9 Common Types of Assignments in Online Courses

Discussion boards, wikis and research papers are common examples of online coursework.

9 Types of Assignments in Online Courses

assignments in online classes

In some instances, online students watch recorded lectures and respond at their own pace. (Getty Images)

Students considering taking their first online course may worry about the types of assignments they will encounter.

In particular, those who are accustomed to face-to-face education may not know what coursework to expect before they start. Below is a list of nine common types of virtual assignments instructors generally assign in online classes.

1. Read or watch, then respond: This type of assignment closely mirrors the face-to-face lecture. Instructors provide video lectures, articles or book chapters and assign students a set of questions. Students can read or watch the material at their own pace, so long as they meet the deadline for their responses.

2. Research papers: Formal research papers remain a popular assignment in online classes . Writing about research is a required skill for many graduate degrees , and publishing original research is a measure of expertise in many disciplines.

There is little difference in completing research papers for online versus on-ground classes. However, online learners should ensure they have remote access to a university's library resources to succeed.

3. Exams: The often-dreaded tests and quizzes are also common in online courses. But the rules and testing environments can differ depending on the institution. Some will use proctoring services that monitor students through webcams and identity verification questions.

4. Discussion boards: Usually intended as a supplement to the weekly coursework, the discussion forum is intended to replace the in-class discussion or seminar. In the virtual classroom, students respond to a prompt and each other. Some discussions require students to submit responses before being able to see what classmates wrote.

5. Blogs: These keep a running public dialogue of students' thoughts and ideas about a topic. Students can add new insights to the blog throughout the course, and sometimes other students can comment. Blogs are particularly useful for online classes that require students to reflect upon life or clinical experiences and internships.

6. Journals: The journal assignment is usually a private way for online students to communicate with the instructor . Sometimes, journal topics are prescribed and formal, but usually these assignments allow students to express ideas, opinions, concerns and questions about course material.

7. Wikis: These are especially useful for group work . Students can comment on and edit a shared document to develop task lists, write research questions, document experiences or start discussions.

8. Case-based assignments: These are more popular in certain fields than others. Generally, an assigned reading or video vividly depicts a real-world example of the issues or concepts the class is learning about, describing all of the salient details and information. Well-constructed cases force students to analyze problems and research, test and present potential solutions.

9. Self-paced adaptive assignments: Adaptive learning is growing in popularity, especially in subjects such as math and science.

Learn how to

Usually, students watch short lectures, then answer a set of questions. Based on how they perform, new lectures follow and focus on areas the student needs help with. These types of courses generally don't have a class or cohort structure as each student moves at a personalized pace. There may not be one instructor for the course, but a team of facilitators is generally available in real time.

The takeaway: While these types of virtual assignments don't represent the total list of possibilities, they are among the most common. Instructors will choose which online coursework best fits the material and learning objectives. Each online class may be slightly different.

Tags: online education , students , education , technology

About Online Learning Lessons

Making the decision to pursue an online program can be intimidating for students. Online Learning Lessons offers tips and advice from online students and educators on everything from finding a program and paying for it to what happens after enrolling. Got a question? Email [email protected] .

Popular Stories

Best Colleges

assignments in online classes

Best Global Universities

assignments in online classes

Recommended Articles

You May Also Like

Online programs with diverse faculty.

Sarah Wood Feb. 24, 2023

assignments in online classes

Mistakes Online Students Make

Sarah Wood Feb. 8, 2023

assignments in online classes

Warning Signs an Online Degree Is a Scam

Sarah Wood Feb. 6, 2023

assignments in online classes

Affordable Out-of-State Online Colleges

Sarah Wood Jan. 25, 2023

assignments in online classes

Online U.S. Colleges: What to Know

Anayat Durrani Jan. 25, 2023

assignments in online classes

Financial Aid for Online Programs

Emma Kerr and Sarah Wood Jan. 25, 2023

assignments in online classes

FAQ: Online Degree Program Accreditation

Jordan Friedman and Cole Claybourn Jan. 24, 2023

assignments in online classes

10 Most Affordable Online MBA Programs

Cole Claybourn and Ilana Kowarski Jan. 24, 2023

assignments in online classes

Discover 12 Online Learning Trends

Sarah Wood Jan. 24, 2023

assignments in online classes

Consider This Before Enrolling Online

assignments in online classes

assignments in online classes

assignments in online classes

Higher Ed Gamma

Moocs and beyond., rethinking your assignments for online learning.

