Formative Feedback: Reinforcing Key Course Concepts with WP Courseware’s Custom Feedback Messages

WP Courseware Custom Feedback MessagesNo matter what niche your online training course falls into, there’s no denying that all of the time and effort you’ve put into your course content should accomplish one goal: students walking away with an actionable and useful set of knowledge points and skills.

Our WP Courseware customers have created courses on an incredibly diverse range of topics, but the true measure of the value they deliver lies in the effectiveness of the learning experience they present to enrollees.

While content delivery formats for online learning courses vary depending on the topic (ie. videos, screencasts, text content, audio, etc.), a large percentage of WP Courseware users put quizzes in place to reinforce key concepts presented in their course lessons.

But is it enough?

A number of studies have shown that offering a detailed explanation or providing students with resources for additional study on a topic can have a far greater impact on overall learning than simply presenting a grade assessing the student’s quiz performance. This is known as formative feedback.

WP Courseware does offer the ability to present quizzes to your students as they progress through course content, either with or without required passing scores and with the ability to provide explanations for each question.

But one feature we don’t see used often enough is the custom feedback message which can be made available after quiz submission. In a nutshell, custom feedback messages can be used to offer more information when a student performs well or not well enough on questions related to a specific course topic.

Here’s an example…

One of our WP Courseware customers runs a very successful online training site which teaches people how to earn income from listing their living space on the incredibly popular AirBnB website. (You can learn more about their business in this case study.)

A number of topics are covered, from evaluating your local market to creating your listing to providing service-related amenities for guests. But if they can’t ensure that you’ve picked up some of the critical concepts presented in the financial module of the course, such as evaluating your expenses and pricing a listing, then guess what? No one is going to make any money!

So reinforcing the concepts within that module becomes key to the success of the student as they walk away from the course and put the principles into action.

With custom feedback messages you move from “You scored 87% on this quiz” to “Hey, listen…we really want you to understand the concepts of how to evaluate your costs and price your listing, so why don’t you take a look at the following resources?

The student can then see what areas they need to study further to succeed and walk away from your course with a much better overall foundation.

So how does it work?

Here’s a step-by-step walk through of how you can utilize WP Courseware custom feedback messages to make your quizzes more effective.

1. Add Question Tags

Custom feedback messages in WP Courseware all begin with question tags. When questions are created, you have the ability to add a tag relevant to the course topic to which the question relates.

Question tags can be added when creating a question as shown here:


They can also be added later by editing the question within the WP Courseware question pool.

Once your question tags are in place, you’ll be ready to create custom feedback messages for any quiz which contains one or more questions for a tag.

2. Create Your Custom Feedback Messages

Now that you have questions tagged and added to a WP Courseware quiz, you can begin creating the custom feedback messages.

Navigate to the “Custom Feedback Messages” tab within the quiz editing screen and you’ll see that you have an option to “Add New Feedback Message”.


You then have several options for creating a new custom feedback message:

*Give the message a description (required, but which is for your reference only)
*Select the question tag for which to display the message
*Select whether the message should display above or below a certain score for the intended tag
*The custom feedback message itself

Remember, this message will only display for questions which are related to the tag you choose. You can decide whether you want to display positive feedback related to the student’s performance on those particular questions (“Good job!”) or you can provide formative feedback and further resources for students who have scored below a certain level for that question tag.

So what could you include within your custom feedback message to promote formative feedback?

Let’s say you set up a custom feedback message so that any student who scores less than 75% on questions related to “Tag A” should receive the message. You now have a great opportunity to present resources to the student which will help them further engage with those concepts related to “Tag A”…

1. Direct students back to the unit or module content related to the topic

The simplest approach with custom feedback messages would be to offer an explanation of why it’s important for the student to pick up this particular concept and direct them back to the particular part of a unit or even a certain time point within a unit video which explained the concept (for example, “Please re-watch the Unit 2 video starting at 2:45.”).

2. Provide a list of external resources

One strategy we see utilized very often with custom feedback messages is instructors who see students falling short in a particular area and reinforce the concept by bringing in external resources.

HTML can be used within the custom feedback messages, so in addition to just writing a text explanation of what to take a look back at, you can include anchor text links out to other resources on the web.

3. Provide a list of downloads

Again, since HTML can be used within the custom feedback message for your tag, you may want to link directly to PDF files or other documents hosted locally on your WordPress installation in the media files area.

4. Offer links to video or audio explanations

This is one of our favorite strategies for custom feedback messages which we have seen some WP Courseware customers use very effectively. When a student doesn’t score well in a particular topic (or question tag), some instructors provide a link to a video or audio of themselves gently explaining that they genuinely hope the student can master the concept so they’re taking the time to provide additional resources. These videos sometimes include a screencast of the instructor walking through an explanation with a presentation software. (Please note: videos cannot be embedded directly into the custom feedback message, but links to a page where the video or audio is hosted work great.)

Again, custom feedback messages are a great way to provide formative feedback within your WP Courseware courses and reinforce the key concepts which you want a student to walk away with.

If you’re a current WP Courseware customer and need any help setting up your own custom feedback messages, please don’t hesitate to contact us through the member portal.


  1. Yamile Yemoonyah on March 8, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I would love it if there was a possibility to add custom feedback messages to open-ended questions. So far that does not seem to be possible and, unfortunately prevents me from giving my students any feedback.

  2. Nate Johnson on March 8, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Yamile,

    You can certainly use custom feedback messages within a quiz which contains open ended questions. They will need to be graded first to trigger the custom feedback message based on the score you set and whether a “passing” or “failing” message is displayed, but that is possible.

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