These tips and tricks are written by the learning developers of ESA department of Teaching & Learning Services.
Table of contents
When lecturing online you can consider using assignments to assess whether students have achieved the learning goals in your course instead of using a written exam.
An assignment can be designed to address higher order knowledge skills (deeper understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating, designing) and can either be strictly timed or spread out over a longer time frame.
Assignments that ask for complex tinkering are more fraud proof. Time pressure requires active knowledge and skills, but most important is that assignments have to be designed well to make sure that the students will be able to demonstrate knowledge and skills. For summative assignments, try to find the right balance between complexity of the assignment and the time frame.
First ask yourself this:
- Is it possible to easily turn your original assessment method into an unsupervised assessment? Then that could be the way to go!
- If this is not the case, you need to think of other assessment methods.
Always keep the learning objectives in mind.
1. Constructive alignment
Keep in mind that with the assignment students need to be able to show that they have achieved the learning objectives. To help you with this, refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Whether the assessment of your course should be an individual or group effort, may be determined by the final attainment levels of the study program, or the learning objectives of your course. It may also be a consideration with regard to the time and effort it will take for you to grade.
Be mindful when setting group work assignments1. The purpose should not just be to decrease grading time, but students should want to work together to be able to complete the task successfully. Do include some kind of individual component as well.
1 More information about groupwork and assessment in this handbook: https://www.eur.nl/media/2020-03-groupworkandassessment
2. Make deliberate choices
Choices and effects:
- The way you set up your assignment should be in line with the learning objectives for the course and the activities students do should also be aligned.
- Unique individual assignments (e.g. select your own case) require more assessment time compared to more or less standardized formatted assignments.
- The more structured the exam or assignment is, the less time it will take to grade.
- Less (group) products often imply less grading time. However, you may want to include an additional check on individual contribution for individual grading.
- Group assignments lead to peer learning, though individuals may hitchhike. You may want to consider to receive an annex like a logfile in which individual contributions are listed.
- Peer feedback for formative assessment or lower stake summative assessment, may result in more efficient grading. Moreover, peer assessment supports students to learn.
- Activities like student peer review and referencing sources require students to take ownership over their individual writing processes.
- In case you want to collaborate with extra assessors, use a detailed rubric to avoid assessor bias.
- It might not be possible to summative assess all learning objectives, using the most appropriate assessment methods. Determine what is most essential and representative to test, and inform the exam committee if you decide to make changes.
3. What to consider when designing online assignments
- Generally, an online assignment is an open book test where you have less control over the students’ use of resources and interaction while working on the assignment.
- Students can use resources such as the internet, study books and notes.
- In an unproctored setting, students can interact/share with other students via messaging apps and other social media or ask google.
- The assignment should ideally be designed in such a way that the students have to apply the information that they have available to them. Imagine them completing the task in the real world of work, where they can consult resources to complete some or other task.
- Assignments are often used to address higher order knowledge skills (deeper understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating, designing) when the learning objectives are at higher level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
- A summative assignment can be set to take a few hours like an exam, or days or even weeks. Time given to submit the assignment should match the learning objectives, and the activities – such as discussion and groupwork – needed to complete them.
- If strictly timed, collaboration and plagiarism are less appealing. Time pressure requires active knowledge and skills, and does not allow students to learn on the job.
- Assignments that ask for complex tinkering are more likely fraud proof.
- In summative assignments it is therefore most important to find the right balance between complexity of the assignment and the time frame.
- The workload for both the student and the examiners must be reasonable. Keep the number of ECs for the course in mind.
- Assignments are meant to test students for what they have learned and familiarised themselves with. When unexpectedly changing the assessment method for remote lecturing, keep in mind that there might be added difficulties that students might face, for example, an unstable internet connection, noise disturbance, lack of structure, and the like. Provide additional help and guidelines, for example, a clearly communicated procedure, clear assignment instructions, technical test sessions, and a back-up plan.
4. Tips for products/deliverables
Always keep the learning objectives in mind when choosing what the student should deliver by the end of the assessment. Here are some ideas for deliverables:
- Written documents submitted in Brightspace Assignments (e.g. research paper, case study, fact sheet, article, report, proposal).
- Designs (e.g. schemes, drawings, fact sheets, model outcomes) shared on for example Brightspace Discussion Board.
- Presentations (e.g poster, slides with voice-over, slide book with notes, video, animation, etc).
- Portfolio and reflective logs.
Make sure you only assess the course learning objectives so that you are not distracted by things that are irrelevant, for example, a well-edited video compared to simple video with similar content).
Always have Turnitin enabled for written assignments submitted via Brightspace, so that you can check for plagiarism.
5. Tips for keeping summative assignments clear, fair and assessable
- Make sure you test only learning objectives applicable to this assignment. You can use consistency check table for this (see at the bottom of this page).
- Check feasibility. The workload should be reasonable for your students, and the grading burden should be manageable for you and your colleagues. Think of ways to reduce workload (whether for you or for students) without compromising learning objectives.
- Use assignment description that includes the following information:
- Name assignments accurately. It will help students to focus on the purpose of the assignment.
- Clear instructions
- Clear point allocation and word/page limits.
- Specify intended audience and purpose of the assignment.
- Provide rubrics with clear descriptors. As part of a formative assessment, provide examples of graded assessments (e.g. full paper examples with corresponding rubrics to show how descriptors are used).
- List resources, how to get help, and how feedback will be provided.
- Indicate what the final product should be, and how it should be submitted.
- Give the submission date and mention the consequences for missing it.
- Be clear about what is and what is not permitted.
- If relevant, provide clear rules for retake (how to improve, revise or new assignment) and grading. Is it fair to grade similarly, when retakers received feedback on their product and could improve?
Other information to communicate to students:
- Make them aware of the confidential nature of the test and their responsibility to take it honestly. Also mention how you will check for plagiarism.
- Specify the materials/resources that may and may not be consulted.
- Specify whether consultation or collaboration with other students is permitted.
- Include consequences for breach of guidelines.
- You can conditionally release the assignment after students have confirmed that they have understood the requirements in a quiz in Brightspace.
- Let students confirm and sign that they have read and understood the instructions.
6. Checklist for designing assignments
- Provided a written description of the assignment (in the syllabus or in a separate document)?
- Does the assignment have a name?
- Specified the purpose of the assignment?
- Indicated the intended audience?
- Articulated the instructions in precise and unambiguous language?
- Provided information about the appropriate format and presentation (e.g., page length, typed, cover sheet, bibliography)?
- Indicated special instructions, such as a particular citation style or headings?
- Specified the due date and the consequences for missing it?
- Articulated performance criteria clearly in the form of a rubric with examples?
- Indicated the assignment’s point value or percentage of the course grade?
- Provided students (where appropriate) with models or samples?
Consistency check form
Click to download the Consistency Check form (word document)