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Creating and Adapting Assignments for Online Courses

Woman with dark hair and glasses working on laptop

Online teaching requires a deliberate shift in how we communicate, deliver information, and offer feedback to our students. How do you effectively design and modify your assignments to accommodate this shift? The ways you introduce students to new assignments, keep them on track, identify and remedy confusion, and provide feedback after an assignment is due must be altered to fit the online setting. Intentional planning can help you ensure assignments are optimally designed for an online course and expectations are clearly communicated to students.  

When teaching online, it can be tempting to focus on the differences from in-person instruction in terms of adjustments, or what you need to make up for. However, there are many affordances of online assignments that can deepen learning and student engagement. Students gain new channels of interaction, flexibility in when and where they access assignments, more immediate feedback, and a student-centered experience (Gayten and McEwen, 2007; Ragupathi, 2020; Robles and Braathen, 2002). Meanwhile, ample research has uncovered that online assignments benefit instructors through automatic grading, better measurement of learning, greater student involvement, and the storing and reuse of assignments. 

In Practice

While the purpose and planning of online assignments remain the same as their in-person counterparts, certain adjustments can make them more effective. The strategies outlined below will help you design online assignments that support student success while leveraging the benefits of the online environment. 

Align assignments to learning outcomes. 

All assignments work best when they align with your learning outcomes. Each online assignment should advance students' achievement of one or more of your specific outcomes. You may be familiar with  Bloom's Taxonomy,  a well-known framework that organizes and classifies learning objectives based on the actions students take to demonstrate their learning. Online assignments have the added advantage of flexing students' digital skills, and Bloom's has been revamped for the digital age to incorporate technology-based tasks into its categories. For example, students might search for definitions online as they learn and remember course materials, tweet their understanding of a concept, mind map an analysis, or create a podcast. 

See a  complete description of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy  for further ideas. 

Provide authentic assessments. 

Authentic assessments call for relevant, purposeful actions that mimic the real-life tasks students may encounter in their lives and careers beyond the university. They represent a shift away from infrequent high-stakes assessments that tend to evaluate the acquisition of knowledge over application and understanding. Authentic assessments allow students to see the connection between what they're learning and how that learning is used and contextualized outside the virtual walls of the learning management system, thereby increasing their motivation and engagement. 

There are many ways to incorporate authenticity into an assignment, but three main strategies are to use  authentic audiences, content, and formats . A student might, for example, compose a business plan for an audience of potential investors, create a patient care plan that translates medical jargon into lay language, or propose a safe storage process for a museum collection.  

Authentic assessments in online courses can easily incorporate the internet or digital tools as part of an authentic format. Blogs, podcasts, social media posts, and multimedia artifacts such as infographics and videos represent authentic formats that leverage the online context. 

Learn more about  authentic assessments in Designing Assessments of Student Learning . 

Design for inclusivity and accessibility. 

Fingers type on a laptop keyboard.

Adopting universal design principles at the outset of course creation will ensure your material is accessible to all students. As you plan your assignments, it's important to keep in mind barriers to access in terms of tools, technology, and cost. Consider which tools achieve your learning outcomes with the fewest barriers. 

Offering a variety of assignment formats is one way to ensure students can demonstrate learning in a manner that works best for them. You can provide options within an individual assignment, such as allowing students to submit either written text or an audio recording or to choose from several technologies or platforms when completing a project. 

Be mindful of how you frame and describe an assignment to ensure it doesn't disregard populations through exclusionary language or use culturally specific references that some students may not understand. Inclusive language for all genders and racial or ethnic backgrounds can foster a sense of belonging that fully invests students in the learning community.  

Learn more about  Universal Design of Learning  and  Shaping a Positive Learning Environment . 

Design to promote academic integrity online. 

Much like incorporating universal design principles at the outset of course creation, you can take a proactive approach to academic integrity online. Design assignments that limit the possibilities for students to use the work of others or receive prohibited outside assistance.  

Provide   authentic assessments  that are more difficult to plagiarize because they incorporate recent events or unique contexts and formats. 

Scaffold assignments  so that students can work their way up to a final product by submitting smaller portions and receiving feedback along the way. 

Lower the stakes  by providing more frequent formative assessments in place of high-stakes, high-stress assessments. 

In addition to proactively creating assignments that deter cheating, there are several university-supported tools at your disposal to help identify and prevent cheating.  

Learn more about these tools in  Strategies and Tools for Academic Integrity in Online Environments . 

Communicate detailed instructions and clarify expectations. 

When teaching in-person, you likely dedicate class time to introducing and explaining an assignment; students can ask questions or linger after class for further clarification. In an online class, especially in  asynchronous  online classes, you must anticipate where students' questions might arise and account for them in the assignment instructions.  

The  Carmen course template  addresses some of students' common questions when completing an assignment. The template offers places to explain the assignment's purpose, list out steps students should take when completing it, provide helpful resources, and detail academic integrity considerations.  

Providing a rubric will clarify for students how you will evaluate their work, as well as make your grading more efficient. Sharing examples of previous student work (both good and bad) can further help students see how everything should come together in their completed products. 

Technology Tip

Enter all  assignments and due dates  in your Carmen course to increase transparency. When assignments are entered in Carmen, they also populate to Calendar, Syllabus, and Grades areas so students can easily track their upcoming work. Carmen also allows you to  develop rubrics  for every assignment in your course.  

Promote interaction and collaboration. 

Man speaking to his laptop

Frequent student-student interaction in any course, but particularly in online courses, is integral to developing a healthy learning community that engages students with course material and contributes to academic achievement. Online education has the inherent benefit of offering multiple channels of interaction through which this can be accomplished. 

