Is video feedback effective? [Spoiler alert: You should try it!]

Girl sitting on couch working at computer

You have likely heard the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. You may have also heard the claim by Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. While both of these are only figures of speech meant to provide a tangible scope of reference, the reality is that multimodal communication does have the ability to communicate messages more effectively. 

One of my areas of interest is assessment and feedback—specifically feedback literacy. Feedback literacy, as noted by Carless and Boud (2018), involves equipping learners with the skills to identify feedback and implement it meaningfully in order to improve their work and engage more fully in the assessment process. That is, of course, if they even open the feedback instructors provide. In an attempt to make feedback more accessible, some have experimented with non-textual forms of feedback such as audio and video feedback formats (Henderson & Phillips, 2015; Mahoney et al., 2019). Last year, I decided to try the video feedback tool in Blackboard. I wanted to provide my students with feedback that (a) they would choose to view, and (b) feedback they might use. The experience quickly led to an ongoing scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) project.

In the remainder of this post, I will outline three treasures (positive aspects) and three trials (negative aspects) of my use of video feedback.

Three treasures

  1. Students watched the feedback. I believe that building connections with my students is important, so I thought that presenting feedback to them in video format might help strengthen that rapport. The next class after I released the first instance (of 11) of video feedback, there was a buzz in the classroom. When I asked what the students were excited about, one spoke up and said, “We just realized that you recorded video feedback for ALL OF US! That’s so cool!” Another student approached me after that same class to tell me that they appreciated the personal nature of the feedback and how it was different than anything they had experienced. They even showed their parents!
  2. Students used the feedback to improve their work. In my courses, I often employ a variety of assessments. In my Digital Technology course I had two recurring assignments: (a) Flipgrid video responses and (b) group concept maps. In the three years prior to last, I found that students would make the same errors and neglect the same aspects of the assignments despite me providing a completed marking rubric and textual comments. When using video feedback, however, I found that far fewer students made the same subsequent errors on their Flipgrid responses. Interestingly, during the second group concept map, I could hear students chatting about how their first group’s feedback was “to include more connections to the course” and “to make sure all relationships are labeled.” Although my SoTL project was not designed to assess whether the video feedback resulted in a statistically significant increase in grades based on video feedback, students noted that it led to deeper learning.
  3. The feedback I provided was more deliberate, constructive, and personal. I’d like to think that my feedback has typically been useful to students. However, it is easy to fall into using “canned” comments when providing textual feedback. I found that the feedback I provided to students in the videos addressed their work in greater detail and explained not only error but how those errors could be improved. The whole flow of the feedback was more natural than pithy comments interspersed throughout their work. I also found myself paying closer attention to their work and focusing more on the details of their work in addition to overall structure and content.

Three trials

  1. Giving video feedback was exhausting. If you have been teaching online this year, you might have experienced the phenomenon of Zoom fatigue. I experienced a similar effect after providing video feedback to 64 students for 11 assignments each (704 videos). Just as video allows you to communicate using facial gestures and fluctuations in your voice, so too does video show every instance of exhaustion, fatigue, and monotony. In my haste to try video feedback, I neglected to use it strategically. 
  2. Video feedback was not faster. The time it takes to write textual feedback and complete rubrics can quickly add up. I expected that video feedback would save some time marking, or at very least equal out to the time that textual feedback took. This was not the case. For larger assignments, including large written assignments, the five-minute maximum allowance of the blackboard tool meant I saved some time per paper. However, I found that I recorded between 2-3 minutes per Flipgrid response—an assignment that in years past had taken less than a minute to mark per video. Factor in lag time between clicks to open the video recorder and video processing time, and the process slows down significantly. Not to mention that marking needed to be done in a place where I could record video (quieter than the typical coffee shop), which meant that marking time needed to be scheduled more deliberately than in the past.
  3. Not all students were ready for video feedback. For feedback to be effective, students need to know what to do with it (Carless & Boud, 2018). Even though I spent some time explaining my video feedback and why I did it (especially as a way to integrate technology into assessment), not all students were prepared to use it. Few students actually made note of my suggestions in the video feedback, resulting in the videos being a source of entertainment and not instruction as I had intended. 

So, should you incorporate video feedback? Yes!

In the end, using video feedback was more effective than textual feedback. Students unanimously identified that the video feedback was not only more interesting, but also led to a deeper connection to course material and the purpose of feedback in the teaching and learning process. In hindsight, I should have been more selective in my use of video feedback. Video feedback can be especially effective for iterative assignments or larger assignments, but for lower weighted assessments, textual feedback is likely enough. Had I considered this, I think I could have minimized the fatigue I felt. Regardless of your approach, I recommend that if you are going to use video feedback, you take time to explicitly address its purpose and how students can use it.

Brandon Sabourin is a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor. He teaches courses in digital technology, digital literacies, and instructional technology. Brandon is also completing a PhD in Educational Studies exploring the connections between sessional instructors’ approaches to teaching and opportunities for educational development. Brandon maintains an active research portfolio of projects related to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), student partnerships, effective assessment and feedback, and digital technology integration.

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