Some options.

Much of the advice about moving courses online is practical and straightforward:

But this advice is largely about knowledge transmission. It’s not about student engagement and learning.

What can we do to advance and assess student learning? 

Let me suggest some activities and assignments that work well in an online environment – that are easy to implement, do not boost your workload, and do-able by students with limited access to technology.

1. Engage students with surveys, polls, and quizzes. Frequent low-stakes assessments enhance student engagement and learning – and do not need to be done synchronously.  Activities like survey, polls, and quizzes keep students focused and help you and them monitor their engagement and command of the course material.

2. Use the discussion board as more than a space to share opinions. Too often, online discussions are shallow and superficial, disconnected from the other facets of the course’s learning experience.  To make these conversations more meaningful, consider using the boards for a variety of purposes:

3. Have the students write a brief explanation of a key concept in the class or write an abstract of an article. One of the best ways to master a concept is to teach it or summarize it, and this activity requires students to demonstrate their command of a topic or a reading.

4.  Ask students to identify, describe, and evaluate an online resource relevant to the class. Have the students locate a website, a database, an online simulation, or a recent news article that speaks to issues you are dealing with in the course.  In the process, the students might alert you to a resource that you may wish to integrate into the class.

5.  Have students write an op-ed essay, a policy brief, or a news article on a topic covered in the class. If one of our goals is to help novice learners emulate expert practice, give your students opportunities to engage in the kinds of authentic activities that professionals undertake.

6.  Let students engage in data visualization and analysis. Ask your students to explicate and analyze a graph, a chart, or a diagram, or, alternatively have them visually represent or statistically analyze a data set or the results of a laboratory experiment.

7. Create a research methods scavenger hunt. One of my goals as an instructor is to improve my students’ research skills, and one way to do this is to create a “scavenger hunt,” which includes questions designed to familiarize students with a wide range of library resources.  Here are some examples:

The current crisis has changed the way we deliver our courses.  It should also alter our instructional activities.  We need assignments that can’t be completed with a Wikipedia or Google search, and that encourage immersion, engagement, and active processing of information.  Our activities should involve research skills, weighing evidence and arguments, critical analysis, and application.

In creating your assignments, make sure that your students can complete the activity successfully regardless of their circumstances.  That’s one reason why the assignments I have mentioned do not require collaboration.

Also, tightly align your activities with your learning objectives.  Make sure that the assignment helps students solidify the knowledge and skills you want to cultivate.  Additionally, share the rationale for the assignment with your students, who need to understand that the activity is not simply busywork. 

Online assessments need not be confined to tests – which are problematic since they tempt online students to cheat. The kinds of assessments listed above have a different purpose: To have students engage and process the course material, encourage them to think critically, analytically, and independently, and apply their knowledge and skills in authentic contexts.

Steven Mintz is senior advisor to the President of Hunter College for student success and strategic initiatives

Share Article

Read more by, inside higher ed careers.

Browse Faculty Jobs

Browse Administrative Jobs

Browse Executive Administration Jobs

Browse Jobs Outside Higher Education

Trending Stories

Resources for faculty and staff from our partners at Times Higher Education.

Most Shared Stories

You may also be interested in...

Today’s News from Inside Higher Ed

A glass tower that is part of the Maricopa community college district.

Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes

Duke to challenge ph.d. students’ right to unionize, parents awarded $6.1 million in lsu hazing case, former wisconsin grad student arrested for violent threats, bay state college facing eviction over unpaid rent, alliance university threatened with loss of accreditation, u of rhode island removes partial malcolm x quote.

Campuses | Buses | Parking

Information Technology | Jobs at KU

Tuition | Bill Payments | Scholarship Search Financial Aid | Loans | Beak 'em Bucks

People Search

Search class sections | Online courses

Libraries | Hours & locations | Ask

Advising | Catalog | Tutors Writing Center | Math help room Finals Schedule | GPA Calculator

Flexible Teaching

Search form

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:

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) :

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:

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:

Leverage the online medium

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

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. 