Carmen  Discussions   are a versatile platform for students to converse about and analyze course materials, connect socially, review each other's work, and communicate asynchronously during group projects. 

Peer review  can be enabled in Carmen  Assignments  and  Discussions .  Rubrics  can be attached to an assignment or a discussion that has peer review enabled, and students can use these rubrics as explicit criteria for their evaluation. Alternatively, peer review can occur within the comments of a discussion board if all students will benefit from seeing each other's responses. 

Group projects  can be carried out asynchronously through Carmen  Discussions  or  Groups , or synchronously through Carmen's  Chat function  or  CarmenZoom . Students (and instructors) may have apprehensions about group projects, but well-designed group work can help students learn from each other and draw on their peers’ strengths. Be explicit about your expectations for student interaction and offer ample support resources to ensure success on group assignments. 

Learn more about  Student Interaction Online .

Choose technology wisely. 

The internet is a vast and wondrous place, full of technology and tools that do amazing things. These tools can give students greater flexibility in approaching an assignment or deepen their learning through interactive elements. That said, it's important to be selective when integrating external tools into your online course.  

Look first to your learning outcomes and, if you are considering an external tool, determine whether the technology will help students achieve these learning outcomes. Unless one of your outcomes is for students to master new technology, the cognitive effort of using an unfamiliar tool may distract from your learning outcomes.  

Carmen should ultimately be the foundation of your course where you centralize all materials and assignments. Thoughtfully selected external tools can be useful in certain circumstances. 

Explore supported tools 

There are many  university-supported tools  and resources already available to Ohio State users. Before looking to external tools, you should explore the available options to see if you can accomplish your instructional goals with supported systems, including the  eLearning toolset , approved  CarmenCanvas integrations , and the  Microsoft365 suite .  

If a tool is not university-supported, keep in mind the security and accessibility implications, the learning curve required to use the tool, and the need for additional support resources. If you choose to use a new tool, provide links to relevant help guides on the assignment page or post a video tutorial. Include explicit instructions on how students can get technical support should they encounter technical difficulties with the tool. 

Adjustments to your assignment design can guide students toward academic success while leveraging the benefits of the online environment.  

Effective assignments in online courses are:  

Aligned to course learning outcomes 

Authentic and reflect real-life tasks 

Accessible and inclusive for all learners 

Designed to encourage academic integrity 

Transparent with clearly communicated expectations 

Designed to promote student interaction and collaboration 

Supported with intentional technology tools 

  • Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (e-book)
  • Making Your Course Accessible for All Learners (workshop reccording)
  • Writing Multiple Choice Questions that Demand Critical Thinking (article)

Learning Opportunities

  • Conrad, D., & Openo, J. (2018).  Assessment strategies for online learning: Engagement and authenticity . AU Press. Retrieved from  https://library.ohio-state.edu/record=b8475002~S7 
  • Gaytan, J., & McEwen, B. C. (2007). Effective online instructional and assessment strategies.  American Journal of Distance Education ,  21 (3), 117–132. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923640701341653   
  • Mayer, R. E. (2001).  Multimedia learning . New York: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Ragupathi, K. (2020). Designing Effective Online Assessments Resource Guide . National University of Singapore. Retrieved from  https://www.nus.edu.sg/cdtl/docs/default-source/professional-development-docs/resources/designing-online-assessments.pdf  
  • Robles, M., & Braathen, S. (2002). Online assessment techniques.  Delta Pi Epsilon Journal ,  44 (1), 39–49.  https://proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=507795215&site=eds-live&scope=site  
  • Swan, K., Shen, J., & Hiltz, S. R. (2006). Assessment and collaboration in online learning.  Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks ,  10 (1), 45.  
  • TILT Higher Ed. (n.d.).  TILT Examples and Resources . Retrieved from   https://tilthighered.com/tiltexamplesandresources  
  • Tallent-Runnels, M. K., Thomas, J. A., Lan, W. Y., Cooper, S., Ahern, T. C., Shaw, S. M., & Liu, X. (2006). Teaching Courses Online: A Review of the Research.  Review of Educational Research ,  76 (1), 93–135.  https://www-jstor-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/stable/3700584  
  • Walvoord, B. & Anderson, V.J. (2010).  Effective Grading : A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College: Vol. 2nd ed . Jossey-Bass.  https://library.ohio-state.edu/record=b8585181~S7  

Related Teaching Topics

Designing assessments of student learning, strategies and tools for academic integrity in online environments, student interaction online, universal design for learning: planning with all students in mind, related toolsets, carmencanvas, search for resources.

Integrating Online Assignments into your Course

Many types of assignments can be done online. Some options are outlined below as well as decision-making criteria for using online assignments in a course and course design questions to consider as you start to integrate online assignments into your course. By thinking about the reasons for using them and answering the design questions, you will be able to integrate these engaging tools in a meaningful way with the rest of your course.

What are some possible online assignments?

It is often difficult to imagine what kinds of assignments can be put online if you have never used technology in your teaching. Basically, technology can be used to put almost any assignment online. The key, though, is to have a clear rationale for doing so. Below are some examples of online assignments, but they certainly do not represent all of the possibilities.

  • Online discussions
  • Case studies
  • Online tests/quizzes
  • Practice exercises
  • Virtual tutorials or labs
  • Essays (submit online)
  • Online literature searches
  • Simulations

Decision-making criteria

Why should we put assignments online? As mentioned above, with the use of any tools or methods in our courses, there should be a clear pedagogical reason for using them. The following are some of the reasons for putting an assignment online.

