Developing an Online Community
Creating a space for students and yourself to meet, communicate, collaborate, question, and support each other is critical to fostering a sense of community in your online course. Consider creating a discussion forum or social media group for students to join and interact with peers. Make it personal by including a photo or video of yourself so students can get to know who you are behind their computer screen, and encourage your students to do the same.
Minimizing Academic Dishonesty
Cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty are a reality in both online and face-to-face classes. A well-designed instructional environment can help minimize opportunities for dishonesty. Be an active, engaged instructor to demonstrate to students that you are following their work closely. This will also help you familiarize yourself with students’ work and may help you better identify possible honor code violations.
- Communicate consequences: Stress the importance of academic integrity and the consequences of academic dishonesty, such as receiving zero points for an assignment and reporting the student to school authorities. Read about UNCG’s Academic Integrity policies and procedures to prepare yourself and your students to uphold these standards.
- Learn the tools: The more comfortable you are with the technology in your course, the less likelihood you’ll leave loopholes open for students to exploit.
- LMS features: Utilize tools, like Canvas’s Turnitin LTI, that check for originality in student assessment submissions.
- Time limits: Open quizzes or exams for a limited amount of time to reduce the likelihood that students will have a chance to collaborate.
- Application-based assessments: Design your assessments to test on the application of course concepts, not memorization. Explore personal connections—every student’s background is different and unique, so asking students to complete assessments based on real-world experiences decreases the opportunity to plagiarize.
- Gate content: Limit plagiarism by allowing students to see other responses to an assignment, like a discussion board prompt, only after they have first submitted their own.
- Randomize question pools: Develop a pool of questions and answers and make sure they’re randomized in the assignment. Also mix up the question types from multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, matching, open response, etc.
- Refresh content regularly: To prevent students from passing along answers to new classes semester after semester, incorporate new assessments for each course offering.
- Break assessments into smaller pieces: Whether papers or projects, breaking up large submissions into smaller pieces can help destress students, reduce motivation to cut corners, and provide the instructor with additional opportunities to review student work and check for quality.
Develop assessments that effectively introduce, reinforce, or evaluate students’ understanding of course concepts as they relate to learning objectives.
Some assessments are self-checks that can help students confirm their own understanding. Others provide instructors with opportunities to evaluate whether students are “getting it” or not and also give faculty data they can use to improve their teaching in the moment and for future course offerings.
Make the assignments purposeful. “Purposeful” doesn’t mean boring, though. There are lots of ways to make your assessments interesting, engaging, and relevant to a variety of learning styles.
Assessments can be diagnostic, formative, or summative.
- Diagnostic assessments can help you identify students’ existing knowledge and build upon it. This assessment style can be a great tool to use at the beginning of your course. For example, use a pre-course survey or a poll to evaluate students’ current understanding of a particular topic, or ask for their opinion on an area of interest.
- Formative assessments give students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and receive feedback to guide their performance. These types of assessments are typically used throughout a semester. As the instructor, you can learn valuable information you can use for teachable moments, additional review of material, greater explanation, or a deeper conversation on a topic. A few examples are quizzes, short response, and branching tree scenarios.
- Summative assessments allow you to make a final evaluation of a student’s learning. They are used to explore the overall achievement of the course goals at the end of the course or module. You can use the information gathered from summative assessments to improve the course for its next delivery. A few examples are final exams, essays, and projects.
Now that you know the difference between assessment types, you can be confident that you’ll choose the most appropriate format to evaluate your students. To support your work, here’s a list of critical questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy you can integrate into your assessments to help ensure you’re meaningfully assessing students.
In grading, always give feedback, measure mastery not just completion, and use credit and non-credit activities.
In addition to the diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments, they can also be graded or ungraded. How do you make that decision? The answer goes back to being purposeful.
Do you want to simply have your students practice a skill or learn to use an online tool? Or increase student engagement and participation? If so, making the assignment ungraded, but required, could be sufficient. An ungraded assignment is also a strategy to minimize grading work for you.
