Many types of assignments can be done online. Some options are outlined below as well as decision-making criteria for using online assignments in a course and course design questions to consider as you start to integrate online assignments into your course. By thinking about the reasons for using them and answering the design questions, you will be able to integrate these engaging tools in a meaningful way with the rest of your course.
What are some possible online assignments?
It is often difficult to imagine what kinds of assignments can be put online if you have never used technology in your teaching. Basically, technology can be used to put almost any assignment online. The key, though, is to have a clear rationale for doing so. Below are some examples of online assignments, but they certainly do not represent all of the possibilities.
- Online discussions
- Case studies
- Online tests/quizzes
- Practice exercises
- Virtual tutorials or labs
- Essays (submit online)
- Online literature searches
Why should we put assignments online? As mentioned above, with the use of any tools or methods in our courses, there should be a clear pedagogical reason for using them. The following are some of the reasons for putting an assignment online.
- Allow for new types of assignments.Some assignments simply cannot be done on paper. For example, you can have students work with a simulation (in two or three dimensions) to see what happens when they change one element. Or they can see full colour pictures or artwork to analyze or critique. Allow yourself to think beyond the limitations of paper-based assignments to create new ways to enhance your students’ learning.
- Refocus classroom time.As with traditional assignments, you can have students cover content and do activities outside of class time so you can spend your in-class time in other ways. For example, students can engage in an online discussion and then be able to bring that knowledge to class for a more in-depth discussion. Or a pre-class quiz can highlight problem areas for you to focus on in your lecture. You may also be able to reduce inclass hours if your online activities are well-planned.
- Allow for collaboration.Research has shown that one way to increase student learning is to promote collaboration where groups of students can interact with each other to solve a problem or discuss an issue together. Assignments which allow for such collaboration are often more effective at positively affecting student learning than individually-done assignments.
- Encourage reluctant participants.Online assignments, particularly discussions, can allow even the most reluctant participants to join in a discussion. The online (often asynchronous) nature of such assignments gives students an opportunity to reflect and generate a response to a particular question – time not necessarily allowed in a face-to-face, synchronous discussion.
- Accommodate different learning styles and levels.Beyond encouraging participation from reluctant students, online assignments can have a multi-modal design (i.e., graphics, text, audio, virtual hands-on activities) and, if designed appropriately, can also help students reach new learning levels or think more deeply or critically about a given concept.
- Give instant feedback to students.One of the real benefits to students of online assignments is the possibility for instant feedback on their work. Many tools used to create such assignments can be configured to provide such feedback, instead of having students wait for assignments to be graded and returned. This way, they know immediately what concepts they need to work on, and which they already understand. This can also help instructors to identify unclear concepts or students who may need remedial assistance.
- Archive course information.Online assignments also allow for an archive to be created of relevant course information and discussions. This information can be used by students at a later date while studying for a test/exam, or by the instructor to create a frequently asked questions page or to measure students’ understanding of key concepts.
- Deliver online or distance education courses.If a course is being offered online or at a distance, then online assignments are a natural extension of this.
- Provide students with transferable skills for other courses and in their careers.Some instructors are interested in integrating key skills into their courses that students can use in other courses or take out into the “real-world” upon completion of their degrees. If this is a goal for your courses, then providing some familiarity with certain technologies through the use of online assignments may be a good way to introduce students to skills they can use elsewhere.
- Be environmentally friendly.Paperless assignments are a good way to save environmental resources.
Creating your own online assignment
Now that you have some ideas about possible assignments and have reviewed the decisionmaking criteria, you should answer the following questions to consider how to integrate your online assignment into your course.
- Briefly describe the assignment. (Write 2-4 sentences)
- Explain how well your assignment fits with the online assignment decision-making criteria and consider how it will impact your overall course design. Consider using the following focusing questions to help you.
