How To Give And Receive eLearning Feedback
I was working on designing digital flashcards. You’d think that would be simple, right? There are so many examples of flashcards out there. You’ll get hundreds of image results just by googling, “Digital Flashcards”. I sat staring at my flashcard designs thinking, “Something doesn’t seem right.” I kept searching and I finally found some really great inspiration from Duolingo’s Tiny Cards.
However, my flashcards still were not right. The square shape of them didn’t quite fit for the type of content that would go on them. They winded up looking awkwardly placed on the screen because of it. Most importantly, they were not very intuitive to use.
A few years ago, I would accept the flashcards as they were and think to myself, “I did a good job, this is good. Most people will figure out how to use them.”
Now everything is different.
I reached out to my network and asked them to tell me their thoughts on my design.
I braced myself. What would they say?
Giving and receiving feedback is uncomfortable for a lot of people. It feels personal, even though most times it is not.
Asking for feedback has helped me to grow personally and to create better learning products. I wound up changing the designs of my flashcards because of feedback. I added icons that indicated flipping the card and I adjusted the width to better fit the content that was being presented. The screen felt well balanced and the cards became more intuitive to use.
I even used a similar card on other designs, which ended up saving me lots of design time.
But back to feedback. It’s not only hard to ask for and/or accept feedback but it’s also hard to give it. There are so many benefits to giving feedback for both the giver and receiving. When done well, giving feedback promotes a culture of learning and helps to foster innovation.
That being said, here are some ways to make giving and receiving feedback on eLearning projects just a little bit easier.
Ideas On Giving Feedback On eLearning
1. Celebrate Sharing Mistakes
Something I try to do often is talk about design mistakes I have made. I know, I know, it’s not really feedback, but I think this is such an important practice. When you see a polished end product, it takes a lot to get to that point. There’s a lot of mistakes to share along the way that can help others do more research or avoid making later on. Share your mistakes, laugh at what happened, don’t make mistakes taboo.
2. Ask Everyone To Share 3 Things That You’d Change About The Project And Why
I recently read Radical Candor by Kim Scott. One of the most memorable parts of the book was when Scott describes how employees at Toyota were not used to giving critical feedback. The employees were given an exercise, where they stood in a red box and could not leave until they said something critical about the company’s operations.
I’m not saying put people in a red box, but instead give folks a platform and time to make it acceptable to be critical. Perhaps create a design meeting where everyone goes around the table and lists 3 things they think really work and 3 things they would change.
3. Ask Questions
Asking questions is one of the hardest things for me to do. I tend to jump right into giving feedback. I get excited because I want people to succeed and I see the potential in their projects. However, jumping in with the feedback is not always the way to go especially with folks who are not used to it.
Instead, ask questions to help you reveal their thinking process and why they made the decisions they did. You can start with something like, “What problem are you trying to solve for?” or “Can you tell me a little bit more about this interaction?”
Then offer feedback in the form of questions like, “What if you did x,y,z?” or “Did you try x,y,z?”
4. Conduct User Research
Conducting user research early on can make providing feedback easier. You’ll have a better idea of what your users want and need. Starting the conversation based on research just makes sense. Here are some great ways to ask good questions during your user research.
5. Collect Data
Speaking of research, feedback that is data-driven is excellent. Test your projects early on in development to see what is going right or wrong. Making use of xAPI is one way you can do this.
6. When In Doubt Give Feedback In Private
Being able to give feedback amongst other designers is great because it starts a conversation where people can learn from other’s projects. However, some discussions may be a bit touchy or perhaps the person prefers feedback in private.
Ideas On Receiving Feedback On eLearning
1. Be Proactive And Get Critical Feedback
Seek out feedback early on in your projects and your career. Many learning communities are amazing and supportive but not everyone or perhaps anyone is going to be critical of your work. Early on in my career, everyone celebrated the work that I did, which was great. I felt good.
However, I rarely received any critical feedback. I didn’t seek out feedback because I thought I was doing everything right. I wasn’t. Then a cycle began. I created eLearning just the way everyone else did and those who came after me did the same. Bad eLearning design spread and continues to spread. Perhaps it’s in part because proper feedback isn’t given, so there isn’t a chance for those to apply new practices and change the way they design.
2. Don’t Take It Personally
Not taking it personally is easier said than done. I continually have to remind myself that when people are giving me feedback it’s because they want to see me succeed. I recently read an article that stated, it’s hard for us to take negative feedback because our brains think it is a threat to our safety and security.
3. Take Time To Reflect Before Responding
As soon as someone gives me feedback, I feel myself going into defense mode. You’ll know you’re going in defense mode as soon as you react with the word “But…”
Instead of reacting right away, reflect on the feedback that is given and investigate where the other person is coming from.
4. Ask Questions
That leads me to asking questions. When someone gives you feedback, it’s important to know why they are giving that feedback. Have they worked on a similar project? Did they have a bad experience with something like this? It’s good to have an understanding and you may even reveal more helpful changes that can be made.
5. Don’t Feel Obligated To Apply
We’re all on deadlines, sometimes we receive feedback and it’s too late. Just because it’s too late for one project doesn’t mean it is for another. I remember the times people have given me feedback, and I’ll generally apply it to a project later on if I can’t make it on the current one.
6. Try It Out
Lastly, just try it out. Some of the feedback that people will give is easy to instate. It doesn’t hurt to at least test it. You might be pleasantly surprised!