9 Common Types of Assignments in Online Courses

Discussion boards, wikis and research papers are common examples of online coursework.

9 Types of Assignments in Online Courses

online university assignments

In some instances, online students watch recorded lectures and respond at their own pace. (Getty Images)

Students considering taking their first online course may worry about the types of assignments they will encounter.

In particular, those who are accustomed to face-to-face education may not know what coursework to expect before they start. Below is a list of nine common types of virtual assignments instructors generally assign in online classes.

1. Read or watch, then respond: This type of assignment closely mirrors the face-to-face lecture. Instructors provide video lectures, articles or book chapters and assign students a set of questions. Students can read or watch the material at their own pace, so long as they meet the deadline for their responses.

2. Research papers: Formal research papers remain a popular assignment in online classes . Writing about research is a required skill for many graduate degrees , and publishing original research is a measure of expertise in many disciplines.

There is little difference in completing research papers for online versus on-ground classes. However, online learners should ensure they have remote access to a university's library resources to succeed.

3. Exams: The often-dreaded tests and quizzes are also common in online courses. But the rules and testing environments can differ depending on the institution. Some will use proctoring services that monitor students through webcams and identity verification questions.

4. Discussion boards: Usually intended as a supplement to the weekly coursework, the discussion forum is intended to replace the in-class discussion or seminar. In the virtual classroom, students respond to a prompt and each other. Some discussions require students to submit responses before being able to see what classmates wrote.

5. Blogs: These keep a running public dialogue of students' thoughts and ideas about a topic. Students can add new insights to the blog throughout the course, and sometimes other students can comment. Blogs are particularly useful for online classes that require students to reflect upon life or clinical experiences and internships.

6. Journals: The journal assignment is usually a private way for online students to communicate with the instructor . Sometimes, journal topics are prescribed and formal, but usually these assignments allow students to express ideas, opinions, concerns and questions about course material.

7. Wikis: These are especially useful for group work . Students can comment on and edit a shared document to develop task lists, write research questions, document experiences or start discussions.

8. Case-based assignments: These are more popular in certain fields than others. Generally, an assigned reading or video vividly depicts a real-world example of the issues or concepts the class is learning about, describing all of the salient details and information. Well-constructed cases force students to analyze problems and research, test and present potential solutions.

9. Self-paced adaptive assignments: Adaptive learning is growing in popularity, especially in subjects such as math and science.

Learn how to

Usually, students watch short lectures, then answer a set of questions. Based on how they perform, new lectures follow and focus on areas the student needs help with. These types of courses generally don't have a class or cohort structure as each student moves at a personalized pace. There may not be one instructor for the course, but a team of facilitators is generally available in real time.

The takeaway: While these types of virtual assignments don't represent the total list of possibilities, they are among the most common. Instructors will choose which online coursework best fits the material and learning objectives. Each online class may be slightly different.

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Making the decision to pursue an online program can be intimidating for students. Online Learning Lessons offers tips and advice from online students and educators on everything from finding a program and paying for it to what happens after enrolling. Got a question? Email [email protected] .

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Characteristics of Effective Online Assignments

Effective online assignments and activities typically..., ...take advantage of the web as a learning environment.

The web offers a wealth of information, services, and tools that can be incorporated into assignments and course activities; you can use its networked, hypertextual nature to stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration, and promote critical thinking. There is no need to be constrained by the limitations of specific learning platforms when developing online assignments.

...start engaging students early in the course

The first assignment is a good indicator of whether a student will complete the course. Interesting, provocative assignments early in the course draw students in, habituate them to the kinds of coursework you have planned, and engage them actively in the larger course community.

...are transparent in their motives and articulate a clear rationale

All assignments benefit from a clearly articulated rationale, but this is especially true online, where it can be more difficult for students to ask clarifying questions. Explaining why you have chosen a particular assignment and why you believe it is valuable is often the best way to persuade students to try out an assignment they might otherwise approach skeptically.

...connect multiple parts of the course

Assignments and activities can weave together different parts of the course, helping students integrate what they learn and develop a deeper understanding of the material.

