Assessment, Alignment and Feedback Spotlight #1

Faculty Info

Name: Stacey Beauregard
Academic Program: English
Average Number of students per section: 20
Featured Courses:

  • English 102: Strategies of Successful College Writers (four sections)
  • English 330: Interdisciplinary Writing

Had you taught online prior to the rapid shift to virtual instruction in response to COVID-19? 

Yes, for two years prior.

What practice or technique have you implemented in your course?

A simple practice that has evolved into an important point of connection with my students is the end-of-module survey.

Each week, I use the “graded survey” option in the Canvas quiz tool to create a quick, regular check-in with each student in the class. My end-of-module surveys include at least two questions: 

The first question is always a checklist of the week’s module content, ideally with hyperlinks for ease of access. Often this is a copy of the to-do list from the module welcome page. Like a module wrap-up page, this survey question provides a quick way for students to self-check their completion of the week’s content. I generally build the item as a simple yes/no multiple choice question that asks students to confirm that they’ve located all listed content.

The last question on the survey is always an open space for questions and comments about the week’s work. It’s designed to lower the barriers to asking questions in an asynchronous course. Students don’t need to decide whether their questions are important enough to merit the effort of sending an email or a Canvas message, and those who are inclined to be nervous about approaching their professors don’t need to worry that their questions will be an inconvenience. After all, questions are part of the assignment! I always try to cultivate the belief that questions are an expected and important part of learning, not evidence of misunderstanding, and building space for questions in an assigned weekly task is one small way to reinforce that mindset.

In between the two standard questions on my survey, I might place an additional question if I’m seeking more specific information in a particular week: for instance, feedback on an element of the course, a quick check for understanding about an assignment or concept, or a more general check-in about how students are coping with the circumstances of the semester. I’ve also used the middle question as a space for students to set goals and reflect on their progress.

Why did you choose this approach?

Initially, my goal was simply to ensure that my students were navigating Canvas modules effectively and not missing any course content. As I began to see how students responded to the surveys, however, my sense of their purpose evolved.

Currently, in my courses, the end-of-module survey serves four basic functions:

  1. It provides an opportunity for students to self-check their progress through the module and make sure they’ve found all required content.
  2. It creates an easy, low-stakes space for students to ask questions.
  3. It’s an opportunity for me to gather feedback about the course and about individual students’ experiences.
  4. It provides a reliable point of connection between me and each student in the class every week.

How do surveys work in Canvas?

Graded survey is an option available when you set up a Canvas quiz. You can select it from the “quiz type” drop-down menu. The question types available for quizzes are also available for surveys, and surveys are autograded (with full points for completion) on submission. I generally set mine to a fairly low point value, but I do assign points to motivate students to complete the survey. Ungraded surveys are also an option.

After the deadline, I click through the surveys in SpeedGrader and respond to questions and comments. It’s generally a quick process since no evaluation is needed.

How have students responded to this practice or technique?

I’ve found that students will often ask questions in the survey space that they won’t ask through other means, and — although I’ve yet to collect any hard data on this — my anecdotal sense is that once students have communicated with me through the survey, they often feel more confident in communicating with me in other ways going forward. The survey interactions help to create a rapport that might make sending a Canvas message or dropping into office hours feel a little bit easier.

In addition, with the option to leave a comment rather than a question, students will often use the space to let me know if, for instance, they particularly enjoyed one of the week’s readings, or to update me on their progress on a project. It also becomes a space where the students and I wish each other a good weekend or engage in similar casual, friendly interactions. In short, the survey has been an unexpected site of quite a lot of “humanized” interaction in my asynchronous courses. 

When courses resume on our physical campus, will this practice transfer to your in-person classes? If so, why?

Yes! There’s some definite overlap between the last question on my survey and “exit-ticket” or “minute paper” style classroom practices. I haven’t used those techniques particularly extensively before, but I now have a new appreciation for the value of quick, individual, low-stakes interactions.

Is there something you plan to change for Spring? What and why?

In the spring, I may experiment with new question types and explore more multimedia survey response options.

Which 3 resources and/or tools do you consider essential to effective virtual instruction?

In addition to surveys, the tools that have been most valuable for me this semester are:

  1. (for shared annotations)
  2. VoiceThread (for asynchronous video and voice discussion)
  3. Adobe Premiere Pro (for video editing)

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