Feedback Loops in Online Courses

One compelling reason to move towards online learning is it introduces three feedback loops: learning platform to student, learning platform to teacher, and learning platform to course designer. [1] Utilizing feedback from online learning platforms has the potential to revolutionize the learning experience in all stages of education.

Feedback Loops
Feedback Loops

In primary and secondary education, it helps teachers move towards personalized learning plans and mastery where students learn at their own pace. Especially in secondary education when teachers utilize flipping – students watch an online lecture and then come to the classroom for coursework and testing. [2]Daily feedback on a lecture is more powerful than periodic feedback from assignments. 

In higher education, feedback loops inform: students whether they really understand a concept so they can seek out other ways to learn it, teachers how effective their lectures are so they can modify them and provide supplemental support, and course designers how to improve the structure of the course.  There are also advantages in flipping in higher education, by maintaining personal interaction between student and teacher and providing an opportunity to address poor retention of concepts from the lecture. Finally, the feedback provides empirical evidence to evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness (which is an improvement to the student evaluations taken at the end of a course).

Feedback loops strike me as a big reason to adopt online learning platforms. Understanding students’ retention on what they are being taught, and having the ability to respond to it (sometimes immediately) should improve the learning experience. In addition, it frees teachers to concentrate on delivering the best possible lecture.


[1] William G. Bowen, Higher Education in the Digital Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).

[2] Tina Rosenberg, “In Flipped Classrooms, A Method for Mastery,” New York Times. October 23, 2013.

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