Generosity Radiates

Support Students Today

Kent State University logo

This page provides handouts for different types of assignments. Please feel free to read through these, as they may help suggest new ideas for assignments in your course. Some of these are both types of assignments and tools in Canvas. Many other assignment types listed here are particularly good for activities that students might actually do in their careers, such as making a presentation, creating a fact sheet, or writing a memo.

These types of assignments can be of great value to students, as they are not only applying the information they are learning, but they're also learning a skill that will be applicable to their future or current job. Keep in mind, though, that these are just some of the types of assignments you can consider. Also, if you have great assignments that you are using in your online class that aren't reflected here, let us help you share that idea with your Kent State colleagues! Please contact Amy Grincewicz, Director, Instructional Design, [email protected] , for more information.

Canvas tools

Visual assignments

Writing assignments

Assignment Prompts and Additional Information

Discussion Prompt Template

Journal and Blog Prompt Template

Quiz and Exam Prompt Template

Assignment Sequencing

Street Address

Mailing address.

Search form

Explore brown university.

assignments in online classes

Characteristics of Effective Online Assignments

Effective online assignments and activities typically..., ...take advantage of the web as a learning environment.

The web offers a wealth of information, services, and tools that can be incorporated into assignments and course activities; you can use its networked, hypertextual nature to stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration, and promote critical thinking. There is no need to be constrained by the limitations of specific learning platforms when developing online assignments.

...start engaging students early in the course

The first assignment is a good indicator of whether a student will complete the course. Interesting, provocative assignments early in the course draw students in, habituate them to the kinds of coursework you have planned, and engage them actively in the larger course community.

...are transparent in their motives and articulate a clear rationale

All assignments benefit from a clearly articulated rationale, but this is especially true online, where it can be more difficult for students to ask clarifying questions. Explaining why you have chosen a particular assignment and why you believe it is valuable is often the best way to persuade students to try out an assignment they might otherwise approach skeptically.

...connect multiple parts of the course

Assignments and activities can weave together different parts of the course, helping students integrate what they learn and develop a deeper understanding of the material.

...have clear criteria for evaluation and assessment

Because grading and assessment practices vary widely in online courses, students often benefit from knowing how their work will be evaluated. Providing  clear grading rubrics and other formal evaluation criteria in advance can help students focus on the most important aspects of the assignment.

...give detailed instructions and prompts

Good instructions help students understand what to do when working on an assignment. Instructions shouldn't assume all students understand the assignment's purpose or know the steps to follow. Detailed instructions are crucial - but they must also be concise enough that students will actually read them. Consider using video prompts or instructions when you need to convey a lot of information related to an assignment.

...demonstrate variety and flexibility

Flexibility and variety let students exercise more control over the choices they make in a class. This can make assignments more engaging. Providing multiple options for completing assignments is one way to introduce flexibility; designing assignments that allow for multiple types of answers or learning approaches is another.

...provide good (and bad) examples

Examples act as models that help students learn to develop their own ideas or responses and to think more creatively. Examples also help students who may not be familiar with expectations or practices for certain types of assignments. Pointing out an example's best and worst features can be especially useful.

...are inclusive and accessible

Assignments that are designed from the beginning to be accessible are ideal for online environments. Some online students will not be native English speakers; others will have disabilities that could prevent them from. Still others won't have access to certain types of resources, tools, or software. Following principles of universal design ensures assignments find the broadest possible audience.