  • Allow for new types of assignments.  Some assignments simply cannot be done on paper. For example, you can have students work with a simulation (in two or three dimensions) to see what happens when they change one element. Or they can see full colour pictures or artwork to analyze or critique. Allow yourself to think beyond the limitations of paper-based assignments to create new ways to enhance your students’ learning.
  • Refocus classroom time.  As with traditional assignments, you can have students cover content and do activities outside of class time so you can spend your in-class time in other ways. For example, students can engage in an online discussion and then be able to bring that knowledge to class for a more in-depth discussion. Or a pre-class quiz can highlight problem areas for you to focus on in your lecture. You may also be able to reduce in­class hours if your online activities are well-planned.
  • Allow for collaboration.  Research has shown that one way to increase student learning is to promote collaboration where groups of students can interact with each other to solve a problem or discuss an issue together. Assignments which allow for such collaboration are often more effective at positively affecting student learning than individually-done assignments.
  • Encourage reluctant participants.  Online assignments, particularly discussions, can allow even the most reluctant participants to join in a discussion. The online (often asynchronous) nature of such assignments gives students an opportunity to reflect and generate a response to a particular question – time not necessarily allowed in a face-to-­face, synchronous discussion.
  • Accommodate different learning styles and levels.  Beyond encouraging participation from reluctant students, online assignments can have a multi-modal design (i.e., graphics, text, audio, virtual hands-on activities) and, if designed appropriately, can also help students reach new learning levels or think more deeply or critically about a given concept.
  • Give instant feedback to students.  One of the real benefits to students of online assignments is the possibility for instant feedback on their work. Many tools used to create such assignments can be configured to provide such feedback, instead of having students wait for assignments to be graded and returned. This way, they know immediately what concepts they need to work on, and which they already understand. This can also help instructors to identify unclear concepts or students who may need remedial assistance.
  • Archive course information.  Online assignments also allow for an archive to be created of relevant course information and discussions. This information can be used by students at a later date while studying for a test/exam, or by the instructor to create a frequently asked questions page or to measure students’ understanding of key concepts.
  • Deliver online or distance education courses.  If a course is being offered online or at a distance, then online assignments are a natural extension of this.
  • Provide students with transferable skills for other courses and in their careers.  Some instructors are interested in integrating key skills into their courses that students can use in other courses or take out into the “real-world” upon completion of their degrees. If this is a goal for your courses, then providing some familiarity with certain technologies through the use of online assignments may be a good way to introduce students to skills they can use elsewhere.
  • Be environmentally friendly.  Paperless assignments are a good way to save environmental resources.

Creating your own online assignment

Now that you have some ideas about possible assignments and have reviewed the decision­making criteria, you should answer the following questions to consider how to integrate your online assignment into your course.

  • Briefly describe the assignment. (Write 2-4 sentences)
  • Students may need a rationale for having online assignments to help foster their motivation. What will you say to “sell” the assignment to your students? (Write 3-5 sentences)

If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the  CTE Support  page to find the most relevant staff member to contact. 

  • Course design heuristic
  • Collaborative online learning
  • Learner-centered assessment
  • Designing multiple-choice questions
  • Types of assignments and tests
  • Using writing as a learning tool

For more assistance, please also feel free to contact the Centre for Teaching Excellence office and we will assist you or connect you with other resources.

teaching tips

This Creative Commons license  lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format:  Integrating Online Assignments Into Your Course. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo .

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Engaging Online Instructional Activities

Long gone are the days of creating an online learning experience simply by posting a series of recorded lectures, documents, and assignments on Blackboard for students to review then “testing” their compliance via auto graded quizzes and exams.  Research 1 demonstrates that a positive online learning experience is related to three factors: (a) connectedness with the instructor; (b) a sense of community with classmates; and (c) engagement in learning. And these three factors interact - students who feel a sense of connectedness are more likely to engage in the class, improving the learning experience. 2,3  

Collaborative learning, peer feedback, learner choice, and sustained discussion that includes personal stories, perspectives, and experiences can all encourage higher order learning while also creating a positive learning community. Below is a list of recommendations for creating positive online learning experiences. Consider using multiple strategies; refer to the section on Universal Design for Learning for more information about how multimodal approaches support learning and engagement. 

Recommendations for Developing Engaging Instructional Activities

Create “sites” for interaction.

When a class has few or no opportunities for in-person interaction, we have to intentionally create spaces for students to interact and collaborate. Think of these as ways of creative virtual sites for interaction:

  • Discussion threads.  One of the most common methods for fostering interaction among students is to use Blackboard’s discussion function. Many instructors ask students to post both an initial response and an expected number of substantive follow up responses.  Less experienced students will benefit from concrete examples of initial and follow up posts (to avoid the “I agree” or “This happened to me too” responses) and a timeline for engaging (initial post no later than Wednesday, three follow up posts by Sunday). Instructors should “pop in” and engaging the students with posts, to spur a lively exchange, provide informal feedback, and create a sense of instructor presence.
  • Voicethreads:  Voicethread also allows for group discussions, but can increase engagement and student choice by allowing students to contribute through multiple modalities, including text, voice, and video.
  • Student created blogs . Another creative way to engage students in discussion is through student blogging assignments. Each student creates a post and peers comment on one anothers’ posts. Derek Bruff, Director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University, has written extensively about the student blogging assignments here .
  • Shared virtual workspaces.  Wikis or shared docs in Teams allow student groups to work collaboratively at a distance by giving the ability to share and edit content over the Web.
  • Student-made “podcasts,” videos, or vlogs . brief, 3-5 minute, media clips allow students to relay information, highlight significant individuals, or coach classmates.  These work equally well with synchronous or asynchronous courses. A guide for creating podcasts is available here . 

