning could be the key to good teaching practice, especially in online environments” (p. 290). Espasa and Meneses studied 186 students in nine online courses and found that best teaching practices including the presence of feedback, tend to result in positive outcomes of student learning and course satisfaction with the general running of the course.

The above result was also consistent with the results in other studies. For instance, Jarvenpaa and and Leidner (1998) pointed out that feedback can help establish mutual trust in online team work. Billings (2000) noted that instructor feedback can help overcome students’ isolation and reassure them of their course assignment completion and faculty expectations. Thurmond (2003) also found that feedback can help students maintain pace and schedule in online courses. According to Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001), instructional feedback is one of the most useful teaching strategies a teacher should use in either traditional classroom or in online environments and it has significant impact on student learning. Chretien, Goldman, and Faselis (2008) point out that the supportive and personal instructor’s feedback was effective for increasing participation as well as for facilitating deep reflection. Chan and Lam (2010) found that instructor’s formative feedback can better help promote students’ self-efficacy than the summative feedback. This is because formative feedback can enable students to perceive a sense of control over their progress which is beneficial to their self-efficacy.

According to Bonnel (2008), “Further research on best practices in providing feedback in the online environment is needed….” (p. 293). Thus, this article will first present Blignaut and Trollip’s (2003) six types of responses for the online instructors to provide formative feedback in online courses. These are: administrative, affective, other, corrective, informative, and Socratic. Then the article will discuss how the author used the six types of responses to provide instructional formative feedback for his recent two online classes. Finally, implications for teacher education and other online courses will be briefly discussed.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Formative Feedback: The online instructor provides ongoing suggestions for students to improve their course work and/or assignments during a course. This is very effective to monitor student learning during the course.

Affective response: The online instructor provides ongoing answers for students’ non-content related, but emotion-related questions. This type of response is helpful for avoiding students’ dropouts during a course.

Online Learning: Learners meet virtually and learn knowledge via a variety of online learning tools including but not limited to: discussion board, chat room, email, and blog. Online learning increases dramatically at all levels in K-12 and higher education in recent years.

Socratic response: The online instructor provides ongoing challenging questions to force students to go beyond their current knowledge and to think creatively about their discussions and assignments. This type of response is helpful for developing students’ higher order thinking during a course.

Administrative response: The online instructor provides ongoing answers for students’ non-content related questions. This type of response is helpful for students’ successfully fulfilling the course requirements during a course.

Informative response: The online instructor provides ongoing additional content-related directions for students to expand their knowledge. This type of response is helpful for expanding student knowledge during a course.

Learner Satisfaction: The online learners will be satisfied whether the online instructional strategy has effectively helped them to meet the course objectives.

Corrective response: The online instructor provides ongoing content-related answers for students’ online discussion and assignments. This type of response is helpful for correcting student mistakes in their online discussions and assignments during a course.

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