Assignments & facilitating activities

Your students learn most effectively when they can do something with the information they absorb. The in-person and online activities you design should have a high failure tolerance and low stakes so that when your students practice with the information they learn, they can receive meaningful and useful feedback from you.

  • Activities that are failure-tolerant allow your students multiple attempts, so you can and provide feedback along the way.
  • Activities that are low-stakes provide opportunities for students to work within their understanding of the material with a low impact on their final grade.

In other words, the activities and assignments you design serve as the practice sessions to prepare your students for the high-stakes exams and projects. You should provide your students with ample opportunities to use the information they're learning by including at least one assignment or activity per week.

To learn more about high-stakes exams and projects, see the Assessing learning section of Keep Teaching

Canvas Assignments resources

Note: If you're asking students to submit a group project, see the guidance for projects on Assessing learning.

Encouraging reading & watching material

In most courses, reading and watching videos are the primary methods for students to receive content. You can encourage students to prepare for or follow-up after class by including a short quiz or comprehension check over the materials or lecture. Two easy-to-use tools that integrate with Canvas are Canvas Quizzes and Kaltura Quizzes.

Note: Canvas Discussions could be used to encourage reading and watching. To learn more, see Communication & interaction.

General guidance

  • Include at least one short quiz or comprehension check per week.
    • Assign a due date before class to encourage preparation.
    • Assign a due date after class or at the end of the week to check for comprehension or application.
  • Focus students' attention to the most important parts of readings and videos (including your lecture videos) by asking questions connected to your course- or module-level learning outcomