PICM Feedback Model Helps Keep Online Students Motivated

In an online learning environment, it’s easy for students to feel isolated or unsure of themselves, particularly if they’re adult students who’ve been away from school for a long time.

In the absence of frequent and relevant instructor feedback, these students can get discouraged and may even become reluctant to submit assignments. Soon satisfaction and retention issues may crop up.

Acknowledging this concern, Columbia Southern University’s College of Business developed the PICM feedback model, which has provided our faculty an easy method to measure their responses to assignments. Personal, Informative, Corrective and Motivational are the four points of the model.

Personal begins with the students’ name. When their names are utilized in feedback, students know the comments are being directed to them personally. It also adds a “touch factor” that indicates the students are important to the instructor.

Informative shares with the student what they did right and gives the student information on how to respond in a manner that meets the expectations of the instructor. Our faculty is instructed to find an aspect of the student’s response where positive comments can be shared.

Corrective gives feedback on what the student may have missed, did not complete or completed incorrectly. It is our belief that students want to know what they did wrong, so they can make corrections in future assignments.

Motivational supplies words of encouragement, regardless of the quality or score of the student’s submission. Comments such as “Well done,” “Keep up the good work,” and “I know you can improve” can motivate students to continue a course and their program to graduation. We all enjoy hearing comments that let us know we are valued and important. Motivational feedback can move a student past the fear of failure and encourage that individual to persevere.

The implementation of PICM has prompted many members of our faculty to abandon their old patterns of interaction and we have seen increased numbers of positive comments from students to their professors. These early results have encouraged our deans and department chairs to also use this model when responding to our professors. The circle is almost complete and we believe this paradigm will bring improved retention and greater student success.

Elwin Jones, MBA, is the chair of Undergraduate Studies at Columbia Southern University.