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Below are a collections of tips for creating assignment to improve student engagement and learning.
Due Dates & Flexibility
Be very clear about expectations and due dates. Are you flexible? Does Sunday night mean 11:59 pm, or can it mean by Monday at 6:00 am? Review the amount of work required and due dates for assignments to avoid stress on students when they are all due close to each other. What is your policy on late assignments? Are you flexible? Consider different time zones if you are teaching online – Blackboard's time is Central time. Add this to the assignment instructions.
Academic Honesty & Integrity
Are some assignment group projects with students working together? Are some individual assignments with no collaboration? Be explicit in your assignment descriptions.
Clear and specific instructions on how to complete and what is expected in the assignment. It is always helpful to connect the assignment with the course/lesson outcomes for students to understand the value of the work. Do you have specific margins, formatting, references, APA style, and number of pages, file formats to use? Can students make a video as a part of or for the complete assignment? What kind of technology will they need to have to complete the work?
Rubrics are very beneficial no matter what assignment you are creating. Rubric examples – Grading and Performance Rubrics (Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon University)
Alignment with Course/Lesson Outcomes
As you outline in the syllabus, the course and all activities are built around outcomes that are expected to be achieved by the end of the course. Course assessments are used to measure whether the students have been successful. Connecting each assignment to an outcome helps clearly show students the why of what they are doing. It helps to clarify the importance of the assignment in the course.
Assignment Submission Online
Use Blackboard for all assignments. This provides a common process for all students whether in class, remote or asynchronous. The Assignment tool in Bb is simple to use and has many features that help in grading. Dates of submission are documented, multiple or single attempts are available (helps for draft feedback and multiple files with an assignment), due dates are included, and supporting instructions and rubrics for clear guidelines can be attached.
Blackboard Rubric Tool
Blackboard has a good how-to guide for Creating Rubrics. These rubrics can be integrated into the assignments and can be very extremely helpful when grading assignments.
Discussion Forum Rubrics
Discussions can be confusing for students. Showing them a rubric with specific information on what is expected can help create a richer and interactive forum. Providing students with an example of how you complete a rubric during grading is helpful. Maybe a video walk-through? Rubric examples – Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (University of Central Florida), Sample Discussion Rubrics (Highline Community College), Downloadable sample Blackboard rubrics (University of Southern California)
Grading of Bb Assignments
Grading tools for Bb assignments are available for you to provide feedback to the students along with the grade. Feedback tools include text, annotations (drawing & comments), audio and video. Students can view your feedback in their My Grades link in the course.
Weighting Assignments and other Course Work
Will you be using weighting in the Bb Grade Center? If so, share this information with the students as they will see weighted scores in My Grades and may not understand. Calculating Grades.
Provide information and examples on what plagiarism means. Without this information, students may engage in accidental plagiarism, unintentionally. This is harder to handle once the work has been completed. If you are going to use SafeAssign to check paper submissions, be explicit about what the reports mean to the students. Bowdoin University has some good descriptions of different type of plagiarism.
Plagiarize-Proof your Assignments
Designing assignments by encouraging deep thinking helps students to develop critical and higher order thinking skills. Faculty Focus has a good article on plagiarize proof writing assignments.
Self and Peer Assessments
Assignments that include peer and self-assessment features is a good example of active learning. Blackboard has some good guides on creating peer assessment assignments.