Feedback channels

7 May

Thirteen students submitted practice exam scripts at or soon after our final ‘Corporate and Specialist PR’ class. I’d asked the group to email me to request feedback (there are no more classes and the exam is next week).

This was a cumbersome and unnecessary step that only four followed. (I don’t keep all student email addresses because of the administrative effort involved and because of residual concerns about data protection). Add another two who had submitted by email where there was an automatic feedback loop, and I still had seven students to contact. Here’s what happened next:

One managed to find me in my office – a sign of great luck or great persistence since I was only there long enough yesterday to swallow a lunchtime sandwich. Face to face feedback is best practice where possible.

That still left six. I reached four through Facebook (private message, not public wall post) and received an almost immediate response from three of them. One I managed to contact this way passed me the email address of a classmate. That left only one.

A Facebook search let me down, then I remembered that she’d messaged me through PROpenMic (no one else has, so it was easily memorable). Again, I received near instant response to my feedback.

It’s not scientific and it’s a tiny sample, but here’s my league table of student feedback channels this week:

  1. Email (54%)
  2. Facebook message (30%)
  3. PROpenMic message (8%)
  4. Face to face (8%)

Educators might be surprised that the university’s virtual learning environment didn’t feature. I didn’t even consider it, assuming that a mix of email and social networks would be more effective (social networks send out emails or RSS updates to notify you of new messages). VLEs were designed in the 1990s, make odd assumptions of the willingness of academics and students to log in and spend time there, and lack the compelling qualities of Web 2.0 social networks.

Practitioners might be concerned at my willingness to mix personal with educational channels – but I don’t find that students make a personal-professional distinction. Many prefer to use private email addresses that are evidently not professional (think Some were Facebook friends already (my rule, by the way, is to accept friend requests from students but not to request them); others were easily searchable through Facebook and verifiable through profile photos and mutual friends.

What will my preferred channels of communication be next year? Will there be even more, or fewer? We know that students appreciate fast feedback, but how do they prefer to receive it?

4 Responses to “Feedback channels”

  1. Elif Esiyok 13/05/2008 at 10:46 pm #

    I have another idea, it is a bit old but in terms of getting faster feedback MSN can be used 🙂 Even web cam can be another opportunity (especially to the students who are abroad) But I know that it is impossible from tutor’s point of view 🙂
    But even if my tutor give me permission for MSN, I think I won’t use it 🙂 E-mail is the best so I think I am in the 54% part.

  2. Ben Cotton 14/05/2008 at 1:59 am #

    It is a thought provoking point and one that has made me reassess which of my various email addresses and communication channels I check the most. My Leeds Met VLE came last. I suppose subconsciously it comes down to having a more positive association with my Facebook and hotmail accounts which I use for social networking etc, whilst I associate the VLE with the more mundane e.g. university work.
    Perhaps there is scope for the Leeds Met VLE to include more compelling features after all Facebook started for Harvard University students!
    Taking Elif’s suggestion a step further perhaps a Leeds Met IM service could be introduced for interactive, long distance feedback and students could book time slots for feedback.

  3. Richard Bailey 14/05/2008 at 7:26 am #

    Good discussion. Why can’t a VLE be more like Web 2.0?
    That said, I did experiment with feedback by messages on the university’s VLE for my L1 group. Problem is, many couldn’t find it at first (I had to instruct them via Facebook!).
    I’d also strongly resist IM as a suitable channel for feedback. I find it too frenetic and not sufficiently considered – but then I’m showing my age again.

  4. kayra 22/05/2008 at 7:19 am #

    i’m a lawyer and i really need a good public relaithons firm
    do you know any good around ?

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