Strategies & Tools for Multimedia Feedback (Mastery Series #3)


In the first installment of this series, we examined a common barrier to learning whereby students may not utilize feedback provided to them by faculty. This feedback disuse can be frustrating for faculty (like our fictional “Dr. Dean” in Part 1) and prevents what should be a powerful and vital part of the learning process for students.

In the second installment, we connected the concept of “mastery-oriented feedback” to the practice of using multimedia tools to offer feedback in practice.

In this third installment, we’ll explore several tools that instructors can use to provide multimedia feedback and share some examples.


Using multimedia feedback is a practice that may draw from different tools, each of which has its own strengths, uses, and limitations. 

Whatever tool you use, some basic principles for feedback should be followed to ensure that the use of these tools stays grounded in the provision of “mastery-oriented feedback”: 

  1. Provide feedback during the learning process (not just after).Mastery-oriented feedback values progress. Therefore, we recommend using these tools at formative stages of work. For example, have students submit the first section of a larger work, a first draft of a shorter work, etc. and use the multimedia feedback at this stage. You may then opt to use a simple rubric for the final submission.
  2. Make feedback constructive and actionable: what I like, what needs work, next steps.People are more receptive to criticism after they’ve received some recognition. Look for something(s) you can comment on positively, then address that which needs more work, and finally, suggest next steps to prod that important action!
  3. Choose your scope/level and stick to it.Decide on what is most important. If you spend all your time and energy focused on correcting typos and mechanical errors, commentary on the content, style, or structure may become buried. Choose what’s important and speak to that first. Then if you wish to make holistic comments about need to proofread, you can do so.


There are a number of ways to provide multimedia feedback to learners. Here are a few we recommend. We’ll go into more detail about each below the table.

Strategy Sample Tool Notes
Anchored Audio

(audio bites adjacent to relevant portions of a work sample)
Adobe Acrobat See great Educause article on this topic from 2011 (still good!). 
Screencast Feedback (A/V) Screencast-o-matic, Camtasia, Captivate, Zoom, Screencastify, Screencastify Lite, Quicktime…  Include example(s). Focus on the concept, then provide tools as all being usable to this end.

You can use both a static prompt for ideas and also the more in-depth commentary.


Once done, you may upload the file into speedgrader on Canvas (if applicable). 

Graphic markup Preview/Screencast  Using same approach as screencast, but additionally use tools in applications to mark up a file (image, video, document, etc.) while you talk about it. 
Holistic A/V Commentary  Canvas Holistic. Cannot be anchored to specific content.

This is the media comment button in speedgrader
Start a conversation Flipgrid This is a free tool owned by Microsoft. Use short videos as an A/V discussion board. This could be time intensive with larger groups, though.

May be better as small group peer-feedback activity. 

Anchored Audio Feedback (Audio only)

What is it?

Anchored audio feedback is a collection of audio files that are placed proximally to the content to which the feedback response (just like a traditional marginal note would be). For example, a comment about the introduction to someone’s essay may be dropped in as an audio file in Word. 

Example: Adobe Anchored Audio (PDF)

What’s good about it? 

  • This type of feedback allows for specific feedback in specific places such that students can review feedback and address it systematically.
  • Enables the instructor to provide targeted comments without needing to organize overall thoughts or worry about having to re-record a long feedback session if they make a mistake. 

What are the limitations? 

  • This can be time consuming if there are many points of feedback and/or many students. 
  • With our suggested tool, this approach is limited to things that can be converted into PDFs (documents, images…) and thus largely excludes dynamic content (movies, webpages). 

What tools can I use for this? 

Through there are other tools or approaches to providing anchored audio, we have chosen to eliminate those that are too restrictive (e.g., iAnnotate, which can only be used on Apple mobile devices) or too complex/cumbersome (e.g., using an audio recorder, then embedding the audio file in Word, etc.) or too expensive for individuals (e.g., subscription). The one tool that is ubiquitous, free, and quite simple to use for this purpose is Adobe Acrobat Reader.


Tool Cost Commentary
Adobe Acrobat Reader Free Adobe Acrobat Reader allow for simple and broadly usable audio comments on anything that can be converted into a PDF. 


Screencast Feedback (Audio & Video)

What is it?

Screencast feedback captures a video of your screen as you navigate the student’s work while offering verbal (and/or visual) commentary. 

Example: Screencastify Feedback (Audio & Video) (Video Demo of Paper Submission)

What’s good about it? 

  • This is one of the most versatile of all multimedia feedback approaches. 
  • Can be used with any submission type including text, images, video, websites, etc. Anything that can be shown on a computer screen.
  • Offers a powerful combination of video and synchronized audio that mimics in-person conferencing with a student. 
  • Many of the tools that you can use for it are free or already available on your computer. 
  • Once done, the resulting video can be uploaded into Canvas SpeedGrader or shared in any other way videos can be shared.

What are the limitations? 

  • Some instructors find it difficult to organize thoughts and explain things at the same time while the recording is occurring. 
  • Students with some types of disabilities (e.g., visual impairments, hearing loss) may not gain full benefit from this approach. 

