Students often report that feedback experiences at university are insufficient to make progress. The size of many large courses means the provision of personalised and timely feedback to individual students is challenging. Online systems have been promoted as a way students can receive feedback for learning. This study explores the extent to which students use feedback information when it is provided in a self-directed online homework system in a first-year biology course, and whether this supports learning and improves achievement levels in summative assessments. Structural equation modelling was used to test a hypothesised model. The study demonstrates that feedback is not necessarily accessed and used by students, but that students who use the online system information to help their learning for the entire course are helped academically by using hints.