The impact of feedback form on transactional distance and critical thinking skills in online discussions


Source: European Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 57:1, 119-130

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

It has been observed that there is a need for studies examining the effects of feedback forms (text, image or video) in online discussion sessions.
Especially when the basic functions of online discussions including developing students’ critical thinking skills (CTS) and decreasing their transactional distance (TD) perceptions were considered, the effects of varying feedback forms on students’ CTS and TD in online discussions were examined.
Accordingly, this study was guided by the following research questions:
(1) Does the form of feedback (text/image/video) used in online discussion create a significant difference on the TD perceptions of the students?
(2) Does the form of feedback (text/image/video) used in online discussion create a significant difference on the CTS of the students?

Research model and participants
This research was designed as a quasi-experimental design with a pretest and post-test.
The participants of the study were 104 freshman students taking Computing II course and studying in the Faculty of Education at a state university in Turkey during the 2015–2016 spring semester.
One of the researchers conducted the study as the lecturer of Computer II course.
The research was conducted with teacher candidates taking a Computer II course in three different sections.
Three different Facebook-based virtual learning communities were created for three different sections who took the course.
In one of the virtual learning communities, students were asked to give text-based feedback, whilst in other they were asked to give image-based feedback and in the last one they were asked to give video-based feedback..
Random selection was used to identify study groups.
As a result of this selection, Study Group I had 34 students and used text-based feedback, whilst Study Group II had 34 students and used image-based feedback and Study Group III had 36 students and used video-based feedback.

Teaching procedure for the study groups
After the groups were identified at the beginning of the research process, the students in each group were divided into dyad sub-groups according to their choices to be able to form collaborative learning groups.
The students working in groups of two were asked to come together and prepare a digital story about topics in their own field of education.
Students prepared a part of their digital stories every week during the 10-week implementation process.
Then, students were asked to share the digital story sections they prepared weekly on their Facebook groups.
Students in Study Group I had a discussion by providing text-based feedback to each other’s digital stories.
Similarly, students in Study Group II had a discussion by giving image-based feedback and students in Study Group III by giving video-based feedback.
The students completed the 10-week research process by giving feedback to each other’s materials each week.
In this process, the teacher, with the knowledge of his/her guiding and counselling responsibility, worked to improve the quality of the discussions.
This role of the teacher was similar in all groups.
At the beginning and end of the research process, data collection instruments were applied to the students in study groups in an online form to be able to restrict empty responses.

Data collection instruments

TD scale
This scale was used to find out TD perceptions of the participants. TD scale was generated by Zhang (2003) and was adapted into Turkish by Yilmaz and Keser (2015). It is a five-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree and 5 = Completely Agree) and has 38 items.
The TD scale was used as a pretest at the beginning of the study and as a post-test at the end of the study.

Critical Thinking Standards Scale
Critical Thinking Standards Scale was developed by Aybek, Aslan, Dincer and Coskun Arisoy (2015) to measure CTS.
The scale was arranged as a five-point Likert type and included 42 items.
Critical Thinking Standards Scale was used as a pretest at the beginning of the study and a post-test at the end of the study.

Findings and discussion
The findings of the current study, which aimed to determine the impact of different forms of feedback (text/image/video) on the TD perceptions and CTS of the learners in online collaborative discussions, indicated that while feedback form created a significant difference on TD perception, it did not create a significant difference on students’ CTS.
Findings addressing the first research question indicated that TD perception was the lowest in group where video-based discussions were made; and this group was followed by the group where image-based discussions were made and finally by the text-based discussion group.
According to researchers, hearing the voice and seeing the faces of the teacher/peers in video-based environments are important factors reducing TD perceptions.
Similarly, Huang, Chandra, DePaolo and Simmons (2015) pointed out that TD perception in video-based communication environments was lower compared to text-based communication environments.
In the light of these findings, it can be asserted that in online discussions it will be appropriate to encourage the use of video-based short feedback to decrease TD perception.
The impact of feedback form on students’ CTS was investigated to address the second research question.
No significant difference was found among groups using text-, image- and video-based feedbacks.
However, the results of the study revealed that giving text-, image-, and video-based feedbacks and asking questions during these processes increased the post-test scores of CTS for all three groups.
It is believed that together with the form of media, structuring the discussion contents with metacognitive support and reflective questions might help.
In fact, relevant research indicates that constructing video content with metacognitive support has a significant effect on such learning process (Yilmaz & Keser, 2017).
Therefore, future studies may involve reflective questions, metacognitive support and sample cases in the content while designing the text-, image- and video-based feedbacks to see their impact on CTS.

Aybek, B., Aslan, S., Dincer, S., & Coskun Arisoy, B. (2015). Critical thinking standards scale for the teacher candidates: Study of validity and reliability. Educational Administration: Theory and Practice, 21, 25–50.
Huang, X., Chandra, A., DePaolo, C. A., & Simmons, L. L. (2015). Understanding transactional distance in web-based learning environments: An empirical study. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47, 734–747.
Yilmaz, R., & Keser, H. (2015). The adaptation study of transactional distance Scale. Hacettepe University Journal of Education, 30, 91–105. makaleler/1775-published.pdf
Yilmaz, R., & Keser, H. (2017). The impact of interactive environment and metacognitive support on academic achievement and transactional distance in online learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 55, 95–122.
Zhang, A. (2003). Transactional distance in web-based college learning environments: Toward measurement and theory construction. Doctoral dissertation. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. 

Updated: Nov. 03, 2020