If there is one thing that we’ve become more familiar with over the past few months it’s video. While it might be a step down from our face-to-face interactions, there is one place where creating a video connection is a big step-up: text-based assignment feedback. A/Prof Michael Henderson and Dr Michael Phillips have done some really great research in this area and have been using video feedback in their own teaching for 8+ years , uncovering the many different ways in which video feedback makes things better.

Canvas has a built-in video feedback record button, UTSOnline can attach video, and we have all jumped perhaps the biggest hurdle – being comfortable (somewhat) with communicating and seeing ourselves on camera! So, maybe it’s time to take the plunge into video feedback?

So why make the jump?

It’s likely to be faster and you can get more across

It feels a bit hard to believe, but if you read through the process below you’ll start to see that you can quickly get into a system that is a lot faster than carefully constructing a clear block of written feedback. And you can get far more across even allotting yourself a short period of time – in 5 mins from 150 written words to more like 600 spoken.

It’s far more engaging for both you and your students

Instructors using video feedback often report that they actually feel more like teachers. Having the opportunity to think about what you can tell students about that will engage their curiosity or help them find the next thing to grasp is why it’s so exciting to be an educator.

Students feel more supported, more personally connected and have a better understanding

Video allows for the transmission of so much information that is lost through plain text. Tone and gesture can help students endlessly in understanding your meaning and how you felt about it when you said it. And hearing this directly from you speaking to them results in a personal connection to you, and your involvement with their education. 

How to get started 

  1. Have a look at the students’ work and mark up on the assignment things you might want to comment on.
  2. Take a breath to consider a couple of things that you might mention.
  3. Press record. 

While you might feel like you would have to create detailed notes, the immediacy of going straight from assignment to video means that scripting isn’t really necessary and actually helps in making the feedback more focused and alive. In terms of providing structure Henderson and Phillips also have a framework that you can use to have the best impact:

Salutation

Say ‘Hi Andrei’. It’s been shown that feedback without a salutation may come off as terse so make sure to greet the recipient.

Relational element

Say something of what you know of the student ‘I’ve been impressed with your in- class comments’. This shows that you actually know and acknowledge them as an individual which will help them to be more open to your feedback.

Clarify goal of recording

Let them know that you will be giving feedback on say, three things and what they can do to improve for the next assignment. Setting these expectations makes things clear for the student and yourself – you’re not justifying their grade, you are giving them feed forward.

Evaluative summary

Overall how is it? ‘Overall this is a really well planned out assignment’.

Textual/formatting issues

If the student has made any structural mistakes perhaps best to get them out of the way here, ‘Take care with your referencing for the next assignment as there are a few issues here with the ordering of the elements’.

Commenting on the on the substance of the assignment with feed forward emphasis

This should be the meat of your chat, what have you noticed about their work and what should they do looking forward.

Valediction and invitation

Sign off and invite them to reach out for further clarification ‘I hope this was useful and get in touch if you need further information’. 

But what if…

There are a few things you might feel concerned about stepping into this brave new world, but Henderson and Phillips also illustrate why some of the expected issues aren’t as much of a problem as you would think.

‘I’m going to say um and ah a lot!’

That’s fine, it actually proves that you are thinking about the students’ work, and the aim is to be conversational, not great cinema. You shouldn’t feel the need to re-record for anything shy of a cat interruption – or even then!

‘Students will be too nervous to open it.’

Henderson and Phillips checked this one. While students do feel a little apprehensive they very quickly get over it with the salutation and relational comments.

‘What if students turn something I say in the moment back on me?’

Henderson and Phillips talk about how over the past 8+ years they have been doing video feedback it has never happened. This actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it – if students understand their feedback better and feel a personal connection to you and can see your efforts to help them they are likely less prone to feeling like they need to be litigious.

‘What about when I have to tell a student that they haven’t done well?’

Video gives you a much better opportunity to express your empathy – you can be there for the student and show that you understand how disappointed they might be. When you look at it this way it’s endlessly better than trying to carefully construct an emotionally sensitive response with text only.

All that said, video feedback is in no way a cure all solution, but it is very interesting to hear how adding a human face and voice to feedback with a bit of tech can actually make the process faster and so much more educationally rich. If you are interested in hearing from Henderson and Phillips themselves you can check out the full session or start at the ~23 minute mark if you want to hear a bit more specifically about their work around video feedback.

More from Futures on feedback: Dimity Wehr reported on the recent First and Further Year Experience (FFYE) Forum looking at feedback practices and Katherine Newton reflected upon her experiences of giving feedback in an online context.

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