Papers and projects can provide a more complex representation of students’ knowledge and skills than objective exams. This frequently makes them a better choice to assess higher-order learning outcomes such as analyzing, evaluating, or creating. What’s more, in addition to potentially being another learning experience, a positive byproduct of using papers and projects is that student submissions are unique which discourage academic misconduct.
With that said, using a paper or project as the summative course assessment (or in addition to an objective exam), deserves considerations:
- Student hardware/software may be limited – use as little technology as required to meet the outcomes, AND ensure it is accessible for all students.
- Make the project transparent by defining: (1) a clear purpose linked to course outcomes, (2) task and procedure for completion, and (3) criteria for scoring – provide a rubric if possible. See Supporting student success for instructions.
- All technical guides for required technology should be provided to students in the project instructions. Don’t assume students know how to use a particular tool or know which tools are needed to complete the project.
- Scaffold experience by providing assignments and feedback across the semester that build up to the final paper or project.
Successful group projects
Note: If you are considering having students work in groups for large, summative projects, ensure the collaboration aspect is critical to the course learning outcomes before proceeding - if it's not, turn it into an individual project instead.
Group projects, presentations, demonstrations, and similar assignments can be valuable learning experiences for students, but collaboration needs space and structure for shared knowledge-building. Since students typically don’t have the knowledge or experience to create this for themselves, instructors should build structure into the project to achieve better outcomes.
Using Canvas to structure group work
The following process is a straightforward approach to structuring group work via Canvas. For more complex tasks, consider adding additional guidance and checkpoints to ensure high-quality final products.
- Create groups using the Canvas People tool.
- Instead of randomly assigning students to groups, consider constructing groups based on students' availability. You can either ask students to provide their typical availability via a Canvas Quiz then manually assign them to a group or allow them to self sign-up to a group based on their schedules.
- Creating groups via People automatically provides a space in Canvas for students to coordinate their work and allows you to collect one deliverable per group.
- Provide an explicit procedure for project completion, including how and when to use specific IU-supported technologies. Always provide the accompanying help documentation.
- Students may choose to complete projects using non-IU-supported technologies, but to ensure access and support equity, always provide a basic process that only requires IU-supported technologies.
- Create a group Assignment for the final product submission. Ensure the following:
- The complete set of instructions and grading criteria are provided in the Assignment description.
- Submission type is set to "Online" and the appropriate "Online entry options" are selected.
- The "This is a Group Assignment" checkbox is selected.
- If you would like the ability to assign different scores to students in the same group or provide differentiated feedback, select the "Assign grades to each student individually" checkbox.
- A due date is set and matches the information provided in the course syllabus.
- If an availability date is set, it is at minimum two weeks before the due date.
Note: If the assignment is a paper or essay, you may wish to enable Turnitin Plagiarism Review.
- Create a "checkpoint" Group Assignment (e.g., a rough draft or recorded run-through) to help keep groups on track for successful project completion.
- This could be a graded or ungraded assignment. The intention is to create accountability for progress as well as an opportunity for formative feedback from the instructor.
- Consider if you would like to provide individual or group feedback at this checkpoint then select the appropriate options when creating the assignment in Canvas.
- Create a group member feedback opportunity via a Canvas Assignment or Canvas Quiz.
- If eliciting feedback via an Assignment, do not select "This is a Group Assignment." Also, consider setting the "Display grade as" option to Complete/Incomplete for ease of grading.
- If eliciting feedback via the Quizzes tool, select the "Graded Survey" for the Quiz type. Collecting feedback via a Graded Survey allows you to provide points for completion and view student survey responses in Speedgrader.
Note: If collaboration and/or joint knowledge construction are not germane to the course learning outcomes, consider modifying the task to an individual project or presentation in efforts to reduce the logistical coordination and psychological load required in group work.