Assignment Ideas

Check Points for Long Range Assignments Online students will procrastinate! Long range assignments, such as projects, presentations, or papers, need to be duplicated throughout the course as check points to create session reminders. Check point examples are paper topic choices, draft outlines, or preliminary peer reviews. These can be created in the Blackboard assignment tool for complete/incomplete settings, so grades are not necessary. Cases Instructor-Generated Cases: Place set number of cases on the Web and link to a bulletin board system or conferencing tool for students to discuss. These cases can be used as collaborative quizzes that instructors and students from other universities or institutions can use. Student-Generated Cases: have students generate a set number of cases during the semester based on field experiences or job-related experiences and respond to a set number of peer cases. Exam Preparation Cases: Post a set number of cases for each small group to discuss and answer (these might be on their exam) and all groups must respond to the solutions of one other group. Team Cases: Post case situation and have students respond in small groups (Online Reading and Writing Techniques: Bonk, 1998; Bonk & Reynolds, 1997; Oliver, Omari, & Herrington, 1999; Paulsen, 1995). Minute Or Muddiest Point Papers Individual Minute Papers: Have students send the instructor 1-2 minute reflections via e-mail perhaps to recap a class or to summarize things that remain unclear. Team Minute Papers: Have students share their minute papers in a group and summarize their key points for the instructor and/or for other groups (Online Reading and Writing Techniques: Bonk, 1998; Bonk & Reynolds, 1997; Oliver, Omari, & Herrington, 1999; Paulsen, 1995).  Muddiest Point: In the Discussion Board, ask students, "What was the muddiest point?" for a particular lesson and discuss it as a class. This could yield content clarification and participation credit ( Classroom Assessment Technique by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross). Discussion Board Makeup Assignment If students fail to post in the class discussion but truly need/want to receive credit, have them create a summary of the entire discussion and submit via email for credit. This assures you they have read and understood the discussion even though they were unable to participate. You may still assess a late penalty as described in your syllabus. AHA! Assignment Ask students to keep a journal of Aha! or epiphany moments they experience during the course. Encourage them to share these moments in a discussion board at some point during the course or on an ongoing basis. It will enrich the course. Focused Listing After reading the text or lecture material, have students recall the most important points related to a particular topic. These could be posted in the Journal tool and may help prepare students for an exam ( Classroom Assessment Technique by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross). Empty Outlines Provide students with an empty or partially completed outline of lecture material or a reading assignment and direct them to fill in the blanks. This could be completed in using a word processor and the Assignment feature, the Quiz tool, or submitted to an online Journal or Blog tool ( Classroom Assessment Technique by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross). One-Minute Paper Students create a one-minute paper in the essay function of the quiz tool with the timer set to one minute. This is a good way to assess new information presented in the session ( Classroom Assessment Technique by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross). What, How, and Why Outline In this exercise, have students analyze a particular type of content (reading, case study, literature, etc.) and write brief notes answering the what, how, and why questions in outline format. This can be submitted to the Assignment feature in Blackboard and quickly read and assessed ( Classroom Assessment Technique by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross). Analytic Memo Require students to write a one- to two-page analysis of a specific problem or issue. The person for whom the memo is being written is usually identified as an employer, client, or a stakeholder who needs the analysis to inform decision making. ( Classroom Assessment Technique by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross). WebQuest An organized assignment activity using the Internet. All information gathered by the students is drawn from the Web. These activities can provide opportunities for students to think using levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. San Diego State University hosts a website devoted to WebQuests located at http://webquest.org.   Web Explorations and Readings Evaluate Existing Articles: Students search for electronic articles on a topic and summarize, categorize, and/or react to them. Generate Reading Packet: Students find a set of similar articles on a topic and create an electronic reading packet ( Online Reading and Writing Techniques, Bonk, 1998; Bonk & Reynolds, 1997; Oliver, Omari, & Herrington, 1999; Paulsen, 1995). Field Observations Reactions Individual Observations: Students observe situations in their field or discipline during internship or job experiences and reflect on how these experiences relate to current course material. Instructors post issues or questions for student reaction. Private Online Diaries: Students reflect on field or internship observations in a private online journal (with or without instructor feedback). Team Observations: Teams reflect on different aspects of field or internship experiences and summarize them for other teams ( Online Reading and Writing Techniques: Bonk, 1998; Bonk & Reynolds, 1997; Oliver, Omari, & Herrington, 1999; Paulsen, 1995). Scavenger Hunt Instructor Generated: Send students on an online scavenger hunt. Such a technique is a useful way to acclimate them to using Web technologies or to a particular content area. Student Generated: Have students generate a scavenger hunt for the class as an optional or a bonus assignment ( Other Online Learning Pedagogical Ideas : Bonk, 1998; Bonk & Reynolds, 1997; Herrington & Oliver, 1999; Paulsen, 1995). Peer Feedback Roles E-mail Pal or Web Buddies: Assign everyone a partner to comment on his or her work (privately or publicly) and generally help each other out during the semester such as with providing peer feedback on self-tests and assignments. Critical or Constructive Friends: Assign students a critical or constructive friend who analyzes and critiques one's work as well as points out positive aspects of it while providing additional support where deemed necessary ( Other Online Learning Pedagogical Ideas : Bonk, 1998; Bonk & Reynolds, 1997; Herrington & Oliver, 1999; Paulsen, 1995). Gallery Tours and Publishing of Student Work Individual Work: Post student work to the Web as a classroom legacy or archival record to display course expectations to future students. Work with Feedback: Post students individual or group projects to the Web and have expert panel, practitioners, or community member evaluate them ( Other Online Learning Pedagogical Ideas : Bonk, 1998; Bonk & Reynolds, 1997; Herrington & Oliver, 1999; Paulsen, 1995). Symposia Inside Experts: Have an online panel(s) or symposium(s) or student experts at the end of the semester after students have gone deep in to topic. Outside Experts: Have students vote on a set of outside experts they would like to invite for a panel discussion or online symposia and then invite these individuals. Hold symposia and then debrief ( Other Online Learning Pedagogical Ideas : Bonk, 1998; Bonk & Reynolds, 1997; Herrington & Oliver, 1999; Paulsen, 1995). Group Activity One of the most important principles of online learning is to create a sense of "community" among the students - to get them to engage and discuss freely and exchange ideas. Assign a short outside article that pertain to the weekly assignments for the first weeks and assign teams. Each team is to read the article and present questions (one per team member) to present to the rest of the class. They are to use the Group discussion boards of Blackboard to agree on the questions to present. Once presented, the rest of the class is to respond to the questions. After the initial response, they must also make a second response to someone else's inital posting. After everyone in the class has been on a team and evaluated an article, the instructor can take the lead to discussions back. Submitted by Lynn M. Rye, College of Lake County


