There are a number of ways feedback is obtained during an eLearning course. Some are familiar while others may be overlooked. Selecting the right mechanisms for feedback, where and when on your interface could make the difference between improvement and business as usual. This article is meant to bring focus to active feedback for the instructional designer as a primary mechanism for measuring the performance of the online learning.

When we design a course for eLearning, we focus on the content and design for the platform. Depending on the learning management system, we may employ some proprietary tools or some standard feedback forms. Feedback is often saved for last as it may be considered part of the evaluation phase. This is quite natural as we want to capture learners progress, comments and satisfaction ratings. We need to know what we got right and where we can improve. It’s never the same as the audience may change and differences can be accounted for by demographics, work roles or motivation to complete the course.

If we describe feedback as synchronous or asynchronous the we can consider the course feedback during learning (active) or surveyed post-course (passive). The immediacy of the feedback has advantages. The learner will find the current activity either productive, pleasing or unhelpful. We can garner information by activity with more precision if we put a quick-click rating post-activity. Later, we can analyse rating with progress and find where we have bottlenecks. The drawback to continuous feedback is it takes a bit more time and consideration which can distract the learner from the objectives of assimilating the content. In the eWorld there are already enough distractions and we don’t need to add more.

Feedback can be beneficial for both the learner and teacher. With feedback, everybody learns.

Content also has many dimensions. There is text, multi-media and input requirements such as quizzes or decision branches. One of these elements may not work well or the learner may find it out of context with the rest of the content. In this case, we need to know what the learner sees as out of place as opposed to finding out about it in a generalization in the evaluation phase at the end of the session. In this case, allowing a comment box for every activity would also work well. Remember, feedback is for improvement purposes. If you like iterative approaches to developing software or courseware, then active feedback is necessary. If implemented properly, the ratings should eventually go up and the comments should be positive or disappear altogether.

Ultimately, the course will change or disappear as new techniques and knowledge are needed to keep pace with technology or changes in production. The learning from feedback can extend beyond the immediate course into the design and application itself for future course design. The value can be added by seeing feedback as an opportunity to work together on problem-solving and improve communications from a reading display and web page interactivity perspective. Be honest, listen more than talk and provide constructive criticism when asking or being asked for input. Feedback can be beneficial for both the learner and teacher. With feedback, everybody learns.