Use Icebreaker Activities

One feature lost in a transition from face-to-face to online instruction is the valuable snippet of time individuals have before the scheduled starting time.  Much can be learned about one’s fellow participants in these moments of casual exchange.  Trust and camaraderie can be established in increments.  Friendships can form.  Intentional ice-breaker and getting to know you exercises can serve as substitutes for these impromptu conversations. Some examples (see  this website for more ideas) :

  • “Getting to know you” questions . Consider using the discussion board in an asynchronous class and ask everyone to post a response to your questions (consider asking students to submit questions to you as well).  Good questions will go beyond the type of demographic information common to roll calls (name, home town, major, year in school, campus affiliations, etc.) which can lead students to form impressions based on stereotypes or inherent biases.  The best questions will encourage a deeper dive by adding “and why” to get to the story below.
  • Student introduction videos.  Both the instructor and students can post brief introduction videos, sharing a few things they want their classmates to know about them as well as their hopes for the class experience.
  • Virtual Nametag Assignment . Students create and post a virtual nametag in which they share some of their characteristics, experiences, and interests  and then look at their classmates’ nametags to identify commonalities and differences.  Look here for more details . 

Give students some control

Give students a sense of ownership with learning activities by providing some options for learner choice and perhaps even engaging students in the design of some components. In addition to encouraging engagement, engaging students as partners can build a sense of trust, and gives students, including those who may experience significant barriers to learning (online access, socioeconomic issues, learning differences, time constraints, etc.) an opportunity to weigh in with their capacity. For instance:

  • Find out what students want to learn, and use their goals to help shape the class.
  • Develop learning activities/ assignments that allow students to choose topics or the modes of expression.
  • Share your learning objectives for a particular unit or module and ask students what types of learning experiences and assignments they would like to engage with. Less experienced students may require examples of what past classes have done. 

Connect with a related class

Create a more integrated and engaging experience for students while lightening the design load for any one faculty member or instructor. Examples:

  • Connect assignments across classes. For example, students in one class could become the audience for those in another class.
  • Common problems. Address a common problem or “grand challenge” in multiple courses. Students begin to see what different courses or areas of the discipline bring to that problem, and instructors collaborate in some aspects of the course design.  
  • Shared modules. Many core concepts and skills in a discipline are addressed, by design, in multiple courses. Instructors can collaboration on the design of some shared or common modules, and students can benefit from a more scaffolded opportunity to transfer their understanding from one course to another.

Leverage the online medium

Some especially engaging approaches to online teaching learning involve leveraging the unique affordances of an online environment. For example:

  • Bring in guest speakers or distinguished alumni panels (who might not otherwise be available for an in-person visit)
  • Use social media or other high immediacy tools (e.g., Teams chat) to have students connect what they are learning to the world around them and share their learning while it is happening. In this In this example from Derek Bruff’s Leading Lines Podcast , Margaret Rubega of the University of Connecticut describes how in her large enrollment ornithology class, she asks students to post about birds on Twitter as they see them in daily life. The goal is to support transfer: getting students to apply what they are learning in the class in other contexts. Transfer is a sign of robust learning, but must be intentionally scaffolded through course and assignment design. But ultimately, this is what we all want out of our courses, right?

Support difficult and necessary conversations

Discussions of challenging and potentially heated topics can help students develop important skills, in meaningful discourse, evidence-based critical thinking, perspective taking, and listening.  See this page for  guidance about how instructors create a positive climate for class discourse about difficult or divisive topics, whether in a live interaction OR asynchronous discussion forum (e.g., discussion board, chat channel, email, or VoiceThread). 

Foster deep reading

Faculty members frequently express concern about students' ability to read critically, and that concern is heightened in a digital environment. See this page for recommendations for fostering deep reading in a digital environment . 

Some Examples of Engaging Online Activities

Case studies. Give students an opportunity to consider and discuss a real or fictional case that incorporates theory or concepts.  Provide guiding or reflection questions to encourage a richer dialog whether students interact synchronously or via a discussion thread.  Provide an opportunity for individual reflection at the end, such as through the Journal tool in Blackboard. After exposing students to example case studies, you might even ask students to write and analyze their own case studies to illustrate key themes in the course.

Debates . Provide students with a situation or argument, divide them into two (pro/con) or three (pro/con/third way) groups, provide some time to formulate an argument, and let the exchange begin!  Again, providing an opportunity for structured individual reflection at the end is helpful.  Here is an example of a full assignment with a reflection guide, developed by Amy Leyerzapf for her leadership studies course.

Fishbowl discussions . These are most useful for synchronous class discussions (online or in person). Large class discussions can be intimidating, particularly if enrollment numbers exceed the number of screen tiles that can appear on Zoom at once.  Consider breaking the class into two or more groups and conduct a fishbowl discussion.  A guide to get you started, with several variations, can be found here .  

Jeopardy or other “game show” Q&A’s – for courses where students need to master quantities of objective content, trivia-style Q&A’s are a good way to test knowledge.  Instructors of asynchronous courses may want to consider inviting students to a special exam review or office hour via Zoom for a few rounds.  A reliable template in either Powerpoint or Google Slides is available for download here . 

Living history presentations . Students may enjoy researching significant figures related to the course and presenting their findings in character either live during a synchronous class session, or by video or podcast as an asynchronous activity.

News of the day. Assign, or allow students to choose, a course topic or important construct.  The student can present a current event in the news and connect the event to the featured concepts, and share in one of the course interaction tools (e.g., discussion board or student produced blog), or to start off a synchronous class meeting (consider assigning different students to different class periods).

