Learners’ perceptions of instructor feedback in e-learning courses – findings from HBMSU, United Arab Emirates
Instructor feedback is constructive and specific information provided by an instructor to a learner on his or her course work and/or class contributions in relation to the course objectives and expectations. Effective instructor feedback is particularly important in online learning as learners are more likely to withdraw from online learning environments due to delayed, or inadequate feedback, compared with students enrolled in physical classes. Not all learners are equally active, and there are indeed learners who hardly take an active part in online course activities -the so-called lurkers. Courteous instructor feedback to such learners on their limited participation has been shown to improve learners’ participation in online courses. Diligent learners engaged in online learning programs expect feedback to be contextual, supportive, constructive, timely, substantive, summative and formative. This study examined the perceptions of 66 undergraduate and postgraduate learners on feedback provided in eight online courses facilitated by the same instructor at the School of Health and Environmental Studies, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, Dubai, UAE between August 2014 and December 2015. Data collection from learners was anonymized and participation was voluntary.
The survey sought to elicit learners’ perceptions on the extent to which feedback provided in specified courses were motivational, timely, frequent, supportive, and individualized. A polytomous Rasch model was utilized to analyze the data with Winsteps and STATA. Analysis of the 20 survey questions revealed a real person reliability of 0.82 and a Cronbach Alpha test reliability of 0.96, suggesting that the scale discriminates well between the persons. The real item separation reliability of 0.77 suggests that the questions are reliable in measuring the specified items. Descriptive analyses revealed general agreement among the majority of learners on the effectiveness of feedback provided by the instructor, although Infit and Outfit Z-standard deviation statistics revealed two questions with unexpected rare (i.e. “mostly disagree” or “completely disagree”) extremes in several learners’ responses. Unlike single questions related to learner feedback in most Student Perception of Teaching Surveys, this survey instrument comprehensively explores the dimensions of instructor feedback, aspects of which may not be previously known to learners or instructors. Our results indicate that systematic collection and analysis of learners’ feedback comments have a strong potential to enhance feedback competencies of course facilitators, as well as provide a common platform for both learners and course facilitators vis-à-vis the diverse objectives of instructor feedback.
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