Jun 17, 2020

7 Creative Assignments for your Virtual Classroom

Spotlight students’ creativity and boost engagement with these seven assignments for any subject.

I t’s been two months since universities across the nation shuttered the doors of their classrooms, sending educators scrambling to adapt their course materials for remote instruction. Reactions to the migration online have been mixed . Some professors say that, while initially demanding, moving to distance learning has actually improved their relationships with their students. Others share their trepidation towards online lecturing, fearful that they are lecturing into a void of barely-there Zoom participants.

If you are a professor who has struggled to engage your class in the wake of school closures, consider introducing the following creative assignments to your curriculum. Most can be adapted to operate either synchronously or asynchronously. All guarantee an interesting and educational remote class session for both you and your students.

1. Five Minute Video Recap

Have your students create a five minute video recap of the topics you presented during the previous week’s virtual lecture. Grade their submissions based on accuracy and creativity — content-specific raps, TikToks, and interpretive dances should all be fair game.

This assignment is not just a lighthearted method of ensuring that students pay attention to you during lecture. Semantic encoding — associating memories with sounds, images, or physical motion — helps strengthen neural connections, which contribute to a student’s ability to store information in their long-term memory.

And, bonus — a number of technology companies are currently offering extended video-editing software trials .

2. Public Figure Podcast

It feels like just about everyone has a podcast, is starting a podcast, or is thinking about starting a podcast. Encourage your students to join the movement by recording their own podcast episode in which they interview a famous figure from your area of study. You can ask students to pair up for this assignment, offering them an opportunity for remote collaboration, or have them involve members of their family.

Effectively interviewing a public figure— even if that figure is a long-deceased mathematician, author, or politician — demands an intimate understanding of the figure’s life and the contributions they made to their field. Having students portray or engage in dialogue with these trailblazers in the form of a podcast helps them connect the concepts they learn about in class with their real-life applications, and with the historical significance of their originators.

