cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Highlighted
Learner II

In an assignment, how do I let students pick a topic at random?

Jump to solution

Hello brilliant Canvas Community,

I've got something of a challenge: an instructor I'm working with, in her f2f class, passes around a hat with assignment topics. Students draw one of four topics out of the hat randomly, and that's what they work on for the assignment. I can't have the teacher assign these topics because she wants to students to get the pick of the draw and they get what they get and they don't get upset.

An ideas on how to randomize this in Canvas? 

Here are the parameters: 4 topics, 15 (but let's say 16 students for evenness), and I need an equal distribution of the 4 topics across students.

I considered using randomization via a quiz but could figure out how to implement that. My thought was that I could create 4 quizzes with a question group that randomly spits out a quiz question that is actually a topic assignment but found two issues with that: 1. Theoretically, multiple students within a student group assigned to a quiz could get the same question and 2. you can only assign different quizzes to different sections rather than student groups anyway - so that was a bust.

I also considered a JS randomizer to drop into a page but I'm not sure how to make it so that available topics are depleted as they are selected.

Thanks for your ideas!

Adarsh

1 Solution

Accepted Solutions
Highlighted
Community Member

I use randomizers all the time (if you are curious about my javascript randomizers in Canvas, I did a CanvasLIVE about that: Canvas-Friendly Javascripts – Teaching with Canvas ), but if you want randomizing with equal distribution, you can use a spreadsheet with a randomizing column. I don't know how often you need to repeat this process, but I do a process like this twice a week for both my classes, and the spreadsheet solution works great because it just take 10 seconds or so. Doing it twice a week every week for both classes is not a problem since the spreadsheet makes it super fast.

Based on what I understand from your description, I would create a spreadsheet with 16 rows, with your students' names one to a row, Then I would put in a randomizing column, randomize, and paste in the Group A, Group A, Group A, Group A, Group B, Group B, etc. column.

Here's a screenshot:

screenshot of spreadsheet

Here's the spreadsheet:

Random Groups - Google Sheets 

When you need new random groups, just sort the column with the rand function. That will randomize the students' names, and you can paste in the ordered A-A-A-A-B-B-etc. column. 10 seconds, new random groups, easy-peasy.

That spreadsheet is totally shared and everything so you can see how that works. I love randomizers in spreadsheets!

View solution in original post

10 Replies
Highlighted
Surveyor

I'd suggest creating a generic assignment with the basic parameters of the project that all groups must follow (X pages, 15 minute presentation, whatever).  Then make it a group assignment.  Make that group set attached to the assignment be randomly assigned.  Label each group with the name of their specific project, and in each group area (file or discussion, or content page) drop in the specifics of their specific project.

You'd still need to drop new students into a group manually, or re-balance if there's a bunch of students who drop, but this method is random for the vast bulk of the course.

Highlighted

Rats, abunag@pacific.edu‌, your fingers are much faster than mine.

Wait, maybe it's your mind that was faster. Either way, that is exactly how I would set this up

As an alternative, and without having to invoke the mysterious "Groups"; I do this very often with Discussions, then ask my students to label their replies with the topic they have chosen as the top line. Then, students are not only sharing their learning on a single topic, but also across all the topics.

Agent K

Highlighted

Thanks, Anthony. I'll give this a shot. I like this approach - the only push back I can anticipate is that while multiple students will receive the same assignment topic, these are actually individual assignments, so presenting it as a group assignment make be a little confusing. 

Highlighted
Community Member

I use randomizers all the time (if you are curious about my javascript randomizers in Canvas, I did a CanvasLIVE about that: Canvas-Friendly Javascripts – Teaching with Canvas ), but if you want randomizing with equal distribution, you can use a spreadsheet with a randomizing column. I don't know how often you need to repeat this process, but I do a process like this twice a week for both my classes, and the spreadsheet solution works great because it just take 10 seconds or so. Doing it twice a week every week for both classes is not a problem since the spreadsheet makes it super fast.

Based on what I understand from your description, I would create a spreadsheet with 16 rows, with your students' names one to a row, Then I would put in a randomizing column, randomize, and paste in the Group A, Group A, Group A, Group A, Group B, Group B, etc. column.

Here's a screenshot:

screenshot of spreadsheet

Here's the spreadsheet:

Random Groups - Google Sheets 

When you need new random groups, just sort the column with the rand function. That will randomize the students' names, and you can paste in the ordered A-A-A-A-B-B-etc. column. 10 seconds, new random groups, easy-peasy.

That spreadsheet is totally shared and everything so you can see how that works. I love randomizers in spreadsheets!

View solution in original post

Highlighted

P.S. if you are sharing this with the students by embedding it in Canvas or something, you can hide the randomizing column; I don't actually share the spreadsheet with students — I just paste the group list into the page with the assignment instructions. 🙂

Highlighted

Super cool! Thanks Laura ! I really like this approach as well and as you noted I think it would need to be shared with students. I'm not sure how strict my instructor is going to be about the fact that students select their own topic because these are Masters level business professionals so they should be sufficiently mature to understand that the topic selection is random - but I think she is really more tied to the idea of students actually selecting a topic.

Either way, I'm going to try this as well as what Anthony suggested. Thanks!

Highlighted

I am glad it is helpful! And if you are into randomizing javascripts, check out the Canvas live or my public collection. The power of random is so important when working with lots of students and/or lots of content. It brings everything to the forefront... eventually. And automatically! 

Laura's Widget Warehouse: Homepage

RSS and random javascripts are basically my two favorite web technologies. 🙂

Highlighted
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hello there, adarsh@fulltiltahead.com...

I noticed that there hasn't been any new activity in this discussion topic since July 22nd, and so I thought that I would check in with you.  It looks like you've received some good help/advice from abunag@pacific.edukelley.meeusen@cptc.edu, and laurakgibbs‌.  Did any of those responses ultimately help to answer your question?  Or, are you still looking for some assistance with your initial question?  If one of the above responses helped to answer your question, please feel free to mark it as "Correct".  However, if you're still looking for some help, please come back to this thread to post a message below so that members of the Canvas Community can continue to assist you.  For now, I'm going to mark your question as "Assumed Answered".  However, that won't keep you or others from posting additional questions/comments below that are related to your initial question.  I hope that's okay with you, Adarsh.  Looking forward to hearing from you soon!