Assignment strategies

WebCampus makes it easy for students to submit their work to you in one central online location and makes it easy for instructors to manage submissions and provide feedback and grades. Most assignments originally designed for hard copy submission in class can easily be translated to online submission at any time. This page provides some tips on how to be effective in writing your assignment prompt and in communicating assignment expectations to your students.

Writing a clear assignment prompt

When putting together your assignment description, try to provide enough detail to give students the full picture of what they will be doing, why they will be doing it, and how you will be evaluating their work. The more student questions you can anticipate and answer in the prompt, the fewer you will have to answer via email later. If you are using the rubrics tool, Turnitin, and/or peer review with the WebCampus assignment, also share your expectations regarding the use of these tools.

Mary-Ann Winkelmes (2013) recommends clear and explicit wording for assignments, in order to avoid confusion and promote transparency.  Consider the following as you prepare your assignments for online submission:

  • Purpose: Communicate to students what knowledge or skills they will gain from completing the assignment and how that knowledge or skill will be valuable to students. You may make want to make explicit how the assignment supports the course learning outcomes.
  • Task: Communicate the steps that students should take to complete the assignment.
  • Criteria: Well before the assignment is due, share with students the rubrics or checklists that you will use to evaluate their work.

Communicating assignment expectations to your students

Once you’ve designed your WebCampus assignment you’ll want to clearly communicate your expectations to your students. It’s a good idea to post your assignment details within the Assignment description so students will be able to review the assignment requirements in the same place where they will later submit the assignment. It will also show up on their WebCampus calendar and to-do list, and will be clearly linked on their grades page so they can see how this fits into the larger course grade. Rubrics, Turnitin, and peer review tools can also be linked to the WebCampus assignment.

You may want to consider one or a few of the following additional methods for being clear and transparent about your assignment:

Introduce the assignment and its purpose:  This may happen in class, as a pre-recorded video posted in the WebCampus weekly module, or as a WebCampus announcement (or all three ways!). Think of this as the first day on which you'd tell the students about the assignment. This might be a few days or weeks before the assignment is due, depending on the rigor of the assignment. If you have a rubric, introduce it as well. 

Walk students through previous student sample work: show your current students what has worked, and what didn't quite make the grade in previous semesters. Make sure you have permission from the previous student, of course, and remove any identifying information before sharing with your current students. Previous student work may be provided as linked documents directly within the assignment description in WebCampus, or you may choose to review previous work in class.

Plan in scaffolded activities: If you have a major project due, help students work their way through steps that will get the project done. Brainstorming activities, drafts of small sections of the paper, mini-research reports that feed into the larger project, etc.: any of these will help chunk out pieces of the larger project in a way that will keep the students more engaged, as well as make the larger project seem less daunting.

Provide reminders: Don't just expect your students to look ahead to future activities; if you want them to be thinking ahead, you need to help guide them to do so. Providing reminders with links to the assignment in weekly overviews, WebCampus announcements, or via email can help keep students on track.

Additional resources:

Bose, D.,  Dalrymple, S., and Shadle, S. A renewed case for student success: Using transparency in assignment design when teaching remotelyFaculty Focus. May 13, 2020.

Transparency in Learning and Teaching project (TILT Higher Ed), Examples and Resources to promote more transparent assignments.

Winkelmes, M. (2013). Transparency in teaching: Faculty share data and improve students’ learning. Liberal Education 99,2 (Spring 2013).