This lesson focuses on some best practices for developing and delivering assignments. This includes general guidelines for all types of activities and more specific guidelines for certain types of assignments (i.e. quizzes/test and papers).
After completing this lesson, learners will be able to:
Create assignments that motivate students, have clearly stated instructions, and measure what you want students to learn.
Including assignments that address the stated learning objectives will help ensure that students learn what you want to measure. Careful planning will minimize the possibility of cheating and plagiarism and will result in course activities that motivate students and make them want to learn.
As you learned in the previous lesson, "Developing Course Activities", there are many types of assignments you can use in your course. Your selection will depend on the lesson objectives, the target audience, your course content, resources, and on your teaching style.
While it might be tempting to create several self-grading quizzes as the only method of assessment of your course, it is advisable to include a variety of assessment types to speak to different learning styles, minimize cheating, and to keep students interested and motivated. We could spend an entire course on creating effective assessments, but we will cover just a few techniques here.
There are some general guidelines you should follow for all assignments. Provide clear, detailed instructions for students on how to complete and submit assignments. While this might seem self-evident to you, students might have different expectations from different instructors and some may have never taken an online course before. Let students know what you expect. Your instructions should include:
When creating a quiz or test for your online course, make sure to tie it in to lesson objectives. This will help you develop questions and select the types of questions to use. Refer to the Bloom's Taxonomy table in the "Writing Lesson Objectives" lesson to identify potential question types. If you are concerned with factual knowledge and Bloom's category, remember, you might include multiple choice questions to have students select correct answers (i.e. identify the function of the given html tags). If you are concerned with conceptual knowledge and Bloom's category, evaluate, you might create short answer questions and have students explain why examples of Web pages do or do not meet accessibility criteria. It is likely that you want to assess different levels of thinking so include the types of questions that will enable you to assess these different levels.
Remember, you should use a variety of assessment types in your course. Instead of relying heavily on self-grading quizzes, you might choose to use quizzes as self-tests or as preparation for larger tests. Make sure your quiz questions address lesson objectives and create several questions about objectives to provide you with more data points.
In addition to developing effect quiz/test questions, you should familiarize yourself with the course management system that delivers the quizzes and tests. Follow suggested guidelines to minimize student and instructor frustration. Often, problems can be significantly decreased by careful design of assessments.
View Best Practices for Quizzes and Tests (html)
When designing discussion assignments, consider how the discussion will meet lesson objectives, how much time is required for participation, and how to gauge a student's performance.
There are a number of strategies you to create motivating discussion assignments in your online course. Use different discussion formats listed below to cultivate students' critical thinking (MacKnight 2000, p40.):
As the facilitator continues the course design process, the assessment of student participation in threaded discussion becomes an obvious cornerstone for successful learning community development (Edelstein, 2002). Encourage student participation by:
If you would like to explore this topic more, check out Penn State's "Introduction to Crafting Questions for On-line Discussions".
Instructors are frequently concerned about cheating and plagiarism when developing course activities. This is another good reason to provide a variety of assessment types in your course. If your entire assessment relies on a series of multiple choice quizzes, expect that copies exist. There is no surefire way to prevent copying of a quiz so your best defense is to create assessments where cheating and plagiarism are difficult to carry out.
Papers can also be obtained through paper mills, former students, etc. This is especially true for general topics and for assignments that have been used many times. This is where we will start discussing specific ways to minimize cheating and plagiarism.
First, clearly state your college's academic dishonesty policy in the syllabus. The CFCC Academic Dishonesty policy can be viewed in the Student Handbook section of the CFCC Course Catalog. Students should know what constitutes plagiarism and cheating and that they are taken seriously. You might include a question about this topic in your course's icebreaker assignment. Also, sometimes students plagiarize because they do not know how to properly paraphrase or cite sources. Make sure you provide students with writing resources. For example, if you require that students submit essays with APA Style formatting, provide them with links to the current APA Style Manual or online tutorials.
In addition to stating your school's policy and offering writing guidance, there are a number of things you can do when designing activities to decrease the possibility of cheating and plagiarism. Below are some suggestions to help you create such activities:
You can learn more about these strategies and others by reading Arthur Sterngold's article, "Confronting Plagiarism: How Conventional Teaching Invites Cyber-Cheating", available through NCLIVE.
About Anti-plagiarism Software:
While careful assessment design is by far the best way to prevent plagiarism and cheating, many of you have heard about tools that check for plagiarism. Blackboard includes an anti-plagiarism software called SafeAssign, which allows instructors to check submitted papers against an internal and global database.
There are two ways to use SafeAssign:
Before implementing this tool, it is important to consider a few things:
Remember, the best way to decrease incidents of cheating and plagiarism is to carefully plan activities that motivate students. If you need assistance with creating or revising your course activities, contact your instructional technologist/designer.
This lesson completes the "Developing Course Content" module. We will now move forward to the "During Teaching" module.
Portions of this lesson were adapted from Liz Stover's Best Practices for Distance Learning.
Berge, Z.L. (1995). Facilitating Computer Conferencing: Recommendations From the Field. Educational Technology, 35(1), 22-30.
Edelstein, S., and Edwards, J. (2002). If you build it, they will come: Building learning communities through threaded discussions. The Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 5(1). Available Online: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring51/edelstein51.html
MacKnight, C.B. (2000). Teaching critical thinking through online discussions. EduCause Quarterly, 4, 38-41
Sterngold, A. (2004). Confronting plagiarism: How conventional teaching invites cyber-cheating. Change, 36(3), 16-22.