...have clear criteria for evaluation and assessment

Because grading and assessment practices vary widely in online courses, students often benefit from knowing how their work will be evaluated. Providing  clear grading rubrics and other formal evaluation criteria in advance can help students focus on the most important aspects of the assignment.

...give detailed instructions and prompts

Good instructions help students understand what to do when working on an assignment. Instructions shouldn't assume all students understand the assignment's purpose or know the steps to follow. Detailed instructions are crucial - but they must also be concise enough that students will actually read them. Consider using video prompts or instructions when you need to convey a lot of information related to an assignment.

...demonstrate variety and flexibility

Flexibility and variety let students exercise more control over the choices they make in a class. This can make assignments more engaging. Providing multiple options for completing assignments is one way to introduce flexibility; designing assignments that allow for multiple types of answers or learning approaches is another.

...provide good (and bad) examples

Examples act as models that help students learn to develop their own ideas or responses and to think more creatively. Examples also help students who may not be familiar with expectations or practices for certain types of assignments. Pointing out an example's best and worst features can be especially useful.

...are inclusive and accessible

Assignments that are designed from the beginning to be accessible are ideal for online environments. Some online students will not be native English speakers; others will have disabilities that could prevent them from. Still others won't have access to certain types of resources, tools, or software. Following principles of universal design ensures assignments find the broadest possible audience.

Digital Humanities and Social Sciences

DH 865 and HST 812

Online Assignments

History assignments , class activities.

A good first assignment –for all online courses– is to have students do  introductions . They can be general “tell others in the course about yourself” or have a more specific set of questions that elicit students’ interests and prior knowledge of the course subject. The students can post in an Angel or Desire2Learn forum so that the introductions can be read by the class but not made public. Online courses often see attrition due to lack of a sense of being part of a class. Having students do simple things like introductions, explaining their interests in history, or their interests in the specific topic of the class helps them to feel more connected.

The first two weeks of the course are critical for class retention, and often having “canned” encouraging emails sent out regularly in the first few weeks can be of great value. A generalized response to the introductions that can either go to the whole class or personalized with a reference to a few words in the introductions (in smaller classes) can greatly help.

In general,  having a number of short forum assignments at the beginning of a course  can be quite beneficial. For these assignments, you can have a portion of the class post a brief response to a reading, a review of a web site, a response to an issue, and so on, while others in the class comment on the responses.

The key is to  not feel obligated to grade or read all of the responses , but treat them more as class discussion and participation. “Spot” reading of the responses can help instructors to see how well students are understanding materials and help to catch those students (and prod them with an email or two) who are not participating.

However, one does need to balance and not be too burdensome with participation assignments; nor have too small of a window for responses.

Both Angel and Desire2Learn have good discussion (forum) platforms (On the whole, D2L is less clunky in all respects and much faster than Angel). But you can also use online resources for class interaction such as Piazza (https://piazza.com/).

To encourage collaborative writing. Instructor can identify a series of themes. Number of themes could depend on number of students enrolled in course. Ask students as a group to compile a Wikipedia or blog entry on theme of choice.

You could let students know that the assignments could possibly be used to contribute towards an electronic reader, or a resource-based reader on a public history site maintained by the department. Or they can post on a public blog. Entries can be of any length but generally group blog posts tend to work well at 500 – 750 words. They can be more formal and include citations and bibliography at the end.

Blog post s, individually or as a group, form or informal, can be a great way for students to turn in work or participate in the class. While you can have students sign up for and blog on your course site, a simpler and better solution is to have students use any one of a number of free blog services (http://sixrevisions.com/tools/top-free-online-blogging/). Students can use tools like WordPress.org, for example, to create their own blog (http://wordpress.org/) (individual or group) that focuses on an historical theme, event, movement, person, etc.

While many see Wikipedia as a dubious resource, historians can use this to their advantage by having students work on an entry on either a new topic or a more established topic. The class can set about trying to improve the accuracy and historical fullness of particular Wikipedia entries.

Scaffolded assignment using Google Docs (http://googleapps.msu.edu). One trick that I have found that has made commenting on student work and allows me to avoid Angel dropbox, is to use the MSU instantiation of Google Docs. Students share a particular Google Doc with me and post their work in it. When work is due, I can go to the Google Doc and write comments.

