February 18, 2015

Backtrack to… student feedback via video vs. red pen

Posted by Laura Guertin

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 8.17.22 PMEvery once in awhile, I come across something (a tweet, an email, etc.) that reminds me of an article I read or a past conference presentation.  In this case, it was an article I saw on my daily Wired Campus eNewsletter from The Chronicle of Higher Education on January 26, 2015, taking me back to my own variation of how to provide students feedback.

The article, titled “Could Video Feedback Replace the Red Pen?“, addresses an alternative form of providing assessment feedback to students through individual video recordings, as reported by Michael Henderson ahd Michael Phillips in the Australasian Journal of Education Technology.  The authors found that flipping the feedback to video was reported by students as being “individualised (specific) and personalised (valorising identity and effort); supportive, caring and motivating; clear, detailed and unambiguous; prompting reflection; and constructive, which led to future strategising” (Henderson and Phillips, 2015).

The “backtrack” for me was recalling when I had surgery on my right wrist towards the end of a semester.  Final student projects were coming in, and I couldn’t use my right hand to make handwritten or typewritten comments.  Rather than struggling with trying to do everything with my left hand, which would have lengthened the time and quality of the feedback, I audio recoded comments to each student and emailed them a MP3 file.  In the audio file, I was able to walk students through the strengths and weaknesses of their submissions.  Not one student expressed concern about this method of feedback (perhaps because they were being sensitive to my medical situation?).

Here are where there may be some benefits to these alternative feedback mechanisms… I agree that my audio feedback matches the outcomes of the video feedback from a faculty member standpoint, that I was able to provide more detailed and individualized comments that would help students on future assignments.  But there are the pitfalls, such as video (or audio) anxiety – anxiety on the faculty side for creating the video, and anxiety on the student side for watching the video.  The faculty member needs to be very careful about FERPA and post the feedback on an open website that someone might find in a Google search.  There is also the time factor (and where I differ from the authors), as I feel that more thoughtful comments require more time to compose, and depending upon the number of students in a course, creating video (or audio) files could actually lengthen the time it takes to get the feedback returned to the students.

And then, for the faculty that do invest the time and energy into creating video-based feedback – will the students even watch the video and/or do something with that feedback?  Henderson and Phillips (2015) cite several references to behaviors that we as faculty already know to be true – students skip to the grade and may not read the feedback, or perhaps do not even collect their assignments once they see a grade in an online grade book in a course management system.  And even if students do read the feedback do they actually “do” anything with our comments and suggestions?

So to video record feedback or not to video record feedback – that is a question left to an individual faculty member to decide.  Henderson and Phillips agree that further research needs to be completed in this area, as they were only able to find one research paper published in the past decade addressing individualized video-based assessment (Parton et al., 2010), and it focused on graduate-level students.  This discussion makes me wonder about assignments that are submitted electronically and receive only electronic feedback, such as what you would find in an online course… are these e-practices with a virtual red pen helping or hurting our students?  These are points all worth gathering further feedback (through whatever means!).


Additional sources for exploration

Kolowich, S. (2015, January 26). Could video feedback replace the red pen? The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired Campus. (Article online)

Henderson, M., and M. Phillips. (2015). Video-based feedback on student assessment: scarily personal. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1): 51-66. (PDF online)

Parton, B.S., M. Crain-Dorough, and R. Hancock (2010). Using flip camcorders to create video feedback: Is it realistic for professors and beneficial to students? International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 7(1): 15-23. (Article online)