Leveraging Student Feedback to Improve Teaching in Web-Based Courses

Article excerpt

Web-based course materials are being used extensively to provide supplementary as well as standalone instruction in educational settings. One of the most powerful elements of using the Web for teaching is the ability to engage learners in an interactive format. Although there are many technologies available that allow instructors to develop interactive Web course materials and elicit feedback from students, many educators choose to use the Web only for distributing static documents. This severely limits the potential of the Web to improve the teaching/learning process.

Feedback and Assessment can be used to monitor student progress, control the pace of learning, and evaluate teaching strategies. Using HTML Forms is a simple but powerful technique to collect student feedback and leverage it to improve teaching. Forms are used to collect data from the students who use Web-based course materials. Student feedback can provide the instructor formative evaluation of teaching during the semester. By using this evaluation method, instructors can get immediate feedback on course material, teaching style and student progress in order to make necessary adjustments. This article explores cognitive aspects of learning and using sample Educational Psychology courses to demonstrate how student feedback can be applied in education to improve teaching.

Many educators have recognized the potential of using the Internet for instruction. Although many Internet technologies such as e-mail, listservs, ftp and conferencing can be used to assist with teaching, the World Wide Web remains the most popular medium. It provides a user friendly front end and easy access to text, graphics, audio and video materials that may be used in a common and consistent format. Most education Web sites provide basic course information such as syllabus, schedule, announcements and reading lists. Others go beyond static materials to include synchronous or asynchronous communication, online testing, discussion groups, conferences, whiteboards, streaming audio and video. These type of materials are being made available in courses that meet in classrooms regularly and use Web materials as supplementary tools, as well as courses that are delivered entirely over the Web without traditional classroom meetings. The popularity of the Web for use in education can be seen from sites such as The World Lecture Hall (http://www.utexas.edu/world/lecture) that contains links to hundreds of courses created by educators worldwide. Course topic areas on this site range from Accounting and Advertising to Women's Studies and Zoology.

Web Interactivity

Chickering and Ehrmann (1998) suggest that while using technology to teach, educators should eschew materials that are didactic and instead search for technology-assisted solutions that are interactive, problem oriented, and that evoke student motivation. Web interactivity helps engage students in active application of knowledge, principles and values, and provides them with feedback that allows their understanding to grow and evolve. As compared to just accessing a static Web page and either reading or printing it, interactive components involve participation by having the user in some way interact with the Web environment. The interaction can be with content, other students, instructor, participation in a discussion group, quiz questions, simulation program, conferencing, live chat, or by filling out a feedback form.

Web environments can make use of one or more of these interactive components at any time. This type of interactivity may seem directly related to the constructivist theory. In designing learning environments, researchers (Honebein 1996; Lebow 1993; Knuth and Cunningham 1993) have recommended using constructivist theory for effective learning. The constructivist approach incorporates pedagogical goals in the knowledge construction process by providing appreciation for multiple perspectives, embedding learning in relevant contexts, encouraging ownership in the learning process, embedding learning in social experience, encouraging use of multiple modes of representation, and encouraging self awareness of the knowledge construction process (Vygotsky 1986; Bruner 1990). …