For example, you may want your students to become comfortable using the course discussion board. Requiring students to post a personal introduction on the discussion board is a great opportunity for an ungraded assignment. It teaches students how to communicate with their peers and practice using the tool prior to a graded assignment.
However, think about what your students will likely be motivated to accomplish. If an assignment isn’t graded, will they complete it and learn from it?
Before building your assessments, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Consider the structure of the course, what sections or content “chunks” will make up the course, and—as always—your student learning outcomes. Also think about what your students can realistically accomplish. There are probably lots of effective, creative assessments you could integrate with your course content.
However, think about how the assessments tie together and whether they can be accomplished under your course time constraints. Decide how students will access the assessments. There are two primary options:
The direction you choose will likely depend on what is available to you, the type of assessment tool being used, your department’s requirements, as well as your personal preference.
If you are UNCG personnel, you’ll be using Canvas as your LMS. Use your UNCG log in information to check out this Canvas Instructor Tutorial Guide. Also refer to the Canvas Instructor Guide, specifically the resources regarding how to create assignments in Canvas and how to use the Assignments Index Page.
Once you’ve determined how to host the assessments, you can begin exploring delivery options that are best suited for online learning. Your online course doesn’t have to follow traditional face-to-face course formats, though it certainly can. Many instructors use teaching online as an opportunity to mix up their delivery style and try something different. There are countless tools you can use to create your assessments. The trick is to find a tool that matches your assessment goals and is approved and easy to use.
So, make sure you have a rationale behind both the purpose of your assessments and the tool you use to create them. Criteria for choosing an assessment tool include:
- Is it easy for me to use?
- Is it simple for my students to learn?
- Will it be supported long-term (by the creator and the University)?
- Is it compatible with other tools my students may be using?
- Is it click-wrap approved?
- Is it free or already licensed for University use?
If your answer to any of these questions is “No,” you may want to reconsider using that tool. But don’t worry. With so many exciting new tools available, you can find a method to build a great assessment.
Find out which ones are approved for use by your department and/or the University or explore the possibility of introducing new tools. For example UNCG provides a list of approved click wraps, and other resources you can explore. A few common tools are:
- Adobe Captivate—a program which allows you to create a slide-based interactive video and include interactions such as multiple choice, branching scenarios, matching, hotspots, and more.
- SoftChalk—an online website which allows you to create interactive assessments easily by using templates, then embed these videos and exercises into Canvas or your LMS.
- WordPress plugins and widgets—like smartphone apps, you can add plugins to your WordPress website for different purposes, such as quizzes, surveys and polls, and more.
- Respondus—exports quizzes formatted in Microsoft Word into Canvas (Windows only).
- H5P—a free, open platform for creating HTML5 content and applications.
- The UNCG Library provides an Instructional Technology Toolkit with detailed information on each tool and its purpose.
Regardless of your chosen tool, make sure you clearly communicate assignment details to students. This Transparent Assignment Template demonstrates a good place to start; consider the purpose of the assessment, required skills and skills to develop, knowledge students will gain, a thorough description of the task, and an explanation of what constitutes “success” in that assessment. Explicitly provide this information to students to help them understand what they are tasked with and why.
Here are examples of different types of assessments you may want to incorporate into your course.
Quizzes and Exams
- Multiple choice/multiple answer
- Free response
Essays and Papers
- Group work (Google docs, etc.)
- Can be set up to be taken once or multiple times
- Supports creativity and a realistic scenario
Branching Trees (BTLO)
- Requires application of concepts and shows students the result of their decisions
- Problem-solving skills
- Incorporate multimedia
- Individual-based or group work
- Builds community and peer-to-peer learning
- Pre-, mid-, or post-course surveys help you to gauge the students’ concerns, issue areas, and questions
- Incorporate online tools and resources
Using Internet Resources
- Develops awareness and exposure to online tools
- Individual or group presentations help students practice public speaking, organizing thoughts, and gathering materials to make a point