Peer consultations. Pairing students for feedback, particularly on major assignments, can reduce uncertainty, build community, and ultimately make for higher quality assignments and easier grading.  Structure helps here.  Consider pairing students rather than allowing them to choose their partners and conducting multiple rounds of feedback over a longer period of time (the last 20 minutes of class, one meeting a week over three weeks for example).  Provide students with a copy of the grading rubric to guide their critique.  Breakout rooms work well for synchronous courses, while students can collaborate outside of asynchronous courses via Zoom, Teams, or other video conferencing or document-sharing platforms. 

Spark some ideas for your own course(s) by checking out these examples of Engaging Ideas for Flexible and Online Teaching from KU Faculty members  in Spring 2020 : instructional activities or assignments that were especially successful in engaging and stimulating students, were fun to implement, or took advantage of the online environment in ways they had not discovered before. Also What Worked Well: Bright Spots from Fall 2020 , a collection of essays showcasing the many innovative and inspiring ways in which KU instructors overcame Fall teaching challenges. 

assignment for online teaching

Technological Resources for Faculty: Teaching Tools and Online Assignments

  • File Sharing and Lesson Plans
  • Grading, Attendance, and Messaging
  • Local and Social
  • Teaching Tools and Online Assignments


  • Research Genius
  • Social Media
  • Student Resources
  • Team Collaboration
  • Time Management

Assignment Ideas

Article Discovery

  • Using appropriate databases, students find articles about a given topic, posting in a discussion forum along with a brief summary.
  • Students may also be required to comment on a certain number of other articles, demonstrating that they have read articles/summaries posted by their peers.
  • Students practice a skill under peer review and audience using Blog or Forum feature in Canvas.  Assignment ideas  here  and  here .  

Digital Storytelling

  • Students lay out a storyboard with a plan for a narrative using photos and video.  Using voiceover, they tell a story on any given topic, then create a final short video to share.  A few guides here: TCEA .

Glossary Building

  • Use google docs or create a page in Canvas to build a resource where they share information with one another. You can set it so all students can edit a page.
  • Assignments could be to find a picture and describe/analyze, find a website and summarize, define terms, chapter and concept summaries, create entry and peer assessment, or develop Q and A study guide.

Graphics and Posters

  • Students create an interesting infographic, poster, pictogram, or image to share.
  • Canva  and  Pictographic  are useful sites for this.  Canva even has a list of teaching ideas and lesson plans to use with the app.

Online Scavenger Hunt

  • Students are given a website or list of sites, and a set of questions for which they must find the answer.
  • A great assignment for familiarizing students with websites in a particular discipline.
  • Ask students to make a presentation using PowerPoint with voiceover, screencasting, or by making an instructional video.  Then, after they share it online, ask the rest of the class to pose a question about the presentation or respond with constructive criticism.  This can be done using Discussions in Canvas.

Share the News

  • Using appropriate news sources, students share a link to an article and give a summary using blog or forum feature in Moodle.
  • Website Paper.li allows students to easily create a newspaper-style page using content from a variety of popular news sources, magazines, and social media.

Website Sharing

  • Students look for useful websites in the discipline and share them.
  • Sites can be posted on a shared page or a discussion in Canvas.  Can be done in Moodle with Blog, Forum, or Glossary tools.  Another useful tool is symbaloo .

Writing Assignments

  • Journals, reflection essays, and written responses are all appropriate online activities that can be assigned and submitted using the assignment activity in Canvas.
  • Writing assignments can be uploaded, graded, and returned on Moodle in various ways (as attachments, inline text).   Rubrics can be helpful to define how students will be graded. 

Video or Podcast and Discussion Questions

  • Students are given discussion questions to answer after watching video content or listening to a podcast.  To find helpful content, see the "content support" box and streaming media on this page.
  • Responses can be submitted a number of ways in Canvas, using assignment, quiz, or discussion tool. 

More Great Resources for Online Assignments

  • U of Illinois

Additional Teaching Tools

assignment for online teaching

Canvas Tools to Support Learning

assignment for online teaching

Canvas Features

  • Conferences  and BigBlueButton
  • Collaborations
  • Discussions
  • Roll Call Attendance
  • Peer Review

If you are brand new to Canvas, you may want to visit this getting started guide or watch a tutorial video .

  • Canvas for Beginners A beginners guide to Canvas for faculty.

Class from Afar

Create Video Lectures or Live Video/Chat

  • Powerpoint with Voiceover ( Microsoft online help or video tutorial )
  • Videoconferencing with  Zoom  or BigBlueButton in Canvas conferences
  • Record Conference sessions in Canvas
  • Videos and screen recordings with  Screencast-o-matic  (free) or  Camtasia

Content Support

Streaming Video

  • Streaming Video  (Georgetown LRC)
  • More video with TedTalks , YouTube , Vimeo ; also Edudemic's 100 best video sites , TeacherTube , and video lectures with CosmoLearning ,  MentorMob , VideoLectures  
  • Documentaries at Top Documentary Films  and FreeDocumentaries  

Content Resources

  • Source sets on a variety of topics at History.com and  Library of Congress
  • Online lessons/courses at Khan Academy  (target audience is primary and high school, but many useful lessons for university-level instruction)
  • News archives at NBC Learn  and breaking news headlines at 1st Headlines
  • Teaching Channel
  • TedEd for creating lessons around Ted Talks or YouTube videos.

The Large Project

Use the online platform to force students to space out work on a large project.  This works very well for a paper, slideshow presentation, video, or art project / infographic that they might present.  Give them a rubric for each item they must turn in, each by a given date.  They can turn in the following:

  • General idea - short summary of idea for their project 
  • Bibliography - find a given number of specified resources (journal articles, books, websites, etc.) they plan to use with a brief summary of each
  • Outline and/or Abstract - offer main points that will be covered and plan for overall structure of project
  • Visual aid (optional) - if project is for student to demonstrate an infographic, work of art, or narrated video/PowerPoint, this is the visual for the project (for example, the actual slides, the infographic, or the work of art).
  • Full Text - complete text that will either be part of a paper (rough draft), script for narration to go with a PowerPoint or Video
  • Final Project - final essay, final video with narration

The assessment for each part of the assignment can be as simple as a check for "complete/incomplete" or can be a more detailed rubric.

