South African universities’ use of digital technologies in learning has increased in recent years. Given that social exposure, the context and pedagogic uses of technology influence learning expectations and learner involvement, it is important to understand students’ experiences of the use of different technological tools. This article employs activity theory as a lens to explore how students with different levels of prior knowledge experienced the use of e-mail feedback. The feedback involves content discussion and comments on assessment drafts in a modular learning environment of a unit of undergraduate study at one of the country’s universities. The students reported mixed experiences of the level of personal control and responsibility for their learning. The article explores the findings’ implications for teaching and learning praxis in the university and makes suggestions for further research.