Now that we are all “online,” the assessments and grading structures for our courses probably look different than they did before. These changes were made to ensure that our students can continue their learning, and their engagement in the course, while taking into consideration how all of our circumstances have changed. So if you find yourself with a different midterm or final assessment structure than you had originally planned for, read on for tips to help it all come together:
Keep your syllabus up-to-date.
If you are making changes to your course syllabus in “chunks,” (a few weeks at a time, for example) make sure that you are doing so in a transparent and easily accessible format. Google Docs is the best option, and if you haven’t already started using the Syllabus Template, now is a great time to adopt it. Make sure that your deadlines for all assignments are accurate and clearly indicated on the syllabus.
If you’ve changed the overall assessment structure for your course (for example, you have many small quizzes now instead of a midterm and a final…) check your math to make sure that all of the points add up correctly. Minor discrepancies can cause stress for students who are trying to manage multiple changes at a single time.
Communicate clearly and regularly about what students are expected to do in their assignments.
If you’ve shortened, altered, or even added an assignment for your course, take special care to clearly describe those changes to your students. Consider writing out a brief description of the assignment along with numbered lists, bullet-points, or headings to organize key components of an assignment. Including a short rubric is highly recommended. It can be difficult (if not impossible) to interpret tone from emails or short descriptions, so try to be as unambiguous as possible in your language. For example, rather than describing a reflection paper by saying, “Play around with concepts of memory and emotion in the text in your responses…” try more concrete wording such as, “Explore concepts of memory and emotion in the text by highlighting specific passages (with page numbers)…” If your course is also meeting in real time via Zoom, you can reinforce the goal of the assignments while lending your own more casual tone to the description.
Students will be anxious to meet the new expectations of your course, so you may want to reinforce how these assignments connect to your course goals regularly either through Canvas announcements, emails, or virtual meetings.
Scaffold any aspects of a major assignment that rely on new technology or materials.
If you’ve begun using a third-party tool that is new to your students, or if you’re just doing Canvas quizzes for the first time, give students a chance to practice with those tools before a major assessment opportunity. For many students, the modality of online testing or online learning is new, and they need time to acclimate to these tools before it is reasonable to assess their learning in a course using those tools.
For Canvas quizzes you can create a short review quiz that gives students unlimited options to retake it (sometimes described as “mastery mode,”) which will allow them to become comfortable with the interface while also reviewing course content.