Faculty Resources

Providing Feedback in Online Courses

Frequent and timely feedback from instructors increases learner engagement and success in online courses. When teaching online you can give feedback to learners in a variety of ways, using different online tools, to encourage and support their engagement and success.

The Importance of Feedback

Feedback is essential for learners to know how well they are grasping a course’s subject matter and to allow them to track their progress. The goals of feedback are encouragement, support, redirection, and course-correction.

Quality feedback is never exclusively about improvements that can be made; it should also be positive and constructive. For example, instead of simply stating “good job”, let the learner know exactly what they did well and what stood out. After providing encouragement, give specific and actionable feedback on where improvements can be made. Giving learners specific, detailed improvements allows them the opportunity to improve their performance on future assignments.

Feedback Frequency

Regular and frequent feedback initiates interaction with learners builds instructor presence in an online environment, contributes to the creation of a community of learning, and supports learner engagement. Provide feedback to assignments, reply to discussion boards, and post announcements!

Feedback Timeliness

A best practice is to provide learners feedback within one week of the assignment submission. If you anticipate not being able to meet the deadline you set for yourself, for whatever reason, communicate that with learners.

Providing timely and frequent feedback on learners’ work gives them support and guidance that may improve their performance on subsequent assessments. Waiting too long after an assignment or quiz is submitted denies students important information they can use in your course and beyond. Don’t wait until the end of the semester to post comments, feedback, and grades.

Canvas Tools for Feedback


A rubric provides learners with specific and descriptive criteria for how work is evaluated. Using this information, learners know what is required in order to earn maximum points in all criteria being assessed. Rubrics ensure that students are all graded on the same scale, against the same guidelines. Using rubrics to grade assignment, you can also enter specific comments. Instructors can add interactive rubrics to assignments and discussions in Canvas. After adding an interactive rubric in Canvas, these rubrics can be used to quickly grade assignments.


SpeedGrader is the grading tool in Canvas which displays learners’ work submitted through Assignments, Discussions, and Quizzes. Within SpeedGrader is the Canvas DocViewer that allows you to annotate, comment, and provide in-line feedback on assignments. This is another tool that enables you to give frequent and timely feedback specific to support each learner’s success. Learners can review your markups and comments when they access Grades.


The Announcement Tool is effective for providing whole class feedback, especially after a major assignment or exam. Post a brief update of what was done well, topics commonly missed, and resources to help foster improvement and encouragement to re-visit key course concepts.

Additional Resources:

Beverley, Getzlaf & Beth, Perry & Greg, Toffner & Kimberley, Lamarche & Margaret, Edwards. (2009). Effective Instructor Feedback: Perceptions of Online Graduate Students. Journal of Educators Online. 6. 10.9743/JEO.2009.2.1.

Atkinson, D., & Siew Leng, L. (2013).Improving assessment processes in higher education: Student and teacher perceptions of the effectiveness of a rubric embedded in a LMS.Australasian Journal Of Educational Technology, 29(5), pp. 651-666.

Rottmann, A., & Rabidoux, S. (2017, September 6). How to Provide Meaningful Feedback Online. Inside Higher Ed. (link to https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/views/2017/09/06/how-provide-meaningful-feedback-online-course)

Kelly, R. (2014, February 27). Feedback Strategies for Online Courses. Faculty Focus. (link to https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/feedback-strategies-online-courses/)

Fiock, H., & Garcia, H. (2019, November 11). How to Give Your Students Better Feedback With Technology. Chronicle of Higher Education. (link to https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20191108-Advice-Feedback)