Promoting deep learning through online feedback in SPOCs

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Renée Marianne Filius
Renske A.M. de Kleijn
Sabine G. Uijl
Frans J. Prins
Harold V.M. Rijen
Diederick E. Grobbee


Higher education aims for deep learning and increasingly uses a specific form of online education: Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs). To overcome challenges that instructors face in order to promote deep learning through that format, the use of feedback may have significant potential. We interviewed eleven instructors and four students and organized a focus group to formulate scalable design propositions for instructors in SPOCs to promote deep learning. Propositions have been formulated according to the CIMO-logic.

This study resulted in identification of four mechanisms by which the desired outcome (deep learning) can be achieved, which we describe here along with proposed interventions.

Results show that the “online learning interaction model” can be deepened with these mechanisms: 1) Feeling personally committed, 2) Asking and providing relevant feedback, 3) Probing back and forth, and 4) Understanding one’s own learning process. To activate these mechanisms, scalable feedback interventions are described in three categories. Results at this relatively young field of SPOCs also show that feedback as a dialogical process may contribute to solving the current challenges of instructors in SPOCs to achieve deep learning with their students.

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How to Cite
Filius, R. M., de Kleijn, R. A., Uijl, S. G., Prins, F. J., Rijen, H. V., & Grobbee, D. E. (2018). Promoting deep learning through online feedback in SPOCs. Frontline Learning Research, 6(2), 92–113.
Author Biographies

Renée Marianne Filius, UMC Utrecht, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Renée M. Filius MSc* is a PhD Candidate at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. She is also Program Manager of Elevate Health, an initiative of the University Medical Center Utrecht and the Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Her main responsibility at Elevate Health lies at Research & Development. Her main interest lies at how people learn best together online. More specifically, she is interested in how to improve pedagogical understanding of learning in online settings and how to design courses and their virtual learning environments to promote deep and meaningful learning in these settings.

Renske A.M. de Kleijn, Department of Education, Utrecht University

Renske A.M. de Kleijn PhD** works as an assistant professor and educational consultant at the department of Education at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Her research interests are feedback and assessment as well as motivation and data-driven decision making. Her research focuses on both secondary and higher education..

Sabine G. Uijl, University College Utrecht, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Sabine G. Uijl PhD*  is Director of Education at Utrecht University College, the Netherlands. Previously she was manager of the Julius Academy, division Julius Center, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands and project manager of the Erasmus Plus knowledge alliances project GROWTH, building an education platform and European ecosystem for entrepreneurs in the Life Sciences and Health. 

Frans J. Prins, Department of Education, Utrecht University

Frans J. Prins PhD** is an associate professor at the Department of Education and at the Educational Development and Training group of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University, the Netherlands. His research interests include the effective use of feedback, fostering learner’s motivation and self-regulation in primary, secondary, and higher education.

Harold V.M. Rijen, Department Biomedical Sciences, University Medical Center Utrecht

Harold van Rijen is Professor of Innovation in Biomedical Education and Director of Biomedical Sciences Master Education at the University Medical Center Utrecht. His current research focus is on design based research on ‘blended learning’, the design and the optimal combination of e-learning and face-to-face education, in which effects on satisfaction, use, knowledge and skills and the role of learning analytics have a central position. His teaching experience includes different courses on physiology to bachelor and master students.

Diederick E. Grobbee, Julius Center, University Medical Center Utrecht

Diederick E. Grobbee MD, PhD, FESC is Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University Medical Center Utrecht and was appointed University Professor International Health Sciences and Global Health in 2010. He is Chief Scientific Officer of Julius Clinical Research, ltd. At Utrecht University he directs the MSc program “Epidemiology”. Diederick Grobbee has been on the editorial board of several journals and (inter)national scientific, search and site-visit committees. He is Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation. Since 2012 he is chairman of the Center for Circulatory Health at the University Medical Center Utrecht. His teaching experience includes courses on clinical epidemiology and clinical research methods to various audiences in several countries.