TU Dresden (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN21 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 8698-8706
ISBN: 978-84-09-31267-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2021.1754
Conference name: 13th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-6 July, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Communication, information exchange, and collaborative work using modern Information and communication tools are considered as 21st century skills, focusing on the solution of complex problems and thus adapt and create new perspectives in a constantly changing environment characterized by innovation. In higher education, these skills are becoming more attractive than standard learning routines and factual knowledge. Due to the lack of guidance and support of newly formed groups in virtual working environments there is a high potential for conflicts within virtual groups. Formative feedback can make a valuable contribution to ensure virtual group work’s success but is considered as a complex and difficult task in higher education. Nonetheless, it is necessary to guide, inform and improve students during their learning process.

This study examines Feedback which is given by several e-Tutors, who are qualified and use certain instructions. Anyhow more formalized instruction on feedback as a framework or guidelines, to ensure equal quality of pedagogical support could improve their work. Besides the didactical design of formative feedback, it is almost as crucial to ensure the actual engagement with feedback. This means students need to respect given feedback and engage this feedback with a behavioral change. Feedback guidelines for higher education courses exist for analog learning formats and individual virtual learning. However, the scientific literature shows little discourse in designing recommendations for formative feedback in virtual group work. Furthermore, the design of feedback is very often thought from the perspective of academic personnel. Therefore, designing feedback in virtual group work should be examined fundamentally and include the students’ perspective. To address this research gap, this paper shall analyze reasons why students only engage deficiently towards formative feedback given by e-tutors in virtual group work arrangements and further design feedback guidelines based on these results to improve the engagement of students through formative feedback. This shall also ensure a consistent quality of feedback for students by the academic personnel (e-tutor).

To this end, the following research questions are posed:
RQ1: What are the reasons for deficient engagement towards formative feedback?
RQ2: Which design guidelines for formative feedback can be derived from these reasons to improve the students’ engagement with the feedback?

For this purpose, interviews were held at the beginning, middle and end of the module with the student group leaders and categorized inductively afterwards. At the end of the module, the students prepared written reflections on the formative feedback they had received, which were also coded with an inductively-deductively mixed approach and analyzed afterwards. The results of this paper indicate a broad spectrum of reasons, why the students’ engagement with formative feedback is lacking. In addition to more formal requirement criteria such as frequency and timing of feedback, the content, in particular the wording of feedback, was essential to the students. Also, the relation between recipient and sender needs to be examined in detail as well as the delivery channel. These findings can now be condensed into guidelines for formative feedback on virtual group work given by e-tutors and shall be tested in future research to prove their benefit in formative feedback design.
e-learning, e-Tutor, Formative Feedback, Virtual Group Work.