3. Concept Trials

You can draw virtual classroom inspiration from the courtroom, even if you don’t teach law. Concept trials are an effective, Socratic seminar-style form of ensuring that students examine all perspectives of a topic discussed in class. And what better way to motivate disengaged students than with a little friendly competition?

Pair your students up, and assign each pair a concept from your course curriculum. Have one student act as the prosecution, questioning the validity and historical significance of the concept, and one as the defense, supporting the concept. Each should compose a one-minute opening statement, a one-minute closing statement, and be prepared to respond to classmates’ questions about their assigned topic. At the end of the debate, have the class act as a jury and vote on whether or not the concept has conviction .

4. Subject Salon

If you have a particularly enthusiastic and engaged class — and teach a subject rich with colorful contributors to the field — consider hosting a subject salon with your students.

Have each student select and research a key member of the field. Then host a video-lecture session in which each student dresses as and portrays their chosen innovator. Engage your class in debates about course topics, with each student responding as their figurehead would.

This theatrical assignment helps students associate concepts with the thought-leaders who first popularized them. The debate component of the session helps them compare and contrast differing perspectives within the field. And the comedic element introduced by students acting and dressing as their characters makes this a great project to end the semester with.

5. Make a Meme

With their simultaneous ubiquity and obscurity, memes have become a cultural cornerstone of the 2010s. They may have trended towards absurdity in recent years, but the most-enduring memes always contain enough truth and humanity to resound with the masses.

Have your students create their own memes about significant breakthroughs in your field, then ask them to explain their memes in a short paper (or video presentation). Examining notable historical events through memes allows students to reframe the event and its lasting importance using a modern lens. If your students come up with something particularly clever or original, their homework may go viral.

6. Translation

Have students select a topic discussed in your course, then choose an audience for whom they will translate tenets of the topic. The medium through which a student conveys their topic should be related to the audience they’ve chosen. For example:

– Explain logarithmic functions to third graders by creating a picture book

– Explain the cultural impact of tuberculosis to adolescent girls through a YouTube beauty tutorial

– Explain conservation of energy and momentum to Gen Z within a TikTok dance

– Explain Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need to senior citizens by producing an infomercial

There is evidence that learning through teaching is an incredibly effective method of improving students’ subject comprehension and mastery, as well as their communication skills. This assignment provides students with the opportunity to flex their artistry, ensuring an entertaining class session when it comes time to present their projects.

7. Jeopardy!

Some classes are difficult to engage in discussion. And some classes are overflowing with Ken Jennings — you know, those students who seem to have an even deeper grasper of the subject than yourself, and who aren’t afraid to show it.

Encourage your students to unleash their inner-Ken Jennings by hosting a virtual game of Jeopardy! using a web-conferencing tool ( like Campuswire ! ). Split your class into teams and challenge them to answer course-related questions. The class member who lands in the question queue first has the first chance to answer correctly and win their team points. Consider offering extra credit to the winning team for extra motivation.

What creative projects have you assigned in your courses? Drop a comment below, or tweet me: @ SannaSharp.

More from Campuswire

We're on a mission to optimize the world’s teaching and learning.

About Help Terms Privacy

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store

Sanna Sharp

Text to speech

Ohio State nav bar

The Ohio State University

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 

Learning Opportunities

Related Teaching Topics

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

Cengage Logo-Home Page

Assignments in the Online Course: How Much is Too Much?

overwhelmed student

Guest Contributor: Robert Onorato

Given the seemingly unlimited, media-rich learning opportunities you can offer in an asynchronous online course, it may be tempting to craft a reading or resource list as extensive as your own time allows. But at what point will students reach the saturation point? In this article, Robert Onorato, instructor at Fordham University (NY) and a Senior Faculty Programs Consultant for Cengage, shares the experiences that have led him to his own conclusions regarding the answer to the question: “How much is too much?”

I have been teaching college courses for twenty years and I taught my first online course at least eight years ago. Since then, I have taught courses in all sorts of mixed and hybrid formats, those that were offered completely online as part of traditional degree programs, and online classes offered in fully online degree programs

I have also taken several online and hybrid courses. In addition to the content taught in these classes, the format, structure, and processes have proven extremely enlightening. It has been beneficial to “see what the student sees,” instead of experiencing courses only from the instructor’s perspective.

