19 Liebold and Schwarz, “The art of giving online feedback”


Liebold, N., & Schwarz, L. M. (2015). The art of giving online feedback. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 15(1), 34–46. https://uncw.edu/jet/articles/vol15_1/leiboldabs.html.


In recent years, educational discussions have centered around feedback and its importance and connection to homework, grades, and assessment. Additionally, there has been an increase in online learning environments and the use of online learning management systems at all levels of education. Effective feedback improves learning outcomes, increases student satisfaction, and helps create a greater sense of community, which is especially important in an online course. Thus, it is important for teachers to understand some of the best practices for giving effective feedback in an online learning environment.

Key points

Feedback is a key teaching practice and should inform, instruct, and point out strengths in order to help learners reflect and build on their knowledge base. There are three types of feedback: corrective, epistemic (which asks questions to promote further thought), and suggestive (which gives advice to improve or expand on ideas). Epistemic and suggestive feedback promote critical thinking and therefore are important for teachers to use in their strategies.

In an online learning environment, feedback is also critical because it builds relationships and promotes the learning experience. Best practices for feedback in an online course include addressing by name, frequency, immediacy, balance, specificity, positivity, and asking of questions to promote critical thinking. Other best practices including having a consistent system, maximizing technology, promoting a feedback-rich environment, and using rubrics, templates, and automatic response for efficiency. These best practices are all further described with examples and support from research.


While promoting a feedback-rich environment is listed as one of the best practices, incorporation of the other suggested strategies will promote a feedback-rich environment in any learning environment. In addition, part of a feedback-rich environment will require an instructor to include coursework designed so that students can get specific and timely feedback from peers, the instructor, and through self-reflection. Instructors should create regular routines for feedback and reflection that are used throughout the course. Another good mechanism is to have students give feedback to the instructor so that the instructor can model what it means to reflect respond, and act on feedback.

Another important aspect of specific feedback described is that comments should be appropriate to the level and content experience of the student. For example, comments given about writing or proofs given to a high school student should be different from comments given about writing or proofs given to a college student. This is also tied to setting reasonable expectations for student work and giving feedback based on those expectations in addition to feedback that promotes student moving to their next individual levels of learning.

Discussion questions

  1. What types of feedback are most commonly employed in learning environments? What are some possible reasons that these types of feedback are most common?
  2. Why is balanced feedback of pointing out strengths in addition to suggesting areas for correction and improvement so important for learning?
  3. What common systems or practices are used that promote a feedback-poor environment instead of a feedback-rich environment?

Additional resources


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Online Learning Toolbox Copyright © 2019 by Evrim Baran is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.