Teaching Online Title Beginner's Guide Heading with Picture of Ignition  

Assignments & Activities

student working on computer There needs to be great variety in assignments in order for students to learn the material effectively and for maintaining student interest over a semester. Many assignment types (tests) can be repeated each week (or for each unit) with different content. Some instructors prefer to block future assignments from student view (so it doesn't overwhelm the student); others make all assignments viewable from the start (allowing students to better plan and time-manage). Make sure to include a description of current assignments in your announcements and put detailed instructions for each assignment (as bullets) - such as what is expected, tech issues, submission procedure, grading, etc. (see sidebar). Some assignments can be required, some optional/extra-credit.


  • Always include current reading assignments in your announcements - and in your class schedule list including which chapters, pages, papers, etc. are to be read by week/unit

Discussion Board Postings

  • Include what you expect in Db postings for each week/unit
  • Discussions can include comments/critiques of other students' assignment work (see Handling Dbs)
Open-Book (untimed) Quizzes
  • These allow students to learn and review material at their own pace
  • Use settings in Bb: no timer, no forced completion - you might even allow multiple attempts so students can learn from their mistakes
  • Give points for correct answers motivating students
  • Include textbook material, your own material, even discussion board information on the quizzes
  • To convert Word format to Bb see I-Learn
Web Reports
  • Have students review or critique web sites that relate to chapter information (give a variety of links)
  • Have students compare and contrast site information with course information
  • Include sites with interactive content
  • Use "WebQuest" - or give urls and have students search for information (totally open web searches do not usually work since students sometimes choose undesirable sites)
  • Use the international nature of the Web for languages, history, political science
  • A diary-like demonstration of: accomplishments and efforts in the course, what they have learned, papers, videos, art, reflections on course readings, attitude/belief changes
  • Students can use PowerPoints or a Blog or MySpace page (see Web 2.0) - make these available to the entire class
  • Center on some particular topic in your course
  • Can be individual- or group-developed
Field Trips
  • Have students visit and report on a church (religious studies), court (law), observing children (child development), stars (astronomy), local historical site (History)
  • See Outside-In
Case Studies
  • Have students relate course content to real-life cases, biographies, etc.
  • Use movies, TV programs as material
Concept Mapping
  • Have students use graphs, diagrams, art to link together ideas in the course (see sidebar)
  • Can work well as a wiki (see Web 2.0)
  • See sidebar article on concept mapping

Games/Role Playing

  • Give a scenario and ask students to comment on it, "play" a professional in your area, ask them to react to you playing a character
  • Try a trouble-shooting case
  • Try riddles or complex problems with multiple solutions.
  • For some examples of games see ion


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Sidebar - In Focus

List of what to include as bulleted instructions for each assignment.


Interview with Paul Carmona on using Journals in online courses.


Article on how to construct and use concept mapping.