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Feedback: “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A-“

By in Classroom, Course Redesign, General Education, Student Behavior on .

I took a cohort program for my master’s and had the same instructor for 4 or 5 courses. Each assignment was an essay. On every essay I got exactly the same feedback – absolutely no comments on grammar or specific ideas, but rather the generic “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A-.“ To this day, I have no idea on why “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A-“ rather than “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A+“ (which the student who sat next to me always got). (This feedback was especially sad when considering that this was a masters in adult learning. But that’s another story.)

Feedback to students can guide students, but in different ways. Here I would like to focus on three types of feedback: Feed back, feed forward and feed up (not to be confused with “fed up” – which is what I was in my master’s program).

Feed back, up and forward

  • Feed forward (FF) – feedback that explains how to improve future assignments

Feedforward provides suggestions for the next assignment

  • Feedback (FB) – ipsative feedback on current compared to past performance

Feedback compares past and current assignments

  • Feed up (FU) – feedback that explains why this (the assignment or assignment details) is important

Gives info on why the assignment is important


If we identify our purpose(s) when we provide feedback, we can support students in learning and applying from both the assignment and the feedback!

Essay examples:

FF – “Organizing your essay will help your readers. If you follow the sequence of what is asked in the assignment this will help you both ensure that you cover all elements and organize your thoughts more.”

FB – “On your last assignment I noted that you changed ‘voice’ often. Here you are consistent and your essay is much easier to read because of it!”

FU – “You do not seem to have a firm grasp on the differences between the behaviorist and constructivist theories. Understanding this is important because workplaces will want you to develop training based on these.”

Multiple choice exam examples:

FF – “In order to improve your performance on the upcoming [assignment/exam/group project], please review the [notes and materials/resources] posted in Blackboard.” (Purdue ITaP, 2013)

FB – “You are doing a better job studying. Your improvement is great!”

FU – “Understanding the basics of Excel which we cover here will be critical to your success in your accounting class.”

Here’s the whole model:

full model

(Somewhat based on Hughes, 2012)

Is feedback important?

I remember the feedback I got 15 years ago in my master’s program because it was so bad. It did not inspire me or help me improve.

Good feedback may not be as memorable long term, but research has shown that it can help students improve not only what they know, but how to study and how to apply their learnings.

Passing note on Passnote:

By the way, writing appropriate feedback can be hard. At Purdue, we created Passnote to help. This is a very easy-to-use tool which has a selection of feedback notes which you can select and edit to make your feedback to each student individualized! And you don’t have to download or sign-in to use it. Take a look: http://www.purdue.edu/passnote/


Hughes, G. (2012). Ipsative assessment: comparison with past performance. Higher Education Academy Workshop and Seminar Series 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgbarg/OU_workshop_files/TWO37-GH.pdf

Purdue ITaP. (2013). PassNote. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.purdue.edu/passnote/

Considering e-Texts for your class? Consider these points…


By in Accessibility, Classroom, Course Redesign, Mobile, Tools on .

Many of us have a tendency to think that if we adopt an eText format for our class textbooks we will be more innovative and provide the students a cheaper service. Here are some common assumptions (if you are interested in the research behind these statements, please send me an email):

  1. eTexts cost less – many studies show that eTexts do NOT cost less. They cost about the same as purchasing and then reselling a book.
  2. Students prefer eTexts – again, studies show that this is not true. However, this is changing and in another 5 years or so it may be true.
  3. eTexts provide additional materials – most eTexts are simply copies of the original text with nothing added. Unless the author and publisher worked together to specifically add animations, videos, etc., there is not content difference.
  4. Multiple formats – If multiple instructors and departments are selecting eTexts, then students may be working in different eText platforms, causing them confusion.

What DO eTexts provide that you and students might like?

  1. Lightweight – students can carry all their books in one laptop (in some cases a tablet or iPad)
  2. Ease of sharing – in some platforms you can send students highlighted sections or refer to a specific image or text.
  3. Bb Learn links – Some platforms can be linked from Blackboard. You can put a specific link in Blackboard to send students to a specific section.

What do students think?

  1. A recent study showed that students worry that their eTexts will all disappear if the technology fails. In one of our programs, in fact, students use iPads to access CourseSmart eTexts and find that their virtual books disappear often.
  2. eTexts are almost always rentals – the length of rental varies with the contract. For higher level classes, students may want to keep their textbooks. If they purchase a paper-based copy after the course is over, they have lost any highlighting, notes, etc. that they made in the eText version.
  3. Many students prefer whatever format costs the least – and that is usually a semester-long rental of paper-based books.

What else should you consider?

  1. Accessibility – online texts may not be fully accessible. In addition, if you as an instructor highlight specific sections and send them to your students, some students may not be able to access these. Currently, the National Federation of the Blind has challenged the accessibility of the CourseLoad platform. More may come.
  2. I don’t know of any studies yet that have investigated eye-strain connected to prolonged screen reading. If you know of some, please let me know!
  3. Training – some students may need help figuring out how to highlight, underline, and take notes in an eText.
  4. If you are considering eTexts, perhaps you could talk with other courses your students are likely to take to see if a common platform is possible, which might also lower costs.

Want some help?

  1. We can advise you of what to look for and what to look out for in contracting with a publisher or eText vendor.
  2. We have created a Qualtrics survey that you might be interested in using as a pre- and post-course assessment. If you would like to run a pilot, we would be happy to help you.
  3. We would be happy to work with you on teaching your students how to use eTexts
  4. We can help you check out the accessibility of specific eTexts.
  5. If you would like to do research around integrating eTexts into your course, we can help.
  6. If you are interested in creating your own eText, we can help you identify how and what you might need.

