Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

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Providing timely feedback to students

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This week’s topic may come across as a “well duh” concept, but timely feedback from an instructor is identified over and over as an important way to keep students engaged in your online course. It’s critical that students know how long it takes to get a response on homework, but timeliness is a somewhat subjective term. For e-mail, the expectation is much for a much shorter turn around. For assignments, which often take much more time to respond to, there’s a different expectation. For context, let’s look at what your students expect in terms of response times based on our Spring 2013 Distance Learning Student Survey.

For e-mails

E-mails are typically much quicker to respond to and are used when students need clarification on assignments or other class details. A majority of PCC students (Spring 2013) indicated that when they “email my online instructor, I think it is fair and reasonable for my instructor to respond” within 24 hours. Here are the details:

When I email my online instructor, I think it is fair and reasonable for my instructor to respond:

Response Percent
Within a week 1.4%
Within 48 hours 42%
Within 24 hours 56.6%
 For assignments

Assignments typically take a lot of work on the part of the student. A thoughtful and constructive response likewise takes time. Especially when you have a full class submitting their work at the same time. When asked, a majority of PCC students indicated that they thought it was fair and reasonable to have an assignment graded and returned within a week. Again, the details:

When I turn in an assignment in my online classes, I think it is fair and reasonable to have it graded and returned:

Response Percent
Within 24 hours 5.2%
Within 48 hours 19.2%
Within a week 50.6%
Before the next assignment is due 24.0%
By the end of the term 1.1%

There you have the student perspective. But most critical of all is communicating your expectations and estimated response time to students in the syllabus. Setting the expectation early will help with student anxiety and floods of emails.

About Andy Freed

I'm the Manager of Technology and Support in the Distance Education department, where I oversee our infrastructure, technical support, and online student services group. I've been with the College since 2001 and have worked in several posit... more »

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