The Art Of Giving Feedback In eLearning

The Art Of Giving Feedback In eLearning
Sergey Nivens/
Summary: Have you ever seen feedback to a quiz of an eLearning module consisting of only one or two words? I have seen many courses in which “Bravo!” or “Wrong answer” were typical responses to all learning efforts for completing a challenge. Such an approach is definitely a bad practice; in this article I will discuss the 3 roles of feedback and how to give effective feedback in eLearning courses.

The 3 Roles Of Feedback In eLearning

Good feedback is the most powerful part of an eLearning course; even when thinking about more sophisticated forms of eLearning (i.e. simulations, games, role-plays, etc.), deep understanding of the subject is usually being provided by some form of feedback. Designing good feedback should be an important part of Instructional Design; however, it is distressing to see in how many eLearning productions this part is totally neglected.

Feedback plays many roles in an eLearning course; here are the 3 most important ones:

  • Educational.
  • Motivational.
  • Appreciative.

Let us have an analytical look at each one.

  1. The Educational Role Of Feedback In eLearning.
    Feedback should not only provide information about whether the exercise has been completed successfully or not: What do you do if you don’t know the answer to the question posed? I bet you just try to guess the correct answer. However, even assuming that you guessed it right, what will you learn from the feedback “Bravo!”? Feedback should explain “Why”: “Why” I failed or why I succeeded. Feedback should be explanatory and not simply offer information about failure or success. Don’t assume that the correct answer is a result of a deliberate intellectual process. And don’t assume that when eLearners give the right answer they are at the same time competent to provide it. As eLearners are frequently participating in eLearning courses while in the rush, we have to find ways to make them stop for a while and have a moment of reflection. Feedback is the best part in an eLearning course for that.
  2. The Motivational Role Of Feedback In eLearning.
    After all the well-prepared exercises and quizzes have been placed in an eLearning course, we can expect to have a substantial group of eLearners who failed and succeeded. The motivational role of feedback concerns the ones who were not successful. As Instructional Designers, we must take special care of them: Our goal is not only to persuade unsuccessful learners to make another try, but also to prepare them once more for the exercise in order to help them learn. The educational message of feedback is important, but sometimes it is not sufficient to understand the issue. Unsuccessful learners very often need to be redirected to the certain part of the eLearning module with a motivational message that helps them engage once again in reaching the competence required to complete the exercise.
  3. The Appreciating Role Of Feedback In eLearning.
    Positive feedback should also appreciate all efforts to reach goals in an exercise.
     It is important not only to inform eLearners about accomplishing the challenge, but also to make them feel like winners. The words are important here, but their tone is also a crucial part of the feedback message. For instance, it is not very appreciative to read “You managed to answer all questions”. Providing right answers and delivering good results in a challenge is usually more connected with high engagement than with luck; so let’s not diminish learners’ success by setting an improper tone in the message.


When using advanced eLearning authoring tools we are sometimes tempted to follow a mechanistic approach to designing feedback. It is easy to use templates or just to copy and paste automatic feedback comments in quizzes. However, we should remember that proper feedback can be a very influential mechanism with an ability to improve people’s competencies. To use the full power and potential of feedback in eLearning we need to spend much more time on designing it and just forget about doing simplified work on it.