20 Yuan and Kim, “Effective feedback design using free technologies”


Yuan, J., & Kim, C. (2015). Effective feedback design using free technologies. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 52(3), 408–434. https://doi.org/10.1177/0735633115571929.


Given the increase of online learning and the importance of giving feedback for learning, online teachers need ways to provide effective feedback. As described in an earlier article, creating a feedback rich environment is important for building relationships, promoting critical thinking, and helping learners build on their knowledge base. In an online environment, technology can be used to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of feedback, as well as give students the opportunity to feel a sense of belonging in a community. This article summarizes three free technologies that can be used to provide feedback from multiple sources and emphasize student action with feedback because “unused feedback has no impact” (Yuan and Kim, 2015).

Key points

Effective feedback goes beyond providing written corrective comments in order to deepen student understanding and promote connections beyond the content of an individual assignment. The technologies suggested are to improve feedback in the key areas of specificity, timing, dialogue, sources, and student follow-up. Timing and dialogue are important for learning because students cannot use feedback that they cannot understand or have lost learning interest. Feedback should also come from multiple sources, such as peers, because learning can happen through both receiving and giving feedback. Giving feedback to peers can also help learners better understand how to interpret, use, and respond to feedback they have received.

In an online environment, feedback can be enhanced than in a face-to-face classroom, but also more challenging for both the giver and receiver. As such, three types of freely available technologies are suggested to promote feedback through multimedia sharing, collaboration, and screen-casting and based on their affordances, popularity, low effort to use, and scope of the article.

For multimedia sharing, Voice-thread is suggested because it allows users to upload of various file types, comment through annotation, video, audio; and be notified of comments.   Thus, Voice-thread allows for feedback to be content specific, timely, enhance dialogue, come from multiple sources, and promote prompt follow up. It can also enhance learning in an online environment because it promotes feelings of belonging to a community with profile pictures and the personal aspects of audio and visual comments.  Wikis are suggested as a collaborative tool because they are similar to Voice-thread in the affordances of timeliness, specificity, upload, and dialogue with multiple sources.  However, wikis are constrained by the lack of ability to provide  annotation or audio-visual comments. Screen-casting through Jing is the final suggested technology because screen-casting provides audiovisual feedback which can “convey nuance through vocal cues that promote understanding” as opposed to just written text (Yuan and Kim, 2015).  Video can also be used to give visual feedback and show sources to explain/elaborate on feedback.


A key point described in the article is the importance of students learning how to give, receive, and use feedback. If students do not know how to interpret feedback, then it is ineffective because they are not able to learn from and use the feedback to build on their knowledge. Part of learning how to receive and use feedback is by giving feedback in a learning community where students feel safe through a sense of belonging and trust in constructive nature of feedback for learning. Critical to online learning then is having assignments where students can practice receiving and giving feedback to promote learning about feedback and also to promote the sense of a learning community with their peers through dialogue and personal interaction. Technology can help students in an online course find this interaction and dialogue that otherwise might happen in a face-to-face interaction in a traditional classroom, and also gives them a chance to practice digital communication skills that are becoming more important in the workforce and society.

Discussion questions

  1. How can technology be used to enhance the effectiveness of feedback in a learning environment that is not online?
  2. What are aspects of digital citizenship that should be considered when having students use technology to give and receive feedback?
  3. What are other types of technology, such as social media, that can be used to promote a sense of learning community and effective feedback? How can they be used to help students learn how to receive, give, and use feedback?

Additional resources


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

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