Tip Sheet: Handling Assignments Remotely

When teaching remotely, you may have to rethink any assignments you previously designed for face-to-face contexts. Some tips:

  • In some cases, the assignment can remain unchanged, and you just may need to think about how students deliver those assignments and how you deliver feedback. 
    • Instructions for assignments can be delivered via email or a video conferencing tool like Zoom, or can be built into Canvas. It’s always good to solicit questions to make sure that everyone has a clear idea what you’re looking for.
    • Papers can be submitted via email, and grades/feedback can be shared the same way—or you can create an assignment in Canvas. Students would then upload their work to the Canvas course site and you could submit grades in the same place.
    • Student presentations can be delivered live via Zoom or can be recorded and uploaded to Canvas.
    • Students generally already use the internet to do their research for papers, and that approach will still be available to them here. 
  • In other cases, you may need to adapt assignments to an online context
    • Experiential learning is still possible online, though you may need to get creative. See our tipsheet on online experiential learning for help.
    • You can turn in-person exams into online exams either by shifting to an open-book exam handled over email, or you can use Canvas to adapt your existing test. (Some FAQs are answered here.)
      • For written exams: You can use the Assignments section of Canvas for long-form, text-based exams, and you may set a time limit. You can use the “Essay Question” question type in Quizzes for short-form text answers without the bells and whistles (e.g. no access to a rubric or peer review). When you create an Assignment in Canvas, you can upload a rubric for both students’ viewing and your grading convenience. You can provide students with feedback in the SpeedGrader option, which allows you to provide margin comments directly in students’ submissions, or download their files to your computer and annotate them in Word.
      • For objective question-type exams: You should use the Quizzes section of Canvas. You can assign points on a question-by-question basis. You are able to choose from a variety of common question formats, can set a time limit, and can determine if and when students can see the correct answers. You can then provide students feedback via email or within Canvas.
  • Finally, you could use this opportunity to create altogether new assignments
    • You could use the situation as a focus for a new assignment. For example, COVID-19 is relevant not only to courses on biology and public health, but also courses in psychology, public policy, history, law, women and gender studies, disability studies, math modeling, literature, and many other disciplines. The human experience of this moment could certainly fuel work in art courses; language courses could look at coverage of the events in the language being studied; philosophy courses could engage questions of governmental and individual responsibility; etc. There are many possibilities.
    • You could ask students to work in/on virtual spaces. Blogs, discussion boards, online media—all of these are available as resources and objects of study. Social media is of course a universe unto itself, and there’s a great deal to be studied there—how people are interacting, what they’re focusing on, etc. It’s also a potentially participatory space, if you want to create an assignment where students interact with others.

Once you have your assignments designed, you can share them with students via email or via synchronous Zoom sessions—or you can build them into Canvas. And make sure to discuss the assignment with students, as written instructions may not clear up all questions.

We hope this helps you create online assignments. Of course, always feel free to contact us at cndls@georgetown.edu if we can be of any further help to you!