This also allows one to scaffold assignments, break them into manageable parts. Students can, for example, start by collecting sources in the doc; they can then do reviews of the sources; They can then do a draft of an assignment; they can then review a fellow student; and then finally do a final draft. Any one stage of a scaffolded assignment can be graded or commented upon or simply checked off for being done.

Students can work in groups. Almost any assignment can be broken into parts. Scaffolding assignments helps to keep students engaged by giving them more manageable tasks. It also helps one to avoid getting paper mill work – plagiarism.

More Assignments. Any of the following could be formulated for forums, blog posts, scaffolded assignments, or more traditional drop box Word docs.

Article review. Instructor identifies a series of themes. Students are asked to find an article that meets specific scholarly criteria, as identified by instructor (e.g published in reputable journal, draws on primary source materials or draws on both primary and secondary sources, is at least 10 pages in length excluding the bibliography, etc. etc.). Write a 1 or 2 page review that includes a short summary, and a critical analysis that draws in other readings from the course.

Archive Review: Identify an online archive for review, as in the following example from http://historymatters.gmu.edu/search.php?function=find&start=31

For a class, students can look at topic specific archives or find within larger archives, materials appropriate for a particular class.

As per this example, students can be asked to use selected narratives, interviews, footage, or images to construct a “document-based question” for fellow students to answer

Been Here So Long: Selections from the WPA American Slave Narratives Dick Parsons. These three lessons use the American Slave Narratives gathered between 1936 and 1938 by journalists and other writers employed by the Federal Writers Project, part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The site supplies 17 narratives for student use and also provides information on online and printed sources for additional narratives (approximately 2,300 were collected). The lessons ask students to explore the slave narratives to gain an understanding of the experiences of African Americans in nineteenth-century America and to consider the nature of oral history and personal narratives as historical evidence.

One lesson requires students to use selected slave narratives to construct a “Document Based Question” for fellow students to answer. The lessons are accompanied by an essay on “The Ex-Slave Interviews in the Depression Cultural Context.” This activity comes from the New Deal Network Web site.

Using primary source documents , examine the impact of particular historical events / episodes on people’s lives. Rich online archives provide excellent resources for setting students up to do “historical work” of digging into archives. Alternatively, sets of primary documents can be assembled online and ask students to support or refute particular stances with evidence from the documents. A particularly rich example of this can be found with the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History (http://canadianmysteries.ca/en/index.php) Significant Event Identify a significant event or publication in your discipline . Have students ascertain the important people, impact, etc., involved by consulting a variety of library resources. Probably a good idea to keep the event/publication broad: The lunar landing, discovery of penicillin, Silent Spring, the rock opera Hair, the advent of the assembly line, etc. Suggested library resources will depend on the event, but lends itself neatly to reference tools. (Adapted from Term Paper Alternatives. http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/PaperAlternatives.html) Liberal and Conservative

Contrast two journal articles or editorials f rom recent publications reflecting conservative and liberal tendencies. (Consult Cannell Library’s handout, “A Selective List of Liberal and Conservative Periodicals.”) It might be interesting to carry out this exercise again using publications from the late 1960s. (Adapted from Term Paper Alternatives. http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/PaperAlternatives.html) Popular and Scholarly

Provide students with a popular and a scholarly article on the same topic . (Or, alternatively, have students locate two articles on their own.) Students will use a prepared checklist to analyze the two types of publications and learn the distinguishing characteristics.

Popular and Primary Students will find a short article in the popular press and locate the original research article [primary source] on which the popular article was based. Students will analyze the relationship between the popular article and original research, and critique the popular article with regard to its accuracy.

Update the Literature Ask students to update a literature review done about five years ago on a topic in the discipline. They will have to utilize printed and electronic resources to identify pertinent information.

Update a Web Directory Students will select a topic directory from the Cannell Library web site. Students will look at each of the recommended sites, then locate five more sites on the same topic that they determine should be added. For each site they recommend, students will complete a web page evaluation worksheet and write a short evaluation. Alternatively, students can locate their own directory to update, rather than using one from the library’s page.