Online Courses: How Much Content Is Too Much?

I have often seen the tendency for some (or many) professors to include, require, or “pile on” large amounts of content in addition to traditional textbook chapters and required assignments and testing. When professors migrate content from the classroom to the hybrid format to the pure online classroom, and the physical student contact becomes further removed and distant, professors often seem to compensate for this lessened contact with increased numbers of required articles to read and videos to view.

I have taken at least three different online courses where this has happened:

Instructors: Ask Yourselves These Questions

Digital technology provides what seems like unlimited space for resources and content for hybrid and online classrooms and sometimes our tendency is to fill this space. We can forget that students still have a finite amount of time and often take several courses together. It is one thing to provide supplemental material that students can view or read if that want more information. However, in my experience, professors often make this wealth of resources required.

Often the result is students who are overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged . Honestly, this was my reaction. I thought, “Why do I have to watch this seventh, eighth video?” Students can then become less connected and engaged in the coursework and content, and less inclined to participate in the hybrid and online formats, or to take these courses again.

Think about this as you develop your next online course and be careful to include what is needed, and not everything in the world that fits.

Robert Onorato, a Senior Consultant for Cengage in Peer-to-Peer Faculty Development, teaches Marketing, Leadership, and Operations Management at Fordham University in New York. In addition, he has established Candlewood Consulting and has authored various instructors’ resource materials. Robert has earned a B. S. in Marketing and an MBA from the University of Connecticut.

What Types of Assignments Can You Expect in an Online Course?

What kinds of assignments can you expect when taking an online class? Check out this helpful list for distance learners.

legacy image

Tags in Article

Taking online classes offers a number of benefits. Among them are the ability to do your coursework when it is most convenient for you, not having to travel to and from campus (which is an added bonus in inclement weather), and the ability to earn your degree from colleges and universities that are not within your local vicinity.

However, sometimes people don't sign up for online courses solely because they don't know what to expect as far as homework and assignments are concerned. While each class is different, many of the assignments given by college-level instructors generally fall into one of these categories.

Reading Required Texts

Online classes are a lot like traditional college classes in that there is often a fair bit of reading that will be required. In some cases, these reading assignments involve the use of course-specific textbooks. Other times, they come from other sources such as online articles or guides.

If the idea of extensive reading feels overwhelming to you, it may help to know that these types of assignments are broken up throughout the course of the term. So, it's not like you have to sit and read an entire textbook all at once. Usually it's just one or two chapters at a time that would be required.

Posting Discussion Answers

Because you're not face-to-face with your instructor and fellow students in an online course, one method they use to test how well you have learned the information is by posting discussion questions that you'll have to answer in narrative form. By putting your responses in your own words, it is easier for them to tell whether you are able to actually apply what it is you have learned.

Posting discussion answers also helps you hone your ability to communicate. This is important because, as Leadership Choice shares, good communication skills in the workplace can reduce conflict, improve employee engagement, strengthen client relationships, and bolster productivity.

Check out these tips for writing a top-notch discussion post for your online class.

Watching and Analyzing Visuals

Some course instructors will also share visuals (such as videos or charts) and ask you to analyze what you see. Again, the goal is for them to see that you are able to take information that is provided in this type of format and extract from it the data you need to act appropriately in your specific field.

The great thing about these types of assignments is that they provide a lot of value if you are a visual learner. Being a visual learner means that you find it easier to understand new ideas or concepts by watching or looking at something versus reading about it. If this is you, you'll likely find these assignments extremely enjoyable!

Writing Reports

Nothing beats practical experience, so if you're going into a field in which you may be required to submit lengthy reports—such as business or any research-based field—you may be asked to start working on them in your online college course. This gets you used to the report-writing process by providing hands-on experience of what lies ahead for you.

Even if your career won't involve writing long reports, some courses require this type of assignment simply so you more thoroughly understand various processes in your field. Reports help to teach you how to follow the steps necessary in a way you're likely to remember because you've walked through them yourself.