If you would like some help considering eTexts for your course(s) please let us know – itap@purdue.edu

Pat Reid, Manager, ITaP Teaching and Learning Initiatives

3 More Outlook Tips: Just Trying to Organize my Life a Little!

By in Uncategorized on .

Threaded conversations, double-filing, & the OHIO rule

1. Threaded Conversations on your Desktop
You know how we tend to have a lot of emails back-and-forth about the same thing and they fill up our inbox and following the thread is not always easy? My iPad and iPhone create threads for these automatically:

iPhone/iPad image

(BTW – to take a photo of an iPad or iPhone screen, hold down the on/off button at the top of the device and press the center Home button)

– so why can’t Outlook?
It CAN!! Outlook has a new (new to me) option to sort a folder or all folders by conversation. Here’s one of my folders sorted by Date and then sorted by Date AND Conversations…

Inbox with and without threaded conversations

Note the expansion arrows in the second pic. If you expand, you could see something like this which indicates that Judith responded to an original message from Connie:

Emails showing as thread 1

or something like this which indicates that the original message was responded to and forward to me from two different people:

Emails showing as thread

If you want to try this, RIGHT-click on the Arrange by bar and select Show as Conversations…

Instructions image

2. One email with two topics? How do I file THAT??
Another new-to-me trick… I have known for a long time that if I want to copy a calendar entry, I can hold down the Ctrl key while dragging the item to another time or date. Never occurred to me before, but you can do this with emails, too!

This might be particularly useful if, for example, you have an email that includes praise for a team member and also information about a topic – at performance review time it would be handy to see all the complimentary emails in one place, but the rest of the time, you want the topic information in the topic folder.

So, here I have an email with two topics…

Two topics in email

And I want to file this under BOTH the IMPACT and the Bb9 folders. From my Inbox, I click on the message, hold down the Ctrl key then drag the message to the first folder… Take a look at my cursor – it now has a + sign!

Cursor change

The email is now in my Inbox…


AND my Bb9 Documents folder…

Documentation folder

Now I can drag the Inbox copy to the other folder – resulting in it being in TWO folders and NOT in my Inbox. This is actually different copies – not just pointers to a single copy. If you delete the email in one folder, it does not delete it in other folders.

3. Living out of my Task List and Calendar, not my Email
One of the tips you get in just about any time management course is that you should have a single task list and calendar and use them to guide your day. This required that I break the habit of constantly checking my email. Instead, I check it 2-3 times a day (and my calendar has a ½ blocked off each morning to manage my email inbox). So to keep my inbox from haunting me, I try to use the OHIO rule – Only Handle It Once (even though I was raised in Ohio, I didn’t make this up). I turn emails into tasks or calendar items and then file them – out of sight, out of mind!! If you are not sure how to do this, refer to my blog date Dec. 18, 2011 (http://blogs.itap.purdue.edu/learning/2011/12/28/taming-outlook-email-addressing-and-managing-the-outlook-email-to-tasklist/)

Posted by Pat Reid

Technology: What students know vs. what we want them to know

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By in Classroom, Course Redesign, General Education, Musings on Technology, Student Behavior, Student Technology Kit on .

One of the common technology disconnects we see is faculty expectations compared to student abilities. One of the possible reasons for this is the types of technologies student most commonly use compared with the types of technologies we want them to use.

Student Tech Use

First off, some students have significantly more computer experience than others. Some will have had home computers before they started to talk and others will have had limited access in schools. This gives a spectrum from no experience to constant experience…


Range from No Technology Use to Constant Use

Range from No Technology Use to Constant Use

In addition, however, we need to think about what students are doing when they use technology. The types of technologies students are frequently using are social networking, gaming, and ‘productivity’ tools (such as Word and email). And each student will have a different level of experience with each. So while one student may have focused on productivity and gaming, another might have focused on social networking.


Differering student expertise

Differering student expertise

So, graphing a class of students, you might end up with something like this:

Students will have various areas of expertise as well as different levels of use

Instructor Expectations

 The types of technologies we want them use could be grouped into productivity tools (perhaps expanded to include presentation and spreadsheet tools), subject-specific technologies (such as electronic medication administration), and instructional technologies (such as research databases, DoubleTake and Blackboard).

Students’ experiences in subject-area and instructional technologies are often pretty limited. So a typical student might look like this…

Student experience with subject and instructional technologies

Student experience with subject and instructional technologies

and a class might look more like this…

Class experience with subject and instructional technologies

Class experience with subject and instructional technologies

So what?

As instructors increase the amounts and types of technologies used for teaching, the students may need additional support. Programs we think of as intuitive may only be so because of our experience and background. For example, I don’t care what my kids say, I struggle with Facebook constantly. They don’t.

It might help us think through student technology learning needs if we think through their probable experiences and compare these with the technologies we are asking them to use.

This, of course, puts another burden on the instructor – as the main person associated with the technology, the instructor is probably students’ first contact.

If you are planning on using instructional technologies in class or in assignments, you might want to check your student’s readiness first. Attached is a simple and quick survey that might help you with this.

By thinking through what types of support students may need, when they might need it, and who is the most appropriate contact for the students, you can help them get support more quickly.

  • Many technologies have quick-start guides that you can provide students before they need them.
  • We also have student trainers who can provide basic instructions on many technologies your students might need to complete your assignments (http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/trainingnew/st/ or email itaptrainers@purdue.edu).
  • And if you are not sure who the contact should be, you can always start with the ITC Help Desk (x44000).

If you are interested in learning more specifically about instructional technologies, our team in IDC is ready to help. You can contact us by emailing itap@purdue.edu.

Pat Reid, Ed.D., Manager, Teaching and Learning Initiatives