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:
- Email (54%)
- Facebook message (30%)
- PROpenMic message (8%)
- 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 email@example.com). 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?