Doing Group Projects

In some cases, you may also be required to complete group projects in your online classes. Though they may be a bit more time intensive because they require working with other students' schedules, too, these types of assignments serve a valuable purpose.

For instance, whether you plan on going into business for yourself or want to work for an employer, your ability to collaborate with others is critical for success. Doing group projects helps you build this skill.

Working with groups of people from all different backgrounds and experiences also teaches you that everyone interacts with the world in his or her own unique way. And the more interactions and experiences you are aware of and can use when solving problems, the better your results.

Taking Quizzes and Tests

One of the assignment types that causes a lot of students—whether online or traditional—a fair bit of anxiety are the quizzes and tests. After all, these determine whether you've learned the information provided with enough efficiency to be able to contribute intelligently in your field of choice.

Sometimes these quizzes and tests are multiple choice and other times they also have essays that must be completed. Additionally, some are timed and others give you as much time as you need. Either way, this type of information is typically communicated beforehand so you know what to expect with your specific online courses.

These helpful tips on taking exams online  are good to keep in your back pocket.

You can also reach out to the course instructor if you have any questions or concerns about any of these types of assignments. Remember that they want your success just as much as you do, so don't be afraid to ask for their assistance along the way in achieving it.

Saint Leo University See more from this author

Want to learn more?

Let's hear all about it! Contact Us

Quick Links

33701 County Road 52, St. Leo, FL 33574

Toll Free: (800) 334-5532

Campus: (352) 588-8200


  1. Why You Should Hire a Tutor to Help You with Writing Online Assignments

    assignments in online classes

  2. Be the Choicest Get the First-Class Online Assignment Help

    assignments in online classes

  3. How Do Online Classes Work?

    assignments in online classes

  4. 4 Tips for Better Online Assignment Instructions

    assignments in online classes

  5. Twelve Assignments Every Middle School Student Should Write (PDF) ~ Collins Education Associates

    assignments in online classes

  6. Online Assignment Help By Online Tutoring Sessions

    assignments in online classes



  2. Online class tips

  3. taking classes to online students 😃 #shorts #aariclass #jiniaaricreatives

  4. MGT-201

  5. Full Form Of "CBSE" #study #board #central #education #trend #shorts #knowledge

  6. Advantages of online class || Back to School 2020 Online Class


  1. 9 Common Types of Assignments in Online Courses

    9 Common Types of Assignments in Online Courses · 1. Read or watch, then respond: This type of assignment closely mirrors the face-to-face

  2. Rethinking Your Assignments for Online Learning

    Rethinking Your Assignments for Online Learning · 1. Engage students with surveys, polls, and quizzes. · 2. Use the discussion board as more than

  3. Engaging Online Instructional Activities

    Connect assignments across classes. For example, students in one class could become the audience for those in another class. · Common problems. Address a common

  4. Resources for Online Assignments

    Writing assignments · Case-based Studies handout (PDF) · Fact Sheet handout (PDF) · Memo handout (PDF) · OpEd handout (PDF) · Testimony handout (PDF)

  5. Characteristics of Effective Online Assignments

    Because grading and assessment practices vary widely in online courses, students often benefit from knowing how their work will be evaluated.

  6. Pedagogy

    Assignment Ideas · Check Points for Long Range Assignments · Cases · Minute Or Muddiest Point Papers · Discussion Board Makeup Assignment · AHA! Assignment · Focused

  7. 7 Creative Assignments for your Virtual Classroom

    7 Creative Assignments for your Virtual Classroom · 1. Five Minute Video Recap · 2. Public Figure Podcast · 3. Concept Trials · 4. Subject Salon · 5. Make a Meme · 6.

  8. Creating and Adapting Assignments for Online Courses

    All assignments work best when they align with your learning outcomes. Each online assignment should advance students' achievement of one or more of your

  9. Assignments in the Online Course: How Much is Too Much?

    Instructors of online courses can be tempted to try to compensate for the lack of in-person contact with all kinds of resources for students.

  10. What Types of Assignments Can You Expect in an Online Course?

    In some cases, you may also be required to complete group projects in your online classes. Though they may be a bit more time intensive because