Assignments and Feedback
Assignments are tasks given to learners to assess their achievement in your course. Good assignments are deeply connected to the course content. Assignments also allow students to demonstrate their achievement of the course learning outcomes.
Feedback is the process of describing student achievement. Good feedback is timely, ongoing, and provides constructive comments. Receiving effective feedback can be a great learning experience. It also connects course assignments to practice by promoting growth and development.
Online and Remote Options
- Use LEARN’s Dropbox tool to create assignments.
- Set up the Grades tool in your LEARN course and connect items to their respective assignment.
- Have students submit their completed assignment documents for grading use the LEARN Dropbox tool.
- Have students submit video or digital recordings of their presentations or projects.
- Use the Rubric tool in LEARN to grade student assignments that have been uploaded to Dropbox.
- Provide written, audio, or video feedback on student assignments.
For successful assignments:
- Make your expectations clear, both for content and format of assignments.
- Give students a reasonable amount of time to complete the assignment.
- Allow for some choice or flexibility in topic or format.
- Consider accepting draft submissions to provide formative feedback (to improve and guide).
For effective feedback:
- Include comments on students’ work, not just a mark or percentage.
- Explain positive and constructive aspects of the student’s work, rather than just justifying the assigned grade.
- Provide comments that are clear and balanced.
- Make your feedback timely and ongoing so that students can improve their future work.
- Consider using audio or video feedback while marking submissions in the Dropbox tool.
- Let students know when they can expect to receive feedback.
- Activities that are not related to the course learning outcomes.
- Unclear or incomplete instructions.
- Using a rubric that isn’t shown to students.
- Numerical grades without comments.
- ‘Canned’ comments (e.g. “vague” – what about the work is vague?)
- Using language that belittles or ignores students’ effort
Assessments: Tests, quizzes and final exams
Tests, quizzes, and final exams are formal tools used to determine the level of student learning. Traditional formats usually include test-type questions. Other assessment formats might include communicating in written, oral, or visual formats. In any case, the assessment you use should align with your course outcomes and course content.
In an online course, it is important to consider the format of assessments, as well as the conditions. Course timing (time of day, week of term, etc.) and student demographics (year of study, class size, etc.) also factor into how you design your assessment.
Online and Remote Options
- Use the LEARN Quizzes tool to create assessments.
- Explore other kinds of online assessments such as group projects, reflective writing, written or photo essays, research reports, critiques, simulations, scenarios or case studies, presentations, demonstrations, and ePortfolios. These are often more effective tools for assessment and learning than quizzes or exams.
- Align the assessment activity to the learning outcome(s).
- Create a mix of formative (with feedback to identify strengths and highlight opportunities) and summative assessments (with grades).
- Don’t forget to include ungraded activities (drag and drop, true / false) where students can test their knowledge.
- Timed quizzes and exams vs. Assignment-style assessments.
- If using timed quizzes, using a clearly communicated time window can help to accommodate learners who have work or family commitments, or who need accommodations.
- Create large test banks and pull random questions from it so that every student gets a different quiz.
- Technical glitches (internet crashes, software issues).
- Group work online takes more time and guidelines regarding teamwork are recommended.
- Exploring Alternative Assessment (Red River College Polytechnic)
- Assessment of Learning (Tony Bates)
- Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Activities and Assessments (University of Waterloo)
- ePortfolio (University of Waterloo)
- Online teamwork and collaboration (The University of New South Wales)
- Interactive Tool: h5p (for advanced users)
- What is the difference between formative and summative assessment? (Carnegie Mellon University)
Best practices for assessing math in an online or blended format:
- Match assessment to learning outcomes.
- Make the assessment something that can be done with low bandwidth (text or images, avoid video if possible).
- Choose an assessment format that can be submitted to LEARN either via Dropbox or the Quiz tool.
- Don’t ask students to purchase software or hardware unless absolutely necessary.
- Digitizing an analog piece of work (i.e. taking a photo of work on paper) is still effective. (McMaster, 2020)
- Assessment formats should be popular file formats rather than something that requires specific software to open (Western, 2020).
Low Bandwidth (ideal)
- Take photos of handwritten work using smartphone
- Scan handwritten work with a scanner or a smartphone app like Microsoft Office Lens
- Use tablet or smartphone and stylus to write digital work in Microsoft OneNote (part of Office 365 and included for all students)
- Draw or document work using EquatIO and save as an image
- Have students submit work inside of a LEARN quiz question or via the LEARN Dropbox.
- Use smartphone to record a video of handwritten work
- Use a Wacom tablet or similar tablet, this is expensive so should be optional
- Use Smartphone as “document camera” to stream live handwritten work during MS Teams or WebEx session
- Give students the option to attach an audio recording explaining their proof or work.
Note: If accepting for photos or videos of work, ask the student to write their initials or name in view so that you can identify it is their own work.
Flipgrid allows students to post video responses to questions or prompts. Students can also add video-based comments on their peers’ responses. The Flipgrid recording interface includes advanced features such as whiteboard, screenshare, custom stickers, filters, and the ability to split-screen video and whiteboard or screenshare.
EquatIO is a free application that allows students to complete digital equations and graphing. Features include integrated graphing, handwriting recognition for formulas, and LaTeX format. The application is available for Windows, Mac, Chrome, and as a web version. See their support documentation ›
- McMaster University (2020). Teaching Remotely.
- POD Network (2020). Crowdsourced Online Teaching Tips.
- POD Network (2020). Crowdsourced List of Virtual Lab Simulations.
- University of Oxford’s Mathematical Institute (2020). Teaching Remotely. This resource includes several techniques for teaching mathematics remotely, including instructions on how to use your smartphone as a document camera, using MS Teams whiteboard features, and sharing screens using Apple and Android devices.
- Western University. (2020). Digital Assessment Formats.