How To Give Constructive Feedback In eLearning
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve” the constantly improving magnate Bill Gates has said.
Indeed; imagine yourself never having received feedback for any of your actions. It doesn't sound like an easy, feasible path to improvement, does it? As eLearning professionals we frequently talk about how important it is to give feedback in eLearning; how it helps our audience learn from their mistakes and succeed in retaining the information we offer them. However, most of the time, it seems like we have difficulty turning theory into action. We talk a lot about the importance of giving feedback, sure; but do we actually do it? Do we actually take the time to try to find the best ways possible to offer our learners our honest opinion about their progress? Or do we just focus on the design and development of our eLearning course, interested only in getting our messages across and forget about the "dirty" job? In this article, I'll share 6 ways to give constructive feedback in eLearning so that you can make sure that every time you develop an eLearning course you take into account a fundamental truth: In perfect learning experiences people learn as much from their failures as from their successes.
- Correct or Incorrect, always explain why.
Multiple choice questions are effective, but sometimes even the most diligent learner can’t resist the temptation to just guess the correct answer when they are not sure of the right option. This is why you need to always provide the proper explanation saying why each answer is correct or incorrect to help learners get a clear understanding of concepts. It may be time consuming, but it is certainly worth the effort; those learners who really want to learn will build better critical thinking skills and reinforce their knowledge.
- Encourage social and peer feedback.
Receiving feedback from someone in the same situation as you helps seeing things from a more “casual” perspective; this can be very effective in retaining information. Encourage your learners to critique each other and exchange opinions and comments about their progress by transferring online discussions to social media, where giving and receiving feedback is as natural as it gets. Consider creating a Facebook group page for online discussions or a Twitter hashtag, for instance #shareyouropinion or #whatdoyouthink, that encourages feedback exchange for shorter comments.
- Provide a real world context.
Here is one of the most effective ways to give feedback in eLearning: Place your learners in a position that mirrors the challenges they encounter in their real life. You cannot expect, for instance, from a corporate training program to be effective when your employees are not allowed to see themselves in circumstances that simulate their real work environment, their real interactions with colleagues or customers, and the real decisions they have to make on a daily basis. Your employees’ decisions have consequences; but do they have the opportunity to learn from a serious mistake that affects the company’s productivity and reputation? It is more likely that they will be forced to use this knowledge in their next job. This is why providing feedback that shows the impact of real decisions in a safe environment makes a world of difference. Always use real world eLearning scenarios, whether branching or not, and stories that reflect the true consequences of your learners’ actual decisions. Give your audience the chance to explore and practice what they are learning in a virtual world that resembles the real one; only this way the feedback you are offering will occur naturally, as a result of your learners’ choices.
- Exaggerate the impact of your learners’ decisions.
In addition to the previous tip, it wouldn’t hurt to “dramatize” a bit the impact of your audience’s choices, provided they are learning in a safe environment. Exaggeration amplifies the consequences of the decisions made and helps learners emotionally connect with the eLearning content; this is a particularly effective technique for changing behaviors. You don’t need to terrify your learners: Adding some humorous elements to the activity or example can easily take the psychological pressure off and still highlight the possible consequences, offering excellent feedback.
- Offer incentives though gamification.
Gamification provides a variety of ways to give feedback in eLearning; gaining points, achieving a goal, or completing a challenge are all highly motivating and offer you the ability to provide feedback in the form of incentives. Create fun and entertaining eLearning games where your learners can compete with each other, work their way to reach a goal, and gain points or lose “lives” depending on their progress. Can you think of a more fun way to use feedback as a powerful influence on learning and achievement?
- Use motivational language.
And, lastly, don’t forget that language is a very simple yet very effective way to give meaningful feedback. Boost your learners’ interest by acknowledging their progress and preventing them from losing their confidence when they are failing. Don’t simply say “This is correct” or “This is incorrect”. Instead say “There you go!”, “Keep it up!”, and “Good job!” when they are actually doing a good job, and “Hang in there!”, “Come on, you can do it!”, and “Don’t give up!” when they are making mistakes. Words have power; they cannot change reality, but they can certainly change how people perceive reality. Positive reinforcement works wonders and the right choice of words can make your feedback truly inspirational and motivating. Create an empowering and accepting atmosphere in which feedback takes place, so that your learners will feel safe to ask for help or additional information. This way you can be sure that you are doing your best to promote trust, improvement, and learning.
Now that you know how to give feedback in eLearning, you may be interested in learning how to be on the other side and ask for feedback. Read the article 4 Ways To Receive Valuable Feedback In eLearning and discover 4 techniques to gather specific and incredibly valuable feedback from your learners.