Can the Medium Extend the Message? Using Technology to Support and Enhance Feedback Practices

Soosay, Mekala
January 2011
Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning;2011, p794
Conference Proceeding
The research reported in this paper investigates the use of technology-supported feedback that enhances student understanding/learning. According to the UK National Student Survey (NSS) which gives final year undergraduates the chance to reflect on their course and to have their views heard, students are markedly less positive about feedback on their assessments than about other aspects of their learning experience. Thus, there is strong rationale to provide more effective feedback that enhances understanding and learning by exploiting the potential benefits that Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) has to offer, whilst reducing the burden on tutors as being the sole providers of feedback (Sadler 2010). These issues are addressed in this research, which is a small-scale evaluation project using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods, exploring the role of technology in the process of giving and receiving feedback on the final year BSc. (Hons) Computing programme at Leeds Metropolitan University (Leeds Met). The primary data is obtained from a mixed method approach using questionnaires and interviews. The research findings suggest that although tutors apply a variety of feedback mechanisms dependent upon the nature of the learning, teaching and assessment (LTA) design of their modules, students do not hold a uniform view of what effective feedback means and how it could be used to enhance their understanding and learning. It is also found that students perceive feedback as being useful when it is mediated through a guided dialogic process where a common consensus is more likely to be arrived at. It is interesting to note that characteristics of effective feedback in face-to-face delivery are not diminished in blended learning delivery. The results have implications for increasing awareness in students on how to recognise what constitutes feedback, as well as how to use it. The results also support the evidence that when technologies that maximise dialogue and learning as shared discussion of tasks are used appropriately, the emphasis shifts from delivering instruction to producing learning. Further, the findings propose that in supporting time-starved tutors who are under pressure to provide effective feedback, the pedagogic opportunities that technology affords can be suitably harnessed for collaborative learning, in particular self and peer feedback provision. Within Higher Education (HE) curricula, this translates as an opportunity to promote self-regulation through independence and personal ownership of learning, increasing students' ability to self-assess and self-correct, skills which form the hallmarks of undergraduate education. The paper concludes with recommendations to influence existing feedback practices through technology-supported activities to benefit students' learning experiences.


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