Analyze Case Studies Bring in case studies for students to read (for example, I will put a case example of sexual harassment on an overhead). Have students discuss and analyze the case, applying concepts, data, and theory from the class. They can work as individuals or in groups or do this as a think-pair-share. Consider combining this with a brief in-class writing assignment. (From http://www.cat.ilstu.edu/teaching_tips/handouts/newactive.shtml)

Mini-research Proposals or Projects Have the students work on designing a research study on a topic from the class. In some situations, you may be able to have them collect data during class time (observe some situation or give out some short surveys) or you may have them doing this as part of an outside-of-class project. Either way, have students present their research in a class research symposium similar to what we do at professional meetings. Invite other faculty and students. (From http://www.cat.ilstu.edu/teaching_tips/handouts/newactive.shtml)

Analyze Information Sources Have students locate three sources—one an article published in a popular magazine, one an article in a refereed scholarly journal, one a web site—and have them analyze the sources in terms of language used, evidence presented for claims, qualifications of the author, and purpose. (From http://www.gustavus.edu/oncampus/academics/library/IMLS/assignmentsuggestions.html)

Culture Shifts This one uses the New York Times Historical database. Have students select a topic or an issue and examine it across time by locating articles in the New York Times for this year, 25, 50, 75, and/or 100 years ago. In addition to gaining an understanding of the shifts in language (and the need to brainstorm keywords) students can study the different approaches to the issue and the ways in the issue reflect the values and assumptions of the time. This exercise can be expanded by having students expand their knowledge of the different time periods with chronologies and other reference books. Create an AnthologyUsing the book catalog and databases, have students compile an anthology or reader of works on a theme or topic. Students will write critical introductions to the selections they have chosen. This exercise is good for teaching providing students practice with selecting particular sources out of many and relating pieces to a whole. (Adapted from http://www.gustavus.edu/oncampus/academics/library/ IMLS/assignmentsuggestions.html)

Alternative: Compile an anthology of readings by one person. Have students include an introduction with biographical information about the author, and the rationale for including the works [justify with reviews or critical materials]. Secondary Source Comparison Provide the class with primary sources that recount an event that is open to more than one interpretation. Then have students locate and critique secondary source explanations of that event. Have students examine differences in secondary sources and relate these to their own interpretation of the available evidence. (Students are often surprised to find secondary sources tell the same story differently.) (From http://www.gustavus.edu/oncampus/academics/library/ IMLS/assignmentsuggestions.html)

Document an Editoria l Have students examine an editorial and discuss what evidence would need to be provided to turn it into an academic argument for a scholarly audience. Have the class locate and analyze evidence and write a response to the editorial based on their new knowledge. (From http://www.gustavus.edu/oncampus/academics/library/ IMLS/assignmentsuggestions.html)

Glossary Exercise  Have students maintain a list of words related to the topic of the class (from lectures, the textbook, readings). Using words on the list students create an annotated glossary, for which they provide documented definitions for each of the words. The instructor can set a minimum number of words and sources (i.e. forty words from at least 10 different sources). Sources can include general and subject-specific dictionaries, people, web sites, a whole book on the topic, an article on the topic, etc.) One of Kitty’s favorites from an Intro to Research Class

Annotated Bibliography Prepare an annotated bibliography of books, journal articles, and other sources on a topic. Include evaluative annotations (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm) Variations: · produce the annotated bibliography in the form of a web page · Have students work in groups to compile a large annotated bibliography and present/defend their selections to the class.

Topic Across Sources Select a topic and compare how that topic is treated in two to five different sources. (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm)

Journal Analysis Analyze the content, style, and audience of three journals in a given discipline. (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm)

Birthday Exercise Locate primary sources on/or near the date of your birth. You may use one type of material only once, i.e., one newspaper headline of a major event, one quotation, one biography, one census figure, one top musical number, one campus event, etc. Use a minimum of six different sources. Write a short annotation of each source and include the complete bibliographic citation. (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm)

Web Site Evaluation Students select a web site and evaluate it using a checklist, such as the W5 for W3 web site evaluation and checklist. As a variation, have students locate three websites on the same topic, and after completing the worksheet, have them write a short paper describing each site and ranking them in order of quality.

