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May 2013

Many online assignments, projects, and communication activities are designed for individual submissions by students. Most of the thinking behind this approach is to gauge how much an individual student knows or does not know. This may work well for smaller sections but dramatically increases workload in larger sections if you have to spend any time grading written submissions, or reading and responding to online discussion boards.

Some online instructors default to using objective tests that can be set to be graded automatically by the system in an attempt to control the workload issue of grading. There is nothing wrong with this approach, if used in moderation. However, gauging what students know is a complex task with many dimensions. Too often, objective tests fall short of measuring more complex thinking and process skills. Overuse of objective testing may also result in fewer opportunities for students to develop or hone the skills they need to engage in higher levels of discourse, collaboration, or academic writing.

Moving a portion of assessments to models centered on small group work is one instructional approach to maintain quality and rigor even as course section sizes increase. The suggested models, as outlined below, focus on exploration and synthesis of content using communication and feedback to groups of students. Combining small group activities and assessments with a few or one "capstone" individual assignment is one option for keeping grading workload manageable.

Guided Readings

You select one or more supplemental readings that you want students to experience. Students read these individually and then come together as a group to answer a series of questions about the article(s).

Discovery Readings

Students select an article of interest based on the topic for the week or unit. Students come together to share their findings and to collectively create a single posting describing the articles and connections across articles.

Online Experts

Experts can use chat and other tools to present to your students and to interact with your students. Blackboard Collaborate is a synchronous tool that allows a wide range of interactive and presentation activities.

Let the Group do the Work

Move communication on discussion Forums away from the individual model toward the collective model by requiring groups of student to communicate and collaborate in the Groups area. Once consensus is reached on the content of the posting from the group, one member posts the item to the Course Discussion area. Inform students that you will look in on the groups. It is helpful to add a participation dimension to your grading rubric for discussions. You spend your time responding to these collective posts in the main area.

page last updated 10/1/2015 1:10 PM