Peer Review

Providing Meaningful Feedback to Students…revisited

Online Course Peer Review Rubric standard III.3 reads: Assessment and measurement strategies provide appropriate feedback to the learner.

When I think back to my undergraduate years, I honestly don’t remember getting much instructor feedback on my coursework. Of course, I attended a fairly large state school and I oftentimes sat in packed lecture halls with hundreds of classmates. Still, in some of my smaller-sized classes, the only feedback I received on my work was the grade at the top of the assignment. I feel fortunate to work at a community/technical college that promotes the importance of instructor-student interaction. Most of my students expect feedback on their work and take me to task if I don’t provide enough!That’s absolutely the way it should be. Instructor feedback helps students learn and improve their skills. Although it can be time-consuming, we need to focus on its effectiveness and look to provide frequent and meaningful feedback to students in various ways. Some ideas:

  • Participate actively in discussion activities.
  • Make specific suggestions for improving papers and other assignments.
  • Make it a point to tell students what you especially like about their work.
  • Provide opportunities for students to critique each others’ work — peer review!
  • After an online testing period is over, allow students to see their corrected tests.
  • Build feedback directly into quizzes.

Fortunately, D2L allows instructors to provide feedback to students easily in various places. Now, if only those assignments and papers didn’t pile up so quickly week after week…  Providing feedback can be hard work — but the student improvements make it, oh so worth it!

Academic Honesty

This is typically that time in the semester when some students start to panic and cases of plagiarism and academic honesty tend to rise in our classes.  While addressing these concerns right off the bat at the start of the semester is strongly encouraged, revisiting the issue right now is a smart plan, too.

Rubric standard 1.3 of the LSC Online Course Peer Review Rubric states: Expectations regarding academic honesty, including plagiarism concerns, are clearly stated in the instructor’s course syllabus.

At this point in the semester, making changes to the course syllabus will likely go unnoticed by students.  Communicating important information in the news area of the class homepage, however, is sure to catch their attention.  Remind students of your class plagiarism policy and encourage them to visit the Academic Honesty at LSC tutorial that they all have access to on their D2L entry page.  We all have access to this tutorial, as well, by clicking the Student tab on our own D2L entry pages.  This site is full of good information, including examples of plagiarism and a faculty discussion board.

Link to the LSC Student Conduct Policy:

Other worthwhile resources:

Online Course Accessibility

The LSC Online Course Peer Review Rubric is an excellent tool to use when developing new courses and revising old ones.  It also serves as a reminder to develop courses with accessibility issues in mind.

Standard VIII.1 of the rubric states:  There is evidence (in the online course) of effort to recognize the importance of ADA requirements. 

When reviewing online courses, peer review team members and I look for the following:

  • Alternatives to auditory or visual content made available upon student request.
  • Alt tags on images (D2L now asks for these descriptors before embedding an image – hooray!)
  • Careful use of color.  Avoid using red, yellow, light green, and orange.  Instead use maroon, navy, dark green, etc.  Bold color when you choose to use it.
  • LSC’s Disabilities Services statement on the syllabus
  • Use of sans serif fonts (arial, tahoma, verdana, etc.).
  • Avoid underlining for emphasis as it often appears to be a weblink.


I found some excellent additional sources of accessibility information this week.  I encourage you to check them out: (outstanding online tutorial)  (excellent information about accessibility concerns of the visually-impaired)  (students with disabilities speak out on their experiences with e-learning)

Collect student feedback…easily!

After a fun, interactive spring duty day session led by Kent Richards, I got to thinking about how I might more effectively collect useful information from my online students.  How do I know whether they’re finding the audio feedback helpful?  Are the study guides I’ve created useful to their learning experience?  Is it easy for them to access the videoclips I’ve embedded into the discussion area? 

I’ve used SurveyMonkey before to poll students about discussion results and opinions, but I’ve never used it to collect information about the usefulness of some of the online tools I use.  I decided to give it a shot.

I’ve been embedding an audio welcome into the news area of my homepage for a few semesters now.  I’ve been curious about how many students are able to open it.  I would like to provide some audio feedback to certain dropbox assignments, but won’t do this unless I know it’s relatively easy for folks to access.  So….I asked them!  I created a two-question anonymous survey using SurveyMonkey (free and super-easy to do), embedded the link to it into my weekly news message (please let me know if you have questions about how to do this), and requested that students complete it.  The results:  To date, 61% of students have answered the questions, with 67% stating the embedded audio was easy to open and 82% stating they’d like to see more of it this semester.

