At one of the first meetings that I attended at the University, a programme validation panel, I asked what mechanisms were in place for students to provide feedback and discuss their work. “My door is always open” came the reply and whilst I don’t think the member of staff was being purposefully difficult, I do think that they genuinely thought that this was enough.
Thankfully, there are now a number of ways that students can talk about their work and ask questions of their tutors. There are formalised methods for collecting data, tutorial sessions, seminars, end of course surveys and even the National Student Survey; and a growing number of informal means, from online messages, use of social media, emails, Skype, the list seems endless.
However, the use of technology can present challenges and require consideration and preparation. The JISC report Feedback and feed forward suggests technology can support learners’ longitudinal development, but only if the loop is closed, with students receiving feedback, understanding it and using it to promote their learning. The danger with new technology is that we might increase the amount of feedback but do nothing about the quality and usefulness.
As we move to a blended model of delivery, online feedback tools offer the opportunity for the student to stay connected with the possibility of an “always on” dialogue between tutor and student. However, without establishing ground rules, managing expectations and teaching students how to make the best use of communication channels, they could end up like so much chatter and noise.
Firm connections and established rapport can produce brilliant results, with opportunities for students to engage, ask questions, contribute, advocate and even start to take control of their learning as co-designer and collaborators. We would encourage you to use the tools available, whether blackboard forums or twitter chats, with a safe and secure approach to feedback, technology can enable and facilitate in a way that makes a difference to student learning and enhances their experience.