Giving online feedback

Evie Schellens

Offline, a coach can easily check whether students understand the information that is given to them. You can provide them with feedback based on their answers and give extra explanations whenever needed. Creating interaction and keeping people involved is much easier when you are seeing them face-to-face. Online users also need these checks and interactions, but there is no coach there to give them these personally. All of this therefore needs to be incorporated into the design of your e-learning.


A test at the end of a module is a great way to check your users’ knowledge, but then it is also important to provide them with feedback based on their answers. Like in a real life setting, feedback has two primary goals:

  1. Making sure your user understand and remembers the information
  2. Keeping the user involved in the learning process

Keep these goals in mind when you are integrating feedback into your learning environment.


True/false questions

A practice test where a user only gets feedback that says whether their answer was right or wrong does not really help them understand the material. They will not know why their answer was wrong, and even showing them the correct answer is not enough because it raises the question: where did I go wrong? It can also be the case that a user who answered the question correctly, does not fully understand the concept yet. It could have been a lucky guess on their part. After seeing that they answered the question correctly, most people quickly move to the next one without thinking about their answer at all. Completing the test then becomes the goal (to continue) instead of a means (to check knowledge). 


True/false question are a good method, but they need instructive feedback to become complete. For example: ‘Your answer is not completely correct. It is understandable that you think A is the answer, because of X and Y, but the correct answer is B, because of W and Z.’ With this feedback, a user can place their answer in the right context, find out why they gave the wrong answer, and why the other answer is correct. 


You can also provide this context by placing the questions in a realistic scenario. By doing so, your users can easily understand the consequences of a particular action and remember what they learned by thinking of these consequences. For example: ‘You are talking to a dissatisfied customer, what would be an appropriate response?’ If they give an incorrect answer (for example ‘I remained calm and proper, but I did tell the customer that their complaint is not valid.’) you can let them know in your feedback that the customer has probably found their business elsewhere. After that, you can refer the user to the module in which contact with dissatisfied customers is discussed.


Feedback as encouragement

It can also be useful to make the feedback in your online training appealing to users. During a live session a coach will not only give instructive feedback to people, and the same should count for your learning environment. Using sentences like ‘Great job, you completely understand the concept!’ motivates your users to continue their training. Did they give a wrong answer? You can still motivate them by saying something along the lines of: “Sorry, that was not completely correct. If you read the material in module X again, you will definitely get it next time!’


Your users will get more involved with the training if you give them feedback that is human and relatable, and by showing empathy and appreciation they will feel better about themselves and motivated to continue the training.