I was frustrated to see that only two-thirds of the students were able to easily open the audio, but I also learned that I must instruct students to download the latest, free version of Adobe Flash Player in order to view the audioplayer itself (instead of that nasty white box with the little red X in the corner).  Lesson learned!

I plan to continue surveying my students about various aspects of the class every few weeks this semester and expect that the responses will help to shape my classroom into a more user-friendly, effective place to learn!

Getting off to a great start!

  Good organization is important at any point in an online course, but it is especially appreciated by students the first week.  Just a few points to remember as you put the finishing touches on your courses before launching into a new semester:

  • Welcome students to the class in your homepage news area. 
  •  Specifically tell students what they should do first upon entering the class (example:  Click on “Content” on the above navigation bar to see the activities for this first week of class). 
  • Post your contact information in the news area as well as the syllabus.
  • Place important course information together in the content area (syllabus, course overview, calendar,  link to publisher’s website, etc).  Consider organizing your content area by weeks.
  • Remind students to read the syllabus and other important course information carefully (I do this several times!).
  • Consider adding a photo of the required textbook (and other materials) in the news area.  I found that doing this cut back dramatically on the number of students who were working with the incorrect text.
  • Encourage (or require) students to introduce themselves to one another in the discussion area.  Introduce yourself, too!
  • Remember to include the course outcomes, word-for-word, from the official course outline on your syllabus.  Peggy Gustofson has all official course outlines available online and will email them to faculty, upon request.

I’ll be in my office (E2330) Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester from 10:00 – 3:00.  If you have questions about teaching online, please stop in!

The D2L Checklist

I am intrigued by the D2L checklist feature!  Every once in awhile I’m involved in the review of a course that seems might benefit from what a checklist might provide.  My goal is to learn more about this tool and incorporate it into one of my spring online courses.  I’ll share what I learn here.

Today I viewed the following D2L-created Checklist User Guide (thank you, UW-Stout!):


LSC’s Online Programs Advisory Committee (OPAC) has been working to create a netiquette document that faculty can use in their online classes.  The peer review process recognizes that netiquette guidelines should be included.  Rubric standard 1.4 states:

Netiquette guidelines for the course, including etiquette regarding discussions and email communications, are clearly stated.

If you would like to add anything to this information or have comments, please let me know.  A final copy will be emailed out to all LSC faculty once the document finds approval by OPAC members.

LSC Online Course Netiquette

Behind Every Name There is a Person

  •  Respect the privacy of your classmates and what they share in class
  • Ask classmates for clarification if you find a discussion posting offensive or difficult to understand
  • Avoid sweeping generalizations.  Back up your stated opinions with facts and reliable sources
  • Understand that we may disagree and that exposure to other people’s opinions is part of the learning experience
  • Be respectful of each other.  We’re all in this together

 Online Communication

  • Be aware that typing in all capital letters indicates shouting
  • Be careful with humor and sarcasm.  Both can easily be misunderstood!
  • Review all discussion postings before posting your own to prevent redundancy
  • Check your writing for errors by reviewing what you’ve written before submitting it

Creating effective online discussions

Generally, we include discussions in our online classes because we want our students to interact and learn from one another, right?  But have you ever had a discussion just kind of fizzle or never take off to begin with?  Crafting effective discussion questions can be tricky.  Here’s a site I really like that identifies the different types of questions (analysis, application, synthesis, etc.) and helps the instructor to formulate them:

Incorporating a video component into discussions is a fun way to dig deeper into a subject.  I rather recently discovered a link for educators at the NOVA Science NOW site:   Here you’ll find a few dozen brief video clips on various subjects, along with follow-up information and questions.  Require your students to view the videoclip and relate it to what you’re learning in class, or summarize something they found particularly interesting or surprising about the information presented, etc.

I’ve also linked students to YouTube videos and asked them to critique the information found in a particular video.  Based on what was covered in class, what is accurate in the video and what is not?  How could the video be improved, etc.

Have fun as you get your students interacting in the online classroom this semester!