Elearning is all about finding ways of engaging students with learning materials in ways that simply aren't possible in a classroom environment.
The format is and has always been very conducive to discussion forums, though ensuring that students actively partake in discussions about the learning material can sometimes be a challenge.
Generating meaningful feedback from participants is advantageous, not only because it further engages learners with the material in a critical and professional manner, but also because it provides learning professionals with the constructive criticism that’s required to improve course material and delivery.
One of the best ways to encourage useful feedback is for course tutors to be constantly giving it themselves. As with so many things, feedback’s a two way street, and the devising of an effective and appropriate process can be the difference between the course being a merely adequate program and a resounding success.
Firstly, then, let’s take a look at some ways of how the learning professional might give constructive, engaging and motivational feedback.
Giving elearning feedback
Be timely and constructive
It’s important to identify quickly exactly which areas learners’ need to improve their skillsets and/or behaviours. But what’s just as important is that feedback is given as soon as possible, and ideally while the course is still running. The learner needs to be provided with the opportunity to act upon the feedback that’s provided, otherwise, what can happen is that the last thing that the learner takes away from the course is the criticism that he or she has received.
They can end up feeling rather negative about the experience as a whole. By providing feedback early, the learner then has a chance to act upon the suggestions provided, and hopefully see a marked improvement in their work and their results as the course progresses.
Don’t simply criticise, offer alternatives
It’s not enough to simply identify where learners are going wrong or making inappropriate choices throughout the various leaning scenarios. What you’ll need to do is offer suggestions for alternatives for, so that learners are not only made aware of what they did wrong, but can also clearly see how they might improve going forward.
It’s important too, to only concentrate your critical feedback on skillsets and behaviours that actually can be improved upon. If there’s a limitation to the piece of software that’s being used, don’t dwell on it, instead help the learner in coming up with ways to work around the problem, which is much more beneficial.
Encourage group feedback
By incorporating group activities into your elearning platform, learners are not only benefitting by learning from the experience and skill sets of their peers, but when it comes to feedback time, they can start to see the benefits of feedback as a two way (or even multi-directional) process.
Give them the opportunity to discuss alternative answers to the problems before them, and even try to correct one another’s mistakes themselves. This sort of group venture need not be reserved for face-to-face learning encounters only. Through the use of online forums, message boards and social media and the elearning platform itself, this level of group engagement can be quite readily achieved, and the amount of feedback that can be generated extremely advantageous to the success of the course.
Receiving feedback and monitoring results
Surveys and questionnaires
One of the most reliable and effective ways of ensuring that your elearners are actively participating in giving feedback is to provide them with a ready-made, structured form which they can fill out easily. It can sometimes be a little daunting for learners to come up with feedback without some sort of prompt, and surveys and questionnaires can be very good, simple devices with which to encourage the two-way engagement.
You can (and in some cases should) even make the forms anonymous, so that learners are encouraged to be as open and honest as possible when it comes to their criticisms. The questions you include in the surveys should be designed to try and identify the key areas in which your learners think the program could be improved.
Always take great note of the feedback you receive from employees. If there’s more than one student with a problem with some particular area, then it is almost guaranteed that others are thinking it also. Don’t be precious about your course, take on board what the learners are saying, because they are the ones who are experiencing it first hand, and if something isn’t right, then they are the only ones who will be able to tell you.
Incorporate regular quizzes and exams
At the end of each module, the incorporation of a quiz or an exam can tell you an awful lot about the merits of your course. If, for example, you find that over 50% of the learners are failing to answer a certain question correctly, then this may be an indicator that the material you are providing isn't quite adequate in this specific area to enable the learning that you had hoped. Conversely, if you’re seeing an 80% pass rate in a different area, you may need to think about adjusting the difficulty level, and also you’ll be able to identify which students are struggling and begin to offer them any extra training that they might require.
Adopt the attitude that you are open to feedback and mean it
Always remind your learners that you are open to any feedback that they may want to give. Do this regularly in fact, and engage with any feedback that you do receive. Communicate with each of the learners regularly, and make any changes that are appropriate to the course as they are working through it, so as you can show them that you’re taking on board what they say.
This will also make them feel valued as individuals and will further encourage their overall engagement with the course. Of course, within an organisation this also helps morale – workers who feel valued tend to be much more productive.
Always remember that feedback is a two way street. When providing it to your learners always ensure that they understand that you are open to feedback yourself. It’s all about encouraging the engagement between learner, material, peer and tutor, and getting the most out of the experience on offer for both employer and employee.