Once the final project is complete, have the rest of the students in the class engage with the project by creating one or two questions for the presenter in a discussion forum.  Alternatively, you can ask your presenter to create an assessment tool such as an online quiz, a survey using Google forms, or a game in Kahoot.

Tips for Online Teaching and Sample Rubrics

  • Tips and Rubrics for Online Teaching

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assignment for online teaching

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Teach.com / Resources

Online Teaching Tuesdays: Interesting Online Assignments to Engage Online Students

January 20, 2017 

Got Wi-Fi? Online Teaching Tuesday is a series of resources for teachers who want to transfer their skills to an online classroom setting. Whether you’re interested in full-time or part-time online teaching, explore this rapidly growing field with us every week!

Online education  is a fast-growing industry worldwide, with over  6.7 million students  enrolled in at least one course in 2011. More  recent U.S. statistics  provided that 5.8 million people were learning online last year, which means that the international number grew to at least 10 million.

This increasing number of online students suggests an important shift in the higher education landscape, where more and more people choosing to learn using this option. In turn, the educators are faced with a number of challenges with online students due to a lack of traditional interaction, such as creating  effective  and engaging assignments. As the result, it might be more difficult for them to engage these students because they do not meet with them regularly.

There are some innovative techniques that online educators can use to accomplish this task, though. Let’s discuss them below.

Assignment #1: The Interview

Have a discussion with your students about the people who inspire them. The results of this discussion will provide the instructions for the  interview assignment, which will have them constructing an interview with the people they choose. The interviews can be tied to specific subjects, such as history, sociology, biology, and many others.

If you have the control over the course of the interview, provide specific topics for discussion. By using this assignment, you could evaluate critical thinking of the students, awareness about the topic, and allow them to use the interviewer they wish.

Assignment #2: All About Me

You can use this assignment to increase the student engagement right from the beginning of the school year. Ask the students to produce a short video about themselves where they could tell the other students and you about interests and benefits expected from the course. Also, you should encourage them to share information about the future goals and aspirations, job history, family, and previous education.

These projects will help to create more engagement and create the feeling of the community in the virtual classroom.

Assignment#3: Two Lies and a Truth

This assignment is actually a variation of All about Me task described above. This time, you should ask your students to provide three statements in their video introductions: one of which should be true and the other two should be lies. These statements should involve some facts from the background of students that are unknown to others students.

Inform about this and ask to guess which statements are true and which are lies. This assignment generally leads to a lively and interesting conversation because it is always great to trick the classmates and try to guess which is true and which is false.

Assignment #4: Picture

You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. This saying perfectly illustrates the essence of this assignment. Instruct your students to take a picture themselves and describe it in the way that blends into the recent discussions you had in the class. Also, you can specifically instruct to use some theories and other concepts in order to evaluate the skills of using them.

This assignment is popular among those who learn philosophy because it allows them to speculate of their perceptions of reality.

Assignment #5: One-Minute Paper

This is a widely popular assignment that challenges the students to complete a difficult task within a short period of time. It is generally used at the end of the class but you can use it at the end of discussions as well. Ask your students to write a short paper on what they learned during the class or discussion or some points that they found the most interesting and significant. However, you can extend it a little bit if you feel it is necessary and make it a 5-minute paper. You can find sample form and other instructions about making this assignment  here .

Assignment #6: Peer Feedback

One of the most important real benefits of online assignments is instant feedback from multiple classmates that can be saved and reviewed. This benefit should be used to develop the skills of constructive criticism and proper feedback in the students. Have them complete a written assignment and read the works of each other to provide the feedback later. This way, the students can have the opportunity to engage in a discussion of their works.

Need more help on this task?  Here  is the sample peer assignment example for you.

Construct these assignments clearly to prevent the conversations and discussion from going flat. Eventually, they will help you to improve the engagement of online students by providing a new portion of lively discussions and fascinating tasks.

Diana Clark is a high-school educator with 5 years successful working experience in digital and blended learning, modeling effective professional learning and enhancing teacher leadership. She is covering different topics concerning higher education, educational technology, and career development. Feel free to contact her at  Facebook .

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Kinds of online assignments that teachers can assign to students in online learning

Kinds of online assignments that teachers can assign to students in online learning

  • This type of assignment is quite close to attending physical face-to-face lessons
  • Here educators provide book chapters, video lectures and articles to watch and read and then they assign students a set of questions from that content
  • In this assignment, students watch and study material according to their pace of learning but within a certain deadline for submitting their responses
  • This virtual assignment serves as a supplement to the weekly coursework and is used in place of in-class discussions or seminars
  • In online discussion forums, students respond to each other and are more prompt. In some of the discussions, students are supposed to submit their responses before being able to see their classmates' responses
  • Writing research papers and articles is a yardstick to measure skill and expertise in various subjects
  • Writing an online research paper is no different but would need access to the school library’s online resources
  • Regular tests and quizzes can serve a great purpose if taken under due vigilance.
  • Proper proctoring services should be used to verify the identity of the students and webcams should be used for monitoring students
  • A common blog for all the school students should be created and it can be used as a running public dialogue of learners' ideas and thoughts about any topic
  • In the blog, students can add new insights throughout the course, and other students can be allowed to comment at times
  • In the case of online classes and senior secondary students, blogs prove to be particularly useful as it provides them with a platform to exchange ideas and reflect on the topic and concepts
  • These assignments also allow the students to express and exchange opinions, concerns and questions and ideas about the course material
  • The journal assignments help online students to connect and communicate privately with the instructors
  • Case-based assignments are used categorically for only some disciplines and topics.
  • In these assignments, well-constructed case-specific questions are given to the students to analyse the problems of the situation and answer the probable solutions and ways to address them
  • In such assignments, an assigned reading or video vividly depicts a real-world example of the issues or concepts the class is learning about and describes the important details and information
  • Wikispaces , which are open-source platforms that can be used for group work, where students can add, comment on and edit a shared document
  • They can also create a list of tasks, write their questions and start discussions