Type of issue Focusing questions Goals/objectives What do I most want students to learn from this assignment? Contextual Who are my students? Do they know how to use the technology I’ve chosen for my assignment? Do they have access to a computer? Content What about the assignment content or goal lends itself to being an online assignment? Teaching methods How do I need to teach so my students can do this online assignment? Assessment Why would I use an online assignment? How will I grade this assignment? What kind of feedback do I need to provide to the students on their completed work or work in progress?
- Students may need a rationale for having online assignments to help foster their motivation. What will you say to “sell” the assignment to your students? (Write 3-5 sentences)
For more assistance, please also feel free to contact theCentre for Teaching Excellenceoffice and we will assist you or connect you with other resources.
By Diana Clark
Keeping students motivated and engaged is challenging, yet critical, regardless of the assignment.
Online assignments have become increasingly popular among K-12 teachers because they’re made possible with widely used online learning platforms like Google Classroom. These types of assignments are also more engaging, getting students excited to research and share their knowledge.
However, not all teachers have access to these learning systems. If you’re one of those teachers, use these ideas to bring online homework assignments to your classroom.
1. Critical Thinking Question
With this assignment, students have to use the Internet to answer critical thinking questions. You give each student a different question and ask them to use and source their outside sources for help. For example, you could ask: “Pasta is a traditional food of which country?” While looking for the answer on the Internet, the students will discover that the home of this food is actually China and not Italy.
Have students save their top three resources and explain why they’re valuable as part of the assignment. This teaches them about digital citizenship and how to find legitimate online sources.
More:32 Digital Citizenship Resources for Every Teacher
2. The Biography
Assign students a biography of the person that inspires them—someone outside of their family and friends who they can research online. Students will use the Internet to find the answers, so they will have the opportunity to practice Internet research skills.
3. Dare to Disagree
Students have to take a widely accepted belief that they disagree with, finding online sources to back their arguments. They’ll practice skills of research and persuasion for this simple, but fun, assignment.
4. This Day in History
Students are asked to find events that occurred “on this day” in previous years. Each student can be given a particular year to avoid overlaps. The assignment ends with a short blog post or GoogleSlides presentation to give them even more technology learning time.
Students can use the following resources:
5. Online Discussion
In many higher education courses, students use online discussion forums every week, making a good skill for students to learn at a young age. You can use a tool like Twitter to facilitate your discussion. With a personalized hashtag for your classroom (Like: #MrsB2017), you and your students can track the conversation.
More:How Twitter Transformed My Classroom
6. Virtual Debate
This is a collaborative assignment that aims at engaging students in an active and meaningful way, as they process subject matter in a way that leads to applicable understanding. Virtual debates are more fun than traditional ones, even if the debate is only between two classrooms within the same school.
If you want to host your debate with another school in a different city, state or country, try Mystery Skype. Find other teachers that want to debate with the Skype Classroom teacher’s forum.
7. “How do we know it’s true?”
With this assignment, students do online research to uncover interesting facts that everyone knows about but can’t seem to explain. Each student is given a question to explain the next day; for example, “How do we know that the universe is expanding?” or “How do we know that climate change is happening?”
8. President for a Day
For this assignment, you will need a notebook, pen, and Internet access. Ask students to find out the responsibilities of the President and create a short video called: “If I was a President for a Day.” They’ll love coming up with their ideas and putting together a video that they can share with their friends and family.
More:How to Encourage Independent Reading With Video Creation
In this assignment, students are professional chefs that are about to open their own restaurant and need to create a menu. Allow students to select a cuisine and ask them to use the Internet to find the traditional dishes of the country they chose. This will help them to build language skills and vocabulary as well as engage in a fascinating world of cuisines.
A doctor is one of the most important professions, and one that many students aspire to have. In this assignment, students select a type of doctor and find out which body parts they treat. Students then tell the class what they’ve found about their doctor, sharing three facts that they’ve found most interesting.
Remember to always offer a degree of freedom with every assignment to give the students more control of their learning process. They’ll be empowered to use the Internet to learn, research, discover and share thanks to these engaging assignments.
Two Young Girls Using Laptop At Home