Offer Multiple Methods and Opportunities for Students to Demonstrate Their Learning

Quality Review Showcase

The Quality and High Quality online course reviews explore components proven to be best practices in online course design. This post showcases Quality item, “Multiple methods and opportunities for students to demonstrate learning are offered.”

It is likely that during your experience as a student, there was at least one course in which your grade was based solely on your performance on a number of exams. While exams are one way for a student to demonstrate mastery of concepts, limiting the ability to demonstrate knowledge is problematic. A student may not be the best test taker, especially considering the conditions that could potentially distract a student in an online course. Providing multiple methods and opportunities for students to demonstrate learning is recommended. This recommendation is based on the Universal Design for Learning framework, which is guided by the philosophy that a learning experience should be designed with the intention of supporting all learners.

What are Some Ways your Online Course can be Designed to meet this Standard?

  • If you have an already existing online course, review the assignments that make up the grade. For each assignment, how does the student demonstrate their knowledge? If the answer is the same for each assignment, consider alternative assignments.
  • Consider a variety of assignments: traditional written paper, online discussion, group project, quiz, etc. On your syllabus, explain why you’ve chosen a variety of assignments.
  • Allow students to choose the format of their product. Perhaps a student would rather create a podcast, video, or infographic instead of a written paper. Provide a basic rubric so that students are clear on what their product should demonstrate, no matter the format.
  • Ask peers to engage in peer review or ask a peer to lead the online discussions.
  • Provide lower-stakes assignments or quizzes frequently to motivate students to continually practice newer module-level objectives and review larger course objectives.
  • Alternate types of assignments to keep the class fresh.

What Does This Look like in a Real Online Course?

Example 1. Sandra Wheeler, ANT3026 (Mummies, Vampires, and Zombies: Anthropology of the Undead).

This course offers different ways for students to demonstrate knowledge.

  • Quizzes and exams (60% of grade) are used to test knowledge of the main topics.
  • Discussions (20%) are meant to stimulate more personal reflection. For instance, one of the discussion states, “The purpose is to identify exactly how your perceptions of the supernatural world changed after having learned about the undead (i.e., a type of belief in the supernatural) over this past semester.”
  • Finally, written assignments (20%) dig deeper into the concepts. The Meet a Mummy assignment asks students to do some research on a mummy they find interesting and answer various questions about it, like the time period and cause of death.

Example 2. David Morton, AMH34325 (Sunbelt Florida).

For the online discussions, this course often allows students to choose which resources they will use to form the discussion post. He asks students to select from a list of articles, and asks them to summarize the details from the selected resource and describe how the chosen sources relate to each other. Providing multiple resources for students to choose from can increase feelings of ownership and engagement in the activity.

Example 3: Beatriz Reyes-Foster, ANT3610 (Language and Culture).

This course offers new topics each week, and alternates between discussions and quizzes weekly as well. For instance, Module 1 features a quiz, Module 2 features a discussion, Module 3 features a quiz, Module 4 features a discussion, and so on. The discussion prompts change as well. In one discussion, students are asked to interpret word clouds created by the instructor. In another, students are asked to share a photo that represents the selected concept they are learning about. Alternating assignment types and prompts help to keep the course novel but not unpredictable.

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