Teach the Class Each student in the class is given responsibility for dealing with a part of the subject of the course. He or she is then asked to 1) find out what the major reference sources on the subject are; 2) find out “who’s doing what where” in the field; 3) list three major unresolved questions about the subject; 4) prepare a 15 minute oral presentation to introduce this aspect of the subject to the class. (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm) (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm)

Follow the Policy Have students follow a particular foreign policy situation as it develops. Who are the organizations involved? What is the history of the issue? What are the ideological conflicts? (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm) (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm)

Internet & Search Engines  Choose a topic of interest and search it on the Internet. Cross reference several search engines. Select and evaluate x number of web sites; select a specified number to include on an annotated bibliography. As with a research paper, students will have to narrow and broaden accordingly. Students summarize the experience by describing the experiences in different search engines, overall coverage of the topic, best keywords, etc. (Adapted from http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm)

Write Your Own Exam Write an exam on one area; answer some or all of the questions (depending on professor’s preference). Turn in an annotated bibliography of source material, and rationale for questions. (From http://library.ups.edu/instruct/assign.htm)

All But the Research Paper Conduct the research for a term paper. Do everything except write it. Students submit a clearly defined topic, an annotated bibliography of useful sources, an outline of a paper, a thesis statement, and an opening paragraph and summary. (From: http://www.cod.edu/library/services/faculty/infolit/assignmentideas.htm) Examine Coverage of a Controversial Issue

Examine the treatment of a controversial issue  in several different sources such as newspapers, books, magazines, scholarly journals, and web sites. Write a paper that presents a balanced point of view on the issue or ask the students to take a position based on the information. Purpose: Gives them experience in locating different kinds of sources and selecting from a large volume of references. Emphasizes that there are multiple perspectives on any issue and stresses the importance of making informed decisions. (From: http://www.cod.edu/library/services/faculty/infolit/assignmentideas.htm)

Finding Supporting Information Give the students an article to critique. Have them locate two sources (other articles, web sites) which support (or not) the points made in the original article. Purpose: Gives the students an opportunity to understand the importance of using more than one source when gathering information. (From: http://www.cod.edu/library/services/faculty/infolit/assignmentideas.htm

Propaganda Have students choose any issue that has been the subject of protest or propaganda at any time in the past 500 years in any part of the world. Then write a paper detailing the issues of the protest/propaganda, putting the issues in the context of some sort of text or object. The text/object can be a film; a literary or musical work; a poster; a pamphlet; a sculpture or painting; a building; a symbolic act; or a historical moment. The overarching questions to address in the paper are: What historical forces — technological, political, cultural — brought this protested issue or point of propaganda to a critical point at the moment you are looking at? What are the specific arguments being raised in the protest or propaganda? How does your object/text embody these historical forces and detailed arguments? (World Civilizations Prehistory to 1500 assignment, from http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/asl/courses/ sample_assignments.html)

Create a Pathfinder Students select a topic and create a guide to researching the topic. The pathfinder is not an exhaustive list of source, but the steps on could follow to locate information in a variety of sources, plus a sample of sources each resource would yield. This assignment will help students understand the organization of traditional reference information as well as Internet reference information and its organization. . The pathfinder would include the following: Topic & summary; Subject Headings; tools (book catalog, indexes, newsgroups, etc.) with two sources from each.

Poster Session Students research a topic and present it as a poster which other students will use to learn about the topic. Provides the opportunity to conduct a search and forces the students to express the important points succinctly. (Adapted from http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/asl/courses/sample_assignments.html)

Journals in a Discipline Assignment: How many journals are published in a given field? Identify [with professor’s help] journals “basic” to the discipline. Compare and contrast them. Analyse their content, tone, audience and impact. Purpose: Emphasizes the importance of journal literature. Makes the point that journals differ in approach and perspective. (From http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/asl/courses/sample_assignments.html)

Finding Suitable Information Assignment: Give the students a set of Web pages to look at. Have them note any reasons why these pages are, or are not appropriate for university level student research or for in-class use. Purpose: A source that is useful in one instance, may not be useful in all instances. Either scholarly or popular sites might be appropriate depending on the requirements of the class assignment. Museum exhibit design (with artifact list, visitor walk-through plan, keyed to mission statement of an existing museum Local history or heritage walk analysis.