What tools can I use for this? 

There are many screencast applications available. They range in functionality and cost (from free to fairly expensive). Here are few we recommend: 

Tool Cost Commentary
Screencast-o-matic Free, $1.50/mo, $4.00/mo options Fairly robust screencasting platform with capacity to edit, share, and add captions. Free version may be sufficient and subscriptions are relatively inexpensive. 



$169 license (one time) Powerful tool that does much more than screencast. Can also use to build multimedia content (lectures, quizzes, quasi-professional video editing…)
Zoom University subscribes (No cost to you) Simple interface for recording with some limited additional tools, but no video editing or sharing in platform.
Screencastify Free
(Lite version)
A lightweight screencast tool that doesn’t require software download/installation. Easy recording and sharing (but no editing or other advanced tools). 


Note again how versatile screencasting is. There are many strategies instructors may wish to employ via the screencasting approach. For example, you may...

  • Highlight (with a mouse or on-screen drawing tool) as you refer to things and make comments in the document.  
  • Add written notes to remind the student about key comments at different points in the document. 
  • Make corrections yourself as you go, explaining your logic. 
  • Ask learners questions to consider at different parts of the work. 
  • Ask the learner to explicitly respond to certain comments to ensure they are actually listening to and applying the feedback. …

If you are uploading the video to Canvas, consider using Canvas Studio (formerly Arc) to host the video. This allows for easy to generate captions and doesn’t count against your storage space on Canvas. 


Graphic Markup 

What is it?

Graphic markup includes using software on your computer (Word, Adobe Reader, Captivate, Preview, etc…) to annotate and graphically markup a document, image, sheet music or other submission. You may opt to combine this with screencast feedback by marking it up “live” while conducting a screencast or by marking it up first, then recording a screencast to offer verbal commentary to compliment the graphic markup. But screen recording isn’t required for graphic markup. 

What’s good about it? 

  • Highly versatile with different types of submissions and different potential tools for marking it up. 
  • Can be used with many submission types including text, images, websites, sheet music, etc. Anything static that can be digitally marked up. 
  • Combines well with screencast feedback for true multimodal feedback. 
  • Allows specific, targeted feedback to areas of the submitted work.
  • Allows students to address feedback in step-by-step systematic fashion.

What are the limitations? 

  • Depending on what you use to mark up the submission, may require that the instructor and student have access to same software.
  • Students with some types of disabilities (e.g., visual impairments) may not gain full benefit from this approach. 

What tools can I use for this? 

There are a number of tools you could use for this. For our purposes, we're recommending using this strategy with PDFs and Word documents. Therefore, we recommend the following tools.

Tool Commentary
Preview (Mac only) Free Usable on Mac computers only, this PDF viewer offers some powerful markup tools that can then be saved into the PDF, which can be viewed on any device.
Adobe Acrobat Reader Free Usable on Mac or PC, this PDF viewer offers some powerful markup tools that can then be saved into the PDF, which can be viewed on any device.
MS Word  Varies The updated Office 365 version of MS word offers robust drawing and markup tools. This is usable only for submissions in .doc/.docx format, though. 


Holistic Feedback (Audio and/or Video)

What is it?

Holistic multimedia feedback is simply a way to provide overall commentary on a work using audio and/or video.

What’s good about it? 

  • This type of feedback is broad and thematic, keeping focus on big ideas. 
  • Very simple and fast for instructors to provide. 
  • Our recommended method is baked right into Canvas SpeedGrader. 

What are the limitations? 

  • Holistic feedback may not be sufficient for some types of student work.

What tools can I use for this? 

You could offer holistic feedback with nearly any tool including screencast, audio recorders, etc. But if you are planning to offer holistic feedback for assignments submitted in Canvas, we strongly recommend the Canvas SpeedGrader: Media comment. This makes Canvas a one-stop for viewing and commenting on student work for both the instructor and the student. 

Tool Cost Commentary
Canvas SpeedGrader Included in subscription Simple, fast, and easy to use for this purpose.


Audio-Video Dialogue! 

What is it?

Audio-video dialogue is a very different approach in that brings together some of the other strategies in a new way. Like a face-to-face conference, this approach allows the instructor and student to pose questions or offer response to one another so as to negotiate understanding and deepen the quality of feedback.

What’s good about it? 

  • Allows for dialogic feedback. Allows greater depth and engagement than monologic feedback.
  • In form, this approach can be used to provide feedback on anything, as the feedback channel is separate from the work itself. 

What are the limitations? 

  • Requires some degree of longitudinal time to allow for asynchronous discussion.
  • Only appropriate for work for which there is  significant subjectivity or for which dialogue is otherwise fruitful. 

What tools can I use for this? 

Tool Cost Commentary
Flipgrid  Free Straightforward web-based asynchronous video “discussion board” platform. Has options to turn on automatic captioning when you make a board. 



As always, please reach out to us with questions, ideas, or to request workshops or support in implementing these ideas.



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