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Giving quick and meaningful feedback to students 

High quality feedback has a powerful impact on student learning and experience (Gibbs & Simpson 2004, Hattie & Timperley 2007; Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick 2006). Providing students with meaningful instructor feedback in a timely manner will enable students to act on the information and improve their learning. Such feedback will need to be provided both early and frequently throughout the semester, so that students can act on the information while still in your course.  

Canvas makes giving timely feedback easy especially if you use the SpeedGrader in Canvas. It allows you to provide feedback in multiple ways: written comments, handwritten annotations, hand-written comments, whole class feedback, audio feedback, video feedback and automated feedback. Many studies have shown that students perceive audio and video feedback as more individualised, personalised, and easier to comprehend and act upon than written feedback, because it is easier to decipher tone and meaning (Ice et. al, 2007; McCarthy, 2015).  

Written comments.  

You can provide written comments for your assignments using the SpeedGrader. Multiple markers will also be able to add individualised feedback for every student. Comments are organised chronologically with older comments appearing near the top and newer ones added to the bottom. Additionally, written comments can also be added using the Speech recognition icon, that converts your speech to text, and makes the feedback giving process faster.  

Written comments can also be provided as post replies (visible to all) for Canvas Discussions or via SpeedGrader (individualised feedback) for graded discussions. 

In-line comments and hand-written annotations.  

You can also annotate directly on student submissions by adding colour-coded point annotations, add text comments, use strikethrough and/or highlight text. There are options to highlight a single word or passage of text or use an ‘area annotation’ to create a box around a section of student work. Hand-written comments using the free-text option can also be used to write directly anywhere on the submission (works especially well when using a stylus or touchscreen).    

Audio and video feedback. 

Audio and video feedback personalises student learning. Canvas SpeedGrader has a built-in audio/video recorder that allows you to easily record your feedback using your microphone and/or webcam. 

The option to use voice recording as feedback has its benefits. First, it establishes the ethos of dialogic and personalised learning by establishing a connection between the marker and the student. Second, you can provide more feedback in three minutes of talking than you can typing. If your preference is to talk through the critique/feedback, then using audio/video feedback is good. You can replay, delete, re-record, and save the recording, but will not be able to edit recordings.  

Video feedback has the further advantage of allowing you to demonstrate problem-solving, and/or correct approaches to the assignment question if you record a screencast and webcam recordings of instructor.  

Using the SpeedGrader, you can record a media comment either as an audio or video or upload a previously recorded audio/video file. 

Whole-Class Feedback.  

While individual feedback is essential, it may not be necessary in every single instance. Feedback given to the class as a whole can also be beneficial. Instructors can use this method to highlight exemplary work or correct general misunderstandings. Even though such whole class feedback can be provided via SpeedGrader, it may be good to use the Announcement tool in Canvas to broadcast such feedback messages to the class and may include: overall performance on an assignment; common misconceptions/misunderstandings on a specific quiz/assignment question; the great discussion during the class; key-points on a guest lecture.   

Comment library. 

The Comment Library within SpeedGrader allows you to save and reuse commonly used text feedback. You can add new comments or delete existing comments in the Comment Library. The comments are accessible from any course in which you are enrolled as a teacher. 

Automated feedback. 

When using quizzes, automated feedback can be used to provide immediate individualised feedback for formative purposes. You can include detailed feedback on both the right answer options and the distractors options, and free yourself from having to respond to every student individually.  Students can view your feedback when they view their results after submitting a quiz. Such pre-scripted feedback in a quiz can provide students with: (a) a confirmation on whether they have understood the material correctly, (b) ways in which to remediate the learning, or (c) prompts to reconsider the question in a new way 

Using Rubrics. 

Rubrics in Canvas is one way to provide consistent feedback and communicate your expectations by clearly articulating to students the guidelines and benchmarks for an assignment. They are good at giving task-specific feedback in a neutral tone on areas that need improvement or areas that were exceptional. Rubrics can also act as a self-assessment or peer-assessment tool for students.    


How do I leave feedback comments for student submissions?
How do I use the Comment Library in SpeedGrader?
How do I create a Multiple Choice quiz question (see section on “Enter Feedback Text”)
How do I add a rubric to an assignment?
How do I add a rubric to a graded discussion?  


Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004). Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3–32. 

Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77 (1), 81–112. 

Ice, P., Curtis, R., Phillips, P., & Wells, J. (2007). Using asynchronous audio feedback to enhance teaching presence and students’ sense of community, Online Teaching,  

Nicol, D. J. and Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31 (2), 199–218.