Grant proposal  or funding request for a history-related project Design public lectur e series on an issue related to the course (select speakers, topics) Document-based exercis e requiring an inventory of a document set, generating 3 questions from the set, then developing an essay to answer one of those questions using the docs Design a traveling trunk , including artifact list, lesson plan Plan an oral history collection  project for a local nursing home, assisted care facility, veterans hospital/home Sketch an article proposal  for a major national publication (one student wrote the precis for an article on native american graves and repatriation issues to be submitted to THE ATLANTIC). Choose an issue and imagine 10 primary sources  that would constitute “smoking gun” evidence for researchon that issue, then compare/contrast those imagined sources to 10 existing sources. map an issue . One student in a western civ class I taught drew a map of the Roman empire based on two variables: the sources of animals for the games and the sources of hard coin, and actually found some (perhaps coincidental) correlations with the Roman road system.

online university assignments

online university assignments

Higher Ed Gamma

Moocs and beyond., rethinking your assignments for online learning.

Some options.

Much of the advice about moving courses online is practical and straightforward:

But this advice is largely about knowledge transmission. It’s not about student engagement and learning.

What can we do to advance and assess student learning? 

Let me suggest some activities and assignments that work well in an online environment – that are easy to implement, do not boost your workload, and do-able by students with limited access to technology.

1. Engage students with surveys, polls, and quizzes. Frequent low-stakes assessments enhance student engagement and learning – and do not need to be done synchronously.  Activities like survey, polls, and quizzes keep students focused and help you and them monitor their engagement and command of the course material.

2. Use the discussion board as more than a space to share opinions. Too often, online discussions are shallow and superficial, disconnected from the other facets of the course’s learning experience.  To make these conversations more meaningful, consider using the boards for a variety of purposes:

3. Have the students write a brief explanation of a key concept in the class or write an abstract of an article. One of the best ways to master a concept is to teach it or summarize it, and this activity requires students to demonstrate their command of a topic or a reading.

4.  Ask students to identify, describe, and evaluate an online resource relevant to the class. Have the students locate a website, a database, an online simulation, or a recent news article that speaks to issues you are dealing with in the course.  In the process, the students might alert you to a resource that you may wish to integrate into the class.

5.  Have students write an op-ed essay, a policy brief, or a news article on a topic covered in the class. If one of our goals is to help novice learners emulate expert practice, give your students opportunities to engage in the kinds of authentic activities that professionals undertake.

6.  Let students engage in data visualization and analysis. Ask your students to explicate and analyze a graph, a chart, or a diagram, or, alternatively have them visually represent or statistically analyze a data set or the results of a laboratory experiment.

7. Create a research methods scavenger hunt. One of my goals as an instructor is to improve my students’ research skills, and one way to do this is to create a “scavenger hunt,” which includes questions designed to familiarize students with a wide range of library resources.  Here are some examples:

The current crisis has changed the way we deliver our courses.  It should also alter our instructional activities.  We need assignments that can’t be completed with a Wikipedia or Google search, and that encourage immersion, engagement, and active processing of information.  Our activities should involve research skills, weighing evidence and arguments, critical analysis, and application.

In creating your assignments, make sure that your students can complete the activity successfully regardless of their circumstances.  That’s one reason why the assignments I have mentioned do not require collaboration.

Also, tightly align your activities with your learning objectives.  Make sure that the assignment helps students solidify the knowledge and skills you want to cultivate.  Additionally, share the rationale for the assignment with your students, who need to understand that the activity is not simply busywork. 

Online assessments need not be confined to tests – which are problematic since they tempt online students to cheat. The kinds of assessments listed above have a different purpose: To have students engage and process the course material, encourage them to think critically, analytically, and independently, and apply their knowledge and skills in authentic contexts.

