When I consider the instructional practices that I relied on during this year of pandemic teaching, providing video feedback on student work stands out as one that will endure long after we return to campus.
I frequently encourage students to submit work to me for feedback before I grade it. For example, if students are writing a lab report and want to know if they are on the right track (which happens a lot at the beginning of the year), they can submit a draft beforehand so I can comment on what they’ve done well and how they can improve their work before I evaluate it for a grade.
Normally, I do this preliminary evaluation in the classroom as students work, but when that strategy became impossible due to remote learning, I thought long and hard about how I could offer the same guidance and commentary to both remote learners and those in my physical classroom, efficiently—and if I could offer it in a way that engaged them as effectively as in-person feedback did.
Video Messaging for the Win
After looking at a series of communication platforms, I landed on Loom, which allowed me to give students immediate feedback no matter if they were learning from home or were on campus. When students requested feedback on their work, they would send me a link to their Google Doc, I’d give it a quick read-through, and then I’d hit the Loom plug-in that I’d installed in my Chrome browser to record my commentary as I scrolled through their work.
Once I finished recording, I’d email the recorded video link back to the student with a quick written message. Often the student would respond with a note of thanks and ask further clarifying questions.
Benefits for Learning
This system fostered an online learning environment that valued learning and improvement over simply earning a grade—a classroom culture I’ve been intentional about creating for the past two years. I’m also convinced that it helped me strengthen relationships with my remote learners: Each video was clearly personalized, and they appreciated that sense of rapport. I felt like the student and I were sitting together as I critiqued their work. (Here’s an example.)
Loom also allowed me to perform digital walk-throughs of student work and do what amounted to a think-aloud commentary simultaneously as I read my students’ work. Students wound up not only using the videos to refine their assignments before submitting them for a grade but also relied on them in their study groups so they could collaboratively revise their work and discuss the suggestions I’d made.
Moreover, students could replay videos as many times as they needed while improving their assignments. They tended to prefer video feedback, in fact, because they got to hear my voice talking directly to them—something they couldn’t get from written feedback.
At the end of the year, students remarked that these short video commentaries were one of the things that helped them grow as scientists and writers of science.
Recording Loom videos saved me a lot of time, as reading through a document and providing written feedback takes me quite a bit longer. The videos also made things easier on my remote students because they often had few opportunities to connect with any of their teachers, aside from brief class meetings every day. When you have not physically met your teacher, for them to communicate with you by video about your work is a pretty big deal—it means that your teacher is making an effort to personalize your learning experience. My attention prompted the students to progress through their work in a more effective manner while still feeling like they were benefiting from one-on-one attention.
With Loom, I could provide my in-person learners with commentary more quickly: They’d finish their assignment during asynchronous class time and submit it, and then I could get to it shortly after they’d left for the day. Both groups of students enjoyed listening to my comments on their work—just the sound of my voice made it more personal—and my quick response motivated them to make their changes quickly, too.
This is a practice that I fully plan to continue, with a couple of modifications. Loom recently enabled two-way responses, so students can respond to my commentary with video as well, making the exchange more like a conversation—and conversation, we all know, always enriches learning.