Lesson 3: Communicating Expectations
Clearly communicate what students should learn by doing the assignment
Clearly communicate what students should learn by doing the assignment, how it should be completed, submitted, and how it will be graded. It is critical to have clear communication about what is expected of students for assignments and assessments in online learning environments. Thorough assignment guidelines help students know what they should be learning and clarify the instructor’s expectations regarding due dates, the scope of the assignment, how it will be graded, and how to ask questions. Likewise, clarity regarding online exams is essential since many students have limited experience with this form of assessment.
What to include in assignment guidelines
Learning outcomes and assignment description
Clearly explain to students what they are being asked to do and what learning they are expected to demonstrate by completing the assignment.
Topic and scope
If students are allowed to select the topic, tell them what the parameters are. Consider listing topics that are not allowed or are outside the parameters of the assignment. Clarify expectations about mode and length. For example, if the assignment is written, include the word range. If it is a media production (eg. podcast, video, performance, etc.), include the expected time frame.
Include information about how the assignment will be graded. If you are using a rubric, include it in the assignment guidelines.
State whether the assignment will be completed individually or as a group project. If it is to be completed as a group, describe potential group roles as well as how grades will be allocated. If it is an individual assignment, are students permitted to discuss the assignment with peers? Can they provide feedback to one another?
Remind students of the university’s expectation that they follow the Academic Integrity Policy as they complete the assignment.
Include a range for the number of references needed, as well as what can be used as a reference. Specify the format that you expect students to use for both in-text and bibliography citations (eg., APA, MLA, etc.)
File format and naming
If you require a certain format such as .doc, state it in the assignment guidelines. If you want students to name their file submissions a particular way, let them know. Otherwise, you will get an entire set of assignments named “essay” or “paper”. One strategy is to ask them to name the file by their last name, assignment and course number (eg. Smith-essay-420).
Due date and submission guidelines
Include the due date for the assignment. If there is a specific cutoff time for submission, state it, including the time zone. Include information on how to submit, such as in D2L (rather than email).
Gain strategies for communicating expectations around assessment in online environments to students
Examine sample assignment guidelines
Modify a template for assignment guidelines