Steven Mintz is senior advisor to the President of Hunter College for student success and strategic initiatives

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Engaging Online Instructional Activities

Long gone are the days of creating an online learning experience simply by posting a series of recorded lectures, documents, and assignments on Blackboard for students to review then “testing” their compliance via auto graded quizzes and exams.  Research 1 demonstrates that a positive online learning experience is related to three factors: (a) connectedness with the instructor; (b) a sense of community with classmates; and (c) engagement in learning. And these three factors interact - students who feel a sense of connectedness are more likely to engage in the class, improving the learning experience. 2,3  

Collaborative learning, peer feedback, learner choice, and sustained discussion that includes personal stories, perspectives, and experiences can all encourage higher order learning while also creating a positive learning community. Below is a list of recommendations for creating positive online learning experiences. Consider using multiple strategies; refer to the section on Universal Design for Learning for more information about how multimodal approaches support learning and engagement. 

Recommendations for Developing Engaging Instructional Activities

Create “sites” for interaction.

When a class has few or no opportunities for in-person interaction, we have to intentionally create spaces for students to interact and collaborate. Think of these as ways of creative virtual sites for interaction:

Use Icebreaker Activities

One feature lost in a transition from face-to-face to online instruction is the valuable snippet of time individuals have before the scheduled starting time.  Much can be learned about one’s fellow participants in these moments of casual exchange.  Trust and camaraderie can be established in increments.  Friendships can form.  Intentional ice-breaker and getting to know you exercises can serve as substitutes for these impromptu conversations. Some examples (see  this website for more ideas) :

Give students some control

Give students a sense of ownership with learning activities by providing some options for learner choice and perhaps even engaging students in the design of some components. In addition to encouraging engagement, engaging students as partners can build a sense of trust, and gives students, including those who may experience significant barriers to learning (online access, socioeconomic issues, learning differences, time constraints, etc.) an opportunity to weigh in with their capacity. For instance:

Connect with a related class

Create a more integrated and engaging experience for students while lightening the design load for any one faculty member or instructor. Examples:

Leverage the online medium

Some especially engaging approaches to online teaching learning involve leveraging the unique affordances of an online environment. For example:

Support difficult and necessary conversations

Discussions of challenging and potentially heated topics can help students develop important skills, in meaningful discourse, evidence-based critical thinking, perspective taking, and listening.  See this page for  guidance about how instructors create a positive climate for class discourse about difficult or divisive topics, whether in a live interaction OR asynchronous discussion forum (e.g., discussion board, chat channel, email, or VoiceThread). 

Foster deep reading

Faculty members frequently express concern about students' ability to read critically, and that concern is heightened in a digital environment. See this page for recommendations for fostering deep reading in a digital environment . 

Some Examples of Engaging Online Activities

Case studies. Give students an opportunity to consider and discuss a real or fictional case that incorporates theory or concepts.  Provide guiding or reflection questions to encourage a richer dialog whether students interact synchronously or via a discussion thread.  Provide an opportunity for individual reflection at the end, such as through the Journal tool in Blackboard. After exposing students to example case studies, you might even ask students to write and analyze their own case studies to illustrate key themes in the course.

Debates . Provide students with a situation or argument, divide them into two (pro/con) or three (pro/con/third way) groups, provide some time to formulate an argument, and let the exchange begin!  Again, providing an opportunity for structured individual reflection at the end is helpful.  Here is an example of a full assignment with a reflection guide, developed by Amy Leyerzapf for her leadership studies course.

Fishbowl discussions . These are most useful for synchronous class discussions (online or in person). Large class discussions can be intimidating, particularly if enrollment numbers exceed the number of screen tiles that can appear on Zoom at once.  Consider breaking the class into two or more groups and conduct a fishbowl discussion.  A guide to get you started, with several variations, can be found here .  

Jeopardy or other “game show” Q&A’s – for courses where students need to master quantities of objective content, trivia-style Q&A’s are a good way to test knowledge.  Instructors of asynchronous courses may want to consider inviting students to a special exam review or office hour via Zoom for a few rounds.  A reliable template in either Powerpoint or Google Slides is available for download here . 

Living history presentations . Students may enjoy researching significant figures related to the course and presenting their findings in character either live during a synchronous class session, or by video or podcast as an asynchronous activity.

News of the day. Assign, or allow students to choose, a course topic or important construct.  The student can present a current event in the news and connect the event to the featured concepts, and share in one of the course interaction tools (e.g., discussion board or student produced blog), or to start off a synchronous class meeting (consider assigning different students to different class periods).

