Now that instruction has shifted online, you may find that your previous feedback practices are no longer the best fit for your students’ work. Fortunately, Canvas offers a number of alternative feedback mechanisms, one of which is audio feedback. See this Writing Across the Curriculum resource to learn how to access the feature in Canvas. Here, we will address how to structure your audio feedback.

First, let’s answer the why: why should I deliver feedback via Canvas’ audio resources when written feedback has been working just fine? There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of feedback, and it might be the case that written feedback will continue to serve you and your students well. Consider, however, that:

  1. Audio feedback can eliminate or diminish misinterpretations with your feedback by allowing students to hear intonation, inflection, and nuance in your voice. With the goal of helping students develop their writing habits, it is less likely that students will misinterpret your feedback on their writing, meaning that they can more readily apply your comments to their work.
  2. Audio feedback can be more detailed than written comments. Because we often speak faster than we type, and because audio feedback allows you to communicate what you’re seeing clearly, more detail won’t necessarily mean more time spent grading.
  3. Audio feedback can add a personal touch—your voice—in a time when everyone is socially distanced. Never underestimate the impact that personalized audio feedback can have on a student. Not only does this provide a human touch in a moment where we’re spending a lot of time looking at screens, but it also allows you to communicate compassion to students who may be feeling isolated.

How to read a draft in preparation for audio feedback

  1. Read the draft once through. As we would usually recommend, reading your student’s writing once all the way through will give you an eye for the patterns that emerge in the writing. This will allow you to think about the writing in its entirety, rather than getting bogged down at the sentence level.
  2. On the second read through, take notes that you could arrange into 2 or 3 bullet-pointed suggestions. In your audio feedback, you won’t have time to address more than 3 or so concerns in your student’s writing for them to focus on in future assignments. Limiting yourself to 3 bullet points will offer you a concise roadmap to your feedback.

How to structure your audio feedback

  1. Determine how long you want your audio feedback to be. In general, we recommend no more than 5 minutes for a shorter piece of writing (say, 3 pages or under), and no more than 8-10 minutes for a longer piece of writing. You might try a formula of up to 1 minute of feedback per written page, with a maximum of 10 minutes total. Anything past that risks losing your writer’s attention.
  2. Start with an introduction. Rather than jumping right into your feedback, offer a brief, personalized note addressing the new feedback format you’re using.
  3. Give the student a road map to your audio feedback. If you will be starting with what worked well, let them know. If you will be starting with what could improve, let them know. This will ease your students into the audio feedback process and prepare them for what is to come.
  4. Make your student a “praise sandwich”: praise, critique, praise. Writing can be intimidating and anxiety-inducing for students, and starting your feedback on their writing with praise can let them know that you’re not only going to be criticizing their work. On top of this, hearing excitement or encouragement in your voice may provide positive motivation and clarity for students looking to improve.
  5. Identify patterns in grammatical errors but don’t address each one individually. Following your “praise sandwich,” identify 1-2 recurring grammatical errors in your student’s writing. Point to one or two places where this error occurred and offer a verbal correction to how they can fix the error.
  6. Sign off with encouragement. Especially if this is a rough draft, encouraging your students as you sign off can help motivate them to develop their ideas and writing further.

For more support on using audio feedback, check out the WAC program’s resource here.

For a tutorial from Canvas on giving audio feedback through their platform, click here.