Tobe Baeyens

Assignments as fundamental building blocks

Blog Post created by Tobe Baeyens on May 14, 2019

Share how you approach course design. How do you organize content so it’s efficient for both instructors and students? What tips and/or tools can you share?

Assignments are the fundamental building blocks in a Canvas course. They are the milestones that students can achieve.

Assignments can be big

Assignments that are placed at the end of a module, can be used to check if the student has achieved the intended learning outcomes.

Assignments can be small

Every time you ask your students to do something, you are giving them an assignment.

  • You can ask your student to read a few lines of text, and to underline some keywords.
  • You can ask your students to come up with an idea for a project.
  • You can ask your students to take a picture of their work.
  • You can ask your students to work on some exercises in a document.
  • You can ask your students to summarise what they saw in a video.

A course could in theory only contain assignments. The course would be like an online exercise workbook. An assignment could, in that case, contain one or more exercises that the students have to complete.

 

Explain how you structure course flow. How do you keep content and learning experiences “tidy”? Does it make a difference for learners? If so, how?

It's important to clearly present the content in every assignment, and to organise the different assignments in your modules, your assignment groups, your gradebook, etc.

Present the content in your assignments

An assignment should have:

  • A title: The title should be short and concise. Add an abbreviation if the assignment is part of a module (f.e. LO1)
  • Settings: Submission date, grade, submission type, etc.
  • A short description: The description should explain what the assignment is about.
  • A list with steps the student has to undertake: This could be as simple as: 1. Download a document. 2. Answer the questions in the document. 3. Submit the document.
  • Links to additional information: Frequently asked questions, agreements the student must comply with, etc.
  • A rubric: To communicate the intended learning outcomes.

 

Organise the assignment in modules

Add your assignments to modules to provide context. Adding other resources to your modules, helps your students with finding all the necessary information in one place. (more information about this is in my other blog post: Providing structure with modules.)

An alternative to adding activities (worked examples, video's,...) to modules, is to add the links to activities to the assignments description. This can be useful when you are working with a lot of smaller assignments. An extra advantage is that you can digitally handout these assignments to individual students with the 'assign to' function in Canvas. Adding all the information that students need, to the assignment itself, makes it much easier to do this, and to differentiate.

 

Gradebook 2.0 has some great functions to filter assignments by modules, sections and students. It can become a dashboard that shows you which assignments are assigned to which students, and where you have to give feedback.

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Outcomes