Developing a plan for feedback

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Timely, meaningful feedback on student work is essential in online courses. The U.S. Department of Education requires online courses to offer regular and substantive interaction (RSI) for students to be eligible for federal financial aid. One of the most common ways for students to experience RSI in online classes is through feedback, such as providing personalized comments on assignments or exams (WCET, n.d.).


Missouri Online recommends that online instructors clearly communicate a plan for providing feedback on assignments that may include timeline and method (see item #10 in the Quality Course Review 5 Pillars Rubric).

Why provide feedback?

Feedback may be one of the most impactful ways instructors support student growth. “Feedback serves one of two purposes: Justifying the grade we have given to students or providing them with specific instructions on how to improve for their next assessment” (Darby & Lang, 2019, p. 110). To support this important practice and to meet RSI requirements, create a plan for feedback with expected timeframes and processes and share it with students.

A timeframe for regular feedback

In developing a timeframe for feedback, instructors determine what regular interaction means for their online courses based on the needs of themselves and their students. The Department of Education requires "predictable and scheduled" interactions between instructors and students for online classes but does not specify the frequency (WCET, n.d.).


  • What frequency is sustainable and reasonable for you as an educator? While our students may like to receive feedback as swiftly as possible, it is perhaps not realistic with other demands we face. Give yourself the time and space needed to review students’ work fairly and objectively and without burning yourself out or overwhelming yourself. So that students know what to expect and to meet RSI requirements, state in the course syllabus a timeframe for feedback on assignments, such as one or two weeks after due dates.
  • What timeframe is considerate of and helpful for your students? Your students have devoted considerable time and effort to working on their assignments. Therefore, they understandably wonder how they did on assignments and appreciate timely feedback. However, in some cases, delayed feedback may be more effective to take advantage of spaced repetition (Sumeracki, 2023). This does not mean you should procrastinate grading for weeks; it is important for students to obtain regular feedback, especially when assignments build upon one another.

A process for substantive feedback

Developing a transparent system for not only when but also how you give feedback is helpful to students. “Substantive” feedback engages students academically and supports their success in the course (WCET, n.d.). Put your process for providing substantive feedback in the syllabus so students know what to expect early in the semester. Your plan may include:

  • Different assignment types: Will certain assignment types receive feedback in one way and other assignment types in another? For example, you may simply mark a rubric and give a whole-class announcement for discussion forums, but essays will receive individualized comments and a marked rubric.
  • Modality: What format will feedback come in? Will students receive feedback in the form of written text, podcasts, or video recordings?
  • Location: How will students access feedback? Will it be available only as a terminal comment in the Canvas Speedgrader, or will students also need to open up the submission to view attached marginal comments?
  • Process to request feedback: How can students obtain feedback, either before turning in their work for a grade or in a more expedited manner?

For more about the benefits of delayed feedback versus immediate feedback and what makes for effective feedback, be sure to check out the resources below.


Darby, F., Lang, J.M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Jossey-Bass. This is available as an ebook through libraries in the university system.

Sumeracki, M. (2023, March 2). Delayed and immediate feedback in the classroom: The results aren’t what students think! The Learning Scientists Blog.

WCET. (n.d.). Policy Brief: Regular and Substantive Interaction. Retrieved October 10, 2023, from

WCET. (n.d.). Regular & substantive interaction. Retrieved September 7, 2023, from

Our Top 3 Library Resources

The articles below were hand-picked by our team of designers, specifically for the UM System community, to bring you the best content we could find! Check with your university library for access via subscription or interlibrary loan.

What are the characteristics of effective feedback in the eyes of students and faculty? Do students and faculty see the same ingredients in the recipe for effective feedback, or are these two stakeholders judging the quality of feedback in entirely different ways? The researchers in this study conducted a survey to determine student and faculty opinions on what makes for effective feedback.

Dawson, P., Henderson, M., Mahoney, P., Phillips, M., Ryan, T., Boud, D., & Molloy, E. (2019). What makes for effective feedback: Staff and student perspectives. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(1), 25-36.

We all know it is best practice to give feedback on work from students, but what does good and effective feedback look like? This article presents some best practices for giving feedback that students will appreciate, learn from, and use. It also considers the most effective timeframe and mediums to use to deliver feedback to students.

Leibold, N., & Schwarz, L. M. (2015). The art of giving online feedback. Journal of Effective Teaching, 15(1), 34-46.

Many may take for granted and assume that the sooner students receive feedback on their assignments, the better. Is this actually the case? In a series of experiments, these researchers reach findings that add more nuance to this common belief. What are some of the benefits of delayed feedback, and what are some of the downsides of immediate feedback? 

Schooler, L.J., & Anderson, J.R. (2022, March). The disruptive potential of immediate feedback. In J.R. Anderson (Ed.), 12th Annual Conference. CSS Pod (pp. 702-708). Psychology Press.

Created on: October 13, 2023