Visual Stories

assignment for online teaching

Assignment Types

At ZenGengo we’ve created 10 assignment types to challenge and engage language learners across all four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

ZenGengo assignment icons

Audio Recording

What is it.

The Audio Recording assignment enables learners to record a spoken response to a question or prompt selected by the teacher. It can be used for spontaneous or planned responses and is a great tool for helping learners to reflect on their spoken output. Audio Recording assignments can be manually graded by the teacher or auto graded by ZenGengo.

ZenGengo Audio Recording assignment on smartphone and desktop

When to use it

The Audio Recording assignment is ideal for any type of speaking task, but some of the more common uses include:

Giving a self-introduction or short presentation

Describing a picture or short scene from a video

Practicing pronunciation or oral reading

Sharing book or movie review

ZenGengo Multi Choice assignment icon

Multi Choice

The Multi Choice assignment enables teachers to create tests and quizzes to check the learners’ understanding of a text, audio or video, or other resource. Media prompts can be uploaded or recorded directly in the work area, saving teachers time and giving students access to authentic materials. ZenGengo's Text-to-Speech function turns written multiple choice questions into a challenging listening task.

ZenGengo Multi Choice assignment on smartphone and desktop

The Multi Choice assignment is suitable for any type of test or quiz. Some of the more common uses include:

Placement tests to determine language level

Comprehension checks following an extended reading or listening task

Achievement tests at the end of a unit of study

As part of an active learning strategy to keep learners engaged

ZenGengo Speaking Drill assignment icon

Speaking Drill

The Speaking Drill assignment uses AI-powered speech recognition to match the learner’s speech to a series of phrases or sentences provided by the teacher. With instant feedback, learners are able to see which words they have spoken correctly, and which they have not. Learners can listen to a model pronunciation before attempting to speak themselves. The teacher may choose whether or not to show the words to the students during the task.

ZenGengo Speaking Drill assignment on smartphone and desktop

The Speaking Drill assignment is generally used for oral reading or pronunciation practice. Some examples include:

Teaching the connection between sounds and how they are represented

General pronunciation practice

General reading practice

Improving pronunciation of particular phonemes

ZenGengo Text Gap Fill assignment icon

Text Gap Fill

The Text Gap Fill assignment makes it simple for teachers to quickly create cloze activities from any piece of text. It’s as easy as cutting and pasting an appropriate passage then choosing which words to remove. By selecting the Text-to-Speech checkbox, ordinary gap fills are transformed into listening activities, which are ideal for language learners. To avoid the issue of scrolling on small devices, longer texts may be broken into individual gap fill questions.

ZenGengo Text Gap Fill assignment on smartphone and desktop

The Text Gap Fill assignment is suitable for tests or quizzes or for formative activities. Some examples include:

Reinforcing grammar points (e.g., irregular verbs, tenses, etc.)

Listening practice

Comprehension checks following a video or reading

ZenGengo Text-to-Test assignment icon


The Text To Test assignment is the fastest way for teachers to create reading, vocabulary and grammar tasks for their students. With just a short piece of text, teachers can make an entire lesson’s worth of activities. Write or cut and paste an appropriate passage, then choose which words and sentences to use in the activity. Text-to-Speech provides a model reading with colored highlighting of the current sentence. Text may also be hidden to create challenging listening activities.

ZenGengo Vocab Test assignment on smartphone and desktop

The Text To Test assignment is great for supporting the development of literacy skills. Some examples include:

Model readings to assist with decoding and pronunciation

Repeated reading practice

Teaching new words in context

Word order and sentence structure practice

ZenGengo Video Gap Fill assignment icon

Video Gap Fill

The Video Gap Fill assignment makes it simple for teachers to quickly create cloze activities from any subtitled or closed captioned video hosted on Youtube. It’s as easy as pasting the video URL into the activity and choosing which lines to display and which words to remove. There’s no need to search for shorter videos as only the portions you choose will be displayed to students during the activity.

ZenGengo Video Gap Fill assignment on smartphone and desktop

The Video Gap Fill assignment is suitable for low stakes quizzes or for formative activities. Some examples include:

Spelling practice

Presenting authentic materials

Exposing learners to different accents and idiomatic expressions

ZenGengo Video Recording assignment icon

Video Recording

The Video Recording assignment enables learners to record a video response to a question or prompt selected by the teacher. It can be used for spontaneous or planned responses and is a great tool for helping learners to reflect on their spoken output. Video Recording assignments can be manually graded by the teacher or auto graded by ZenGengo. Audio, video and text feedback are also available.

ZenGengo Video Recording assignment on smartphone and desktop

The Video Recording assignment is ideal for any type of speaking task, but some of the more common uses include:

Responding to a question from the teacher

Practicing pronunciation

Sharing thoughts and opinions about a lesson

ZenGengo Vocab Test assignment icon

The Vocab test assignment enables teachers to assess word knowledge through a variety of question formats: Match, Type, Dictate and Speak. For Match questions, students must pair a word with the correct definition. For Type questions, students input the correct spelling of the defined word. For Dictate questions, students listen to the pronunciation of a word and provide the correct spelling. For Speak questions, students must speak the correct word for the definition provided.

