Patron & Smith

Implications of Fail-forward in an Online Environment under Alternative Grading Schemes

Hilde Patron, University of West Georgia in Carrollton
William J. Smith, University of West Georgia in Carrollton


The concept of fail-forward can be used as a teaching technique to motivate students to learn from their mistakes. For example, when students are allowed to re-work incorrect responses on a test for a partial grade they are failing-forward. In this paper we look at the effects of failing-forward on student effort in online learning environments. We consider two alternative grading schemes with different levels of penalties for failure. Under the first grading scheme students are allowed to submit their work up to three times without being penalized. Under the alternative grading scheme students are penalized every time that they answer questions incorrectly. We find that instructors may be able to use the “average of all scores” grading scheme to increase the level of preparation of students even with differences in students’ innate ability. However, the benefits are less pronounced in fully online classes where there is no face-to-face instruction time.


fail-forward, student performance, online learning, business statistics

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