In online training, instructional designers are often responsible for adapting a course previously given in a traditional classroom and designed for that context. This work requires more than merely transferring educational content to a technological medium. If we look at assessments specifically, which allow for the assimilation of material and evaluation of acquired knowledge, their design requires special attention. It is necessary to ensure they correctly align with the course objectives. Let’s examine the structure of assignments under the microscope to ensure they meet their intended goals!
What course content should each assignment relate to?
The assignment must be relevant; this means that it must be related to the course content and must cover the main concepts taught and not information considered non-essential.
What learning objectives should assignments link to?
All exercises and assessments must be linked to course objectives or a specific lesson. When this is not the case, the assignment in question must be redesigned so students can apply the knowledge and skills acquired in the course.
What exactly should learners be asked to do in each assignment?
The assignment must clearly state the task(s) to be performed and indicate the required result or “final product”.
- Select a topic, research the topic, and write an article
- Formulate a hypothesis, conduct experiments, record the results, write a report
- Meet with group members, choose a topic, assign roles, distribute work, communicate regularly, collaborate on writing a paper, and present the group work and conclusion
How should the instructions be explained?
Instructions must be clear, and tasks must be well defined. The following elements must be present:
- “The mission” or type of activity to be produced (writing, presentation, video, portfolio)
- The work required to achieve this (reading, research, analysis, writing, memorization, etc.)
- Whether it is an individual or group exercise
- Guidelines or process description
- Examples (optional)
How should learners be guided through the assignment?
It is essential that the instructions are clear and concise. These must also be accompanied by indications or guidelines that allow learners to keep the objectives of the assignment in mind and know what they need to do to complete it. It is helpful to break down the task into steps or sections in the instructions or to provide some examples for reference.
Why should details be given about how the assignment is evaluated?
By informing learners about how the exercise will be evaluated, they are in a better position to plan their work and focus on the elements that are priorities.
What is the link between the types of assignments (article, group project, video project, etc.), the objectives and course content?
It is essential to choose the type of assignment and method – the means by which learners must demonstrate their knowledge or skills – that are most appropriate for each content and objective. For example, if learners are required to identify and explain the importance of historical events, it is not appropriate to ask them only to associate events with their respective dates.
Should the skills required to complete the assignment and the knowledge they incorporate be applicable to the field of study?
The assignment should be aligned with the skills to be developed – which are part of the course objectives – such as the ability to analyze, criticize, explain, etc. The assignment must also be relevant to the discipline studied. In other words, it must make it possible to develop the X skills necessary to practice in field Y!
What is the appropriate workload required to conduct an assignment?
Learners are generally less motivated to engage in a task when it pays little in terms of grades. If several assignments are only worth a few points, they can be grouped into larger assessment: notions that are more important should be grouped in tests of higher value, and secondary notions can be grouped in ungraded quizzes.
What amount of time and effort should the assignment require from the learner in relation to the grade value?
When considering the distribution of scores, these two questions are essential:
- How much of the content should the learner have explored before completing the assignment?
- At what level of skill acquisition is the assignment in regards to Bloom’s taxonomy? Remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create?
The score assigned to the assessment should reflect the volume of content the learner has to process and the complexity of the task(s).