ZenGengo Text-to-Test assignment on smartphone and desktop

The Vocab Test assignment is ideal for ensuring that students have a robust understanding of important words and phrases. Some examples include:

Previewing words for upcoming lessons

Reviewing key words and phrases prior to testing

Assessing word knowledge across different modalities

Low stakes end-of-unit testing

ZenGengo Written Report assignment icon

Written Report

The Written Report assignment enables teachers to collect and grade written work from their students. Submissions can be timed, which makes the Written Report assignment suitable for testing situations. To help prevent cheating, teachers have the option of disabling copy and paste within the text input area. Written Report assignments can be manually graded by the teacher or auto graded by ZenGengo. Audio, video and text feedback are also available.

ZenGengo Written Report assignment on smartphone and desktop

The Written Report assignment is ideal for any type of writing task. Some examples include:

Writing a short story or poem

Responding to a question or prompt from the teacher

Sharing thoughts and opinions about a book or film

ZenGengo Content Page assignment icon

Content Page

Content pages are not strictly speaking an assignment type. Rather they are a way for teachers to provide additional resources to students before, after, or during their assignments and lessons. Using Content Pages, teachers can gather materials, such as: media (e.g., images or video), instructions, examples, reviews, summaries or anything else that may be required by the students.

ZenGengo Content Page assignment on smartphone and desktop

Content Pages are ideal for introducing new material or providing supplemental resources the students may require to successfully complete their assignments. Some examples include:

A set of instructions or examples

A video, audio or text that will the subject of subsequent assignments

An audio or video message from the teacher explaining the assignments

Preview or warm-up material

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How do I use TeacherMade to create online assignments?

TeacherMade makes it easy to convert your existing assignments into interactive, online assignments that your students can complete. You no longer have to choose between easy and using technology. TeacherMade makes it easy to do all of your assignments online. Try our free App today!

Using TeacherMade to Create Online Assignments for Students

How do I make Interactive online assignments for students?

In five simple steps, you will have your online assignments ready for your students.

Step 1: Upload your file. The file you upload becomes the background of your new online worksheet. ( We support these file types. ) Step 2: Add fields for student responses. Step 3: Add answers to questions for self-scoring. Step 4: Send an assignment link to students or sync with your school’s LMS platform. Step 5: Get instant feedback and results.

You can wave goodbye to trying to make everything work on Google Forms? Get your time back and stop sitting at a copy machine with TeacherMade.

Why do Teachers choose us for their online assignment maker?

“The instant feedback, flexibility in formatting, and ability to make quick modifications on the spot are invaluable to me as a Teacher. This app saves me so much time, not just in grading but in planning. That time can then be focused on providing specific help or instruction for students in the classroom and having some additional, much-needed downtime at home. The students also benefit from getting scores, comments, and corrections within a shorter period of time so that they can focus their studies and questions accordingly.” – Tiffany S.

“TeacherMade has made it infinitely easier for me to take materials from very different sources and deliver them in a consistent way to my students. They are very comfortable with the format and are able to use the tools that TeacherMade provides. During the 2020-2021 school year, TeacherMade helped me give both my virtual and in-person students a similar experience. TeacherMade frees up time that I would have spent making copies, grading, handing out papers, etc.” – Theresa D.

Help me get started with my online assignments with TeacherMade

Use files you already have in Google Drive Save time when you use worksheets that you already have. Cassandra K. explains the process:

“I create handouts & worksheets quickly from existing worksheets in Google Drive. Sometimes I modify the existing worksheets to allow for better TeacherMade formatting when I create my worksheets.” It may seem like creating assignments can be a huge time suck. Still, Cassandra reasons, “that the time I spend on the front end of my lesson planning and student materials is more than I used to spend on materials creation when I was not formatting everything for the virtual student.” She says, “However, I am spending a lot less time on grading assignments on the backend of my planning.” Give TeacherMade a try today to see how much time you could be saving.”

Share and collaborate with other Teachers and colleagues Teachers have always shared and supported one another. It’s our nature. TeacherMade allows Teachers to share and collaborate with other Teachers and colleagues. You can share your online worksheets just like you would in the traditional setting. Jennifer T says she “loves how it links to Google Classroom. And helps to keep me organized. My colleagues and I can share worksheets with each other, which is a HUGE timesaver.”

Craft a variety of question types effortlessly Often Teachers have to water down online assignments because it can be too challenging to include the question types we want. TeacherMade gives you the flexibility to create the assignments you need. Chemistry Teacher Tiffany S. explains how she takes advantage of the different questions types on TeacherMade:

“I modify lab worksheets to incorporate free response answers, graph drawings, drop-down answers for pre-lab questions, and open responses for the lab analysis questions. I like that it gives students (and me) instant feedback and that I can control with questions that are graded and which are for my own review and more formative assessment questions. I also like to take some of the higher-level analysis questions and provide a space to put a numeric answer that is graded on accuracy but then leave an open response space for the explanation that I will formally assess.”

Keep assignments the same for your virtual and traditional students It can be frustrating to recreate assignments you are handing out in your classroom for your online students. Not anymore with TeacherMade. Regina B. is required to deliver identical assignments for traditional and online classes. She says that TeacherMade: “was a time saver for me because it allowed me to bridge the gap between my students who had to do their work paper/pencil with the students who were completing their work online.” TeacherMade assignments replicate paper and pencil assignments.

Save time, stop grading, and use materials you already have to make online interactive assignments with TeacherMade

We can’t wait for you to experience all of the benefits of TeacherMade. Sign up today to get started.

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