Allan, Robert and Bentley, Steve (2012) Feedback mechanisms: efficient and effective use of technology or a waste of time and effort? In: STEM Annual Conference 2012, 12-13 April 2012, Imperial College, London.

This paper compares the efficiency and effectiveness of using typed comments in the Grademark part of the Blackboard (Virtual Learning Environment) with audio feedback using Audacity software. Some 140 students in five tutorial groups completed two separate formative assignments in October and November 2011. For the initial assignment three groups received typed feedback and two audio. The feedback mechanisms were then reversed for the next assignment, three receiving audio and two typed. The time taken by staff to complete the marking and feedback was recorded in order to gauge the efficiency of providing feedback to large cohorts.

As would be expected, the efficiency of using both techniques improved as familiarity increased, the average marking time for each assignment being approximately 8 minutes for audio against 11 minutes for typed comments. This is obviously a potential benefit to staff but feedback is only useful if it is used by the students. The effectiveness of the feedback from the students. perspective was therefore investigated using a questionnaire survey.

Results were obtained from 66 respondents to an initial survey. 76% found audio feedback easy to follow compared with 88% for typed. Typed comments were viewed by 83% as highlighting errors/mistakes against 75% for audio. Both methods scored similar marks for indicating positive aspects 73% (audio) and 72% (typed).

Arguably for feedback to be effective it requires an element of feed-forward and audio scored more highly with 70% against 61% for typed comments. The overall preference saw 38% favouring audio against 48% for typed with 14% stating no preference.

Additional information on students. preferred learning styles was also recorded but was found to have no influence on feedback preference.

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