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Six Characteristics of a Model Assignment

How many times have you had a student submit an assignment with few sources, poorly written and several days late? Probably happens more times than not. There are six characteristics of a model assignment which will not only alleviate instructor frustration, but also strengthen student writing and time management skills.

1. Create assignments which directly relate to accomplishing the course objective.
A model assignment maintains a clear goal toward accomplishing a course objective. For adult online learners, course goals relate less to theory or original research and more to practical approaches for day-to-day application or career advancement.

2. More details equals higher quality of student final product.
Since adult online learners come from diverse backgrounds, do not assume students will understand the purpose of the assignment. Be prepared to tell students what you expect (e.g. word count, citation format, number of sources, etc.) and how it should be done (e.g. upload to Moodle versus email attachment).

3. Give incremental due dates.
Large comprehensive assignments due at the course finality leads to unfocused, or even plagiarized, writing. Break down a large assignment into several smaller assignments due sporadically throughout the term. In turn, students receive valuable feedback incrementally as they progress throughout the course.

4. Allow students to brainstorm for topics.
Allow students to brainstorm topics or share with other students using the Moodle Discussion Board form. Or consider offering students a choice among 3-4 essay questions, case scenarios, or case studies. By allowing student choice, students will find a greater connection in their writing which in turn will lead to better final submissions.

5. Give examples.
In addition to clear directions, students also appreciate a visual piece of the final product. If you decide to use another student’s work, be sure to ask permission to use from the student. Post model assignments on your Moodle course shell.

6. Share student evaluation tools.
Share rubrics, or other evaluation tool, early in the assignment rather than at the end so students may clarify expectations firsthand. Post rubrics or evaluation tools on your Moodle course shell so students may refer to it when necessary.

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