Peer consultations. Pairing students for feedback, particularly on major assignments, can reduce uncertainty, build community, and ultimately make for higher quality assignments and easier grading.  Structure helps here.  Consider pairing students rather than allowing them to choose their partners and conducting multiple rounds of feedback over a longer period of time (the last 20 minutes of class, one meeting a week over three weeks for example).  Provide students with a copy of the grading rubric to guide their critique.  Breakout rooms work well for synchronous courses, while students can collaborate outside of asynchronous courses via Zoom, Teams, or other video conferencing or document-sharing platforms. 

Spark some ideas for your own course(s) by checking out these examples of Engaging Ideas for Flexible and Online Teaching from KU Faculty members  in Spring 2020 : instructional activities or assignments that were especially successful in engaging and stimulating students, were fun to implement, or took advantage of the online environment in ways they had not discovered before. Also What Worked Well: Bright Spots from Fall 2020 , a collection of essays showcasing the many innovative and inspiring ways in which KU instructors overcame Fall teaching challenges. 

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The never-ending issue with any type of coursework is plagiarism. Plagiarism is one of the biggest crimes in education and is greatly despised by all instructors and institutions. Even 36% of college students admit to plagiarizing written works. Luckily, you won’t have to worry about your assignment's uniqueness when you collaborate with Studybay.

Our writers only produce assignments and academic papers that are plagiarism-free. We have several sets of proofreading when doing your assignment to ensure that your document does not match with any online sources or materials.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much time does it take for an assignment to be ready.

Studybay assures you that you will receive your assignment online within the deadline indicated in the order form. We value punctuality and will not put our reputation on the line, so you can rest easy.

If you have a tight deadline, you can negotiate with our experts. Whatever your situation is, our writers are sure to make good on their promise.

What Assignments Can Studybay Do?

Do you need someone who’s knowledgeable and has experience with laboratory procedures in Engineering? Or do you want a writer who can help you with essays about the English language? With around 1,650,000 students helped during the past year and 12,000,000 projects done by our writers here at Studybay, we're sure to pair you with the writer you need.

Studybay is equipped with the best writers who all have competent and excellent writing skills for all types of disciplines or subjects.

Who Will Do My Assignment?

Speaking of excellent writers, Studybay is a writing company composed of over 52,000 of the best writers from various areas of expertise and fields of study.

We can connect you with the writer that fits you best for the type of assignment you need assistance for.

Our writers’ project experience, along with their expert knowledge of essay writing, makes it easier for them to finish your assignment. For your assurance, you can take note that our authors and writers are:

Does Studybay Provide Students With Top-notch Texts?

You’ll be working with expert writers who will help you do your assignment. Our team will pick out the best writer for your assignment from among our 52,000 experts, so you can only expect the best output.

With a high-quality assignment, results from a B to A+ on your written work are guaranteed. The average GPA for students in four-year colleges is a B average or 3.15. Our quality assignments can get you a high grade no matter what your academic level is. You can check the testimonials of our former clients for more proof.

We will provide you a document that has undergone proofreading, thorough research, and plagiarism checks.

Is Using Studybay Cheating?

Finishing your assignment with the help of others might make you feel like you’re cheating. It may feel like it’s forbidden to ask for assistance from writers to do your Spanish assignment , but it’s not. Availing yourself of our writing services is, in any form, not cheating.

Every writer complies and follows our well-established Honor Code. As indicated in the code, we are only a platform that produces original materials custom-written for what our customers need. These materials and contents can be used for any academic purpose of the client. We strictly follow this Honor Code, so you can rest assured that you are not cheating.

Furthermore, according to Honor Code:

What Perks Do You Offer To Students?

Our customer support team knows that not all students who need help can afford expensive commissions. Because of that, we offer a 15% discount in pricing to customers for their first orders. We also provide free revisions to our clients so that their assignments won’t be compromised just because they lack financial resources.

Studybay also gives out assignment writing service coupons that students can use to obtain our services at a lower rate. We believe that all students deserve to be helped and given assistance - despite whatever their household income is.

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