Feedback and Assessment

Some aspects of how you provide feedback and assess students' work may remain the same as they are when you teach on campus, but others will probably be different. For example, you may want to incorporate more peer feedback or assessment of asynchronous activities in ways that you do not do when you teach your course on campus. Some questions to consider as you think about this are:

  • How will you grade the activities you’ve added to asynchronous work? Can they be auto-graded or assessed for participation? Do they need human grading, and if so, how much time will be needed?
  • If activities will be ungraded or graded without feedback, how will students learn from their mistakes? Will there be peer feedback? Sample answers? Application or review in class?
  • If you have added new activities or assignments, does your total expected engagement time from students still fit in 8-10 hours weekly?
  • Will you directly assess students’ participation in synchronous activities? How will you do this for students who cannot participate in real time?

Types of Feedback

As you think about how you and your students will receive feedback on their understanding of the material and the work that they do as part of your class, consider your options. Given the changes that you’re making to your course structure, you will probably want to add new feedback opportunities to support the development of your course community and monitor students’ asynchronous learning, as well as any group work that is not instructor-led.

Canvas quizzes and integrated apps can provide auto-generated feedback on questions that have right and wrong answers. You and members of your teaching staff can provide expert feedback on more complex questions and assignments, and students can provide each other with peer feedback as well.

To structure your thinking about what types of feedback might be appropriate to incorporate for different types of assignments in your course, you can make a copy of this table to organize your thoughts about the benefits and limitations of auto-generated, peer, and expert feedback, and how you might incorporate them. You can also consult this chart for a comparison of various assessment and feedback tools.   

For peer and expert feedback, you can also consider different methods of delivery. Should it be written? Delivered in person? Canvas also has video and audio commenting tools that you may want to consider.

Employing Peer Feedback for Asynchronous Activities

Many courses incorporate peer feedback on written or other work. This can be done entirely asynchronously, or you could encourage pairs to meet and discuss the work, then (if desired) submit a summary of that meeting. In some cases, peer feedback may be a requirement for an assignment, but it doesn’t always have to be so formal.

Effectively incorporating peer feedback on assignments has many benefits, but it can be challenging to do it well. One of the most important tools for this is a clear rubric. This is especially important when a peer’s evaluation will be incorporated into a student’s grade, but it can also be a valuable tool for providing feedback throughout the assignment, for example in early stages or drafts. 

It is important for everyone to understand the rubric, so discussing it with your students during one of the synchronous class meetings could be a valuable use of time. You may even want to consider developing the rubric as a class activity to get student buy-in.

Canvas has tools for assigning and managing required peer reviews, and you can establish less formal peer feedback opportunities as well. You can incorporate periodic informal peer review cycles during a long-term project (as well as a more formal peer review at the end, if desired), or use informal peer reviews for shorter assignments. For example, you might use peer consultation and study groups; part of the work that those groups do when they meet could be reviewing and providing feedback on each others’ work. You could also establish an expectation that students respond to each other and provide feedback in online discussions, either through the Canvas discussion board or Slack. If you use a less formal approach to peer feedback, consider how you will hold students accountable for providing feedback to their classmates, and what you will do if a student is unable to provide feedback in a timely manner.


  • Using the Canvas “Peer Review” assignment option allows you to assign peer reviews manually or automatically. Peer reviews in Canvas do not result in assignment of a final grade for the assignment (which must be done by you or a TF), but you can provide a feedback rubric as well as ask reviewers to leave comments. Students do not automatically receive credit for completing a peer review, but if you want to assign points for them, you can create a “No Submission” assignment in the Gradebook and assign points manually.
  • Bok Center guidance about grading and responding to student work.

Newly Online Asynchronous Activities

Your course will likely include new online, asynchronous activities that students will complete either independently or as part of a group. To incentivize students to complete these activities and take them seriously, you can assign some amount of course credit either for completion or quality. 

Overall, your course should include a mix of relatively frequent low stakes assessments as well as more summative, higher-stakes assessments. The new online asynchronous activities could provide an opportunity to incorporate low-stakes assessments, so that you and your teaching staff can monitor student comprehension and engagement and students can gauge their own learning.

Given that your asynchronous activities will be integrated with your plans for your synchronous class meetings, you can use the students’ asynchronous work to provide feedback and help you prepare for synchronous meetings. For example, you could identify students who you may want to call on to contribute by reviewing their discussion forum contributions, highlight points of confusion from a quiz that you want to clarify, or review students’ document annotations so that you can more effectively plan for a discussion. 

Synchronous Activities

The format of your synchronous sessions will determine how you can get and give feedback and assess your students.

For example, during discussion-based synchronous sessions with a faculty member or other instructional staff, you can monitor students’ understanding through the discussion, but since you’ll be spending limited time with your students in the synchronous sessions, you may want to also consider using technology tools to quickly check in with a larger number of students. Zoom’s poll and chat features or other Zoom “responses” (yes/no, thumbs up, hand clap, ) provide easy ways of incorporating multiple-choice, choose-all-that-apply, or yes/no question to check for understanding, or you can use the yes/no buttons or other res. These can also help to break up a longer class session by “mixing things up.”

Consider whether or not students will be held accountable for completion or comprehension of questions with a “right” or “wrong” answer. Assessing completion reduces the temptation of students to cheat, but if the stakes are very low you may not get valid feedback from them. 

For synchronous sessions at which a faculty member is not present, groups could produce a specific work product (worksheet, project, or written or video record of their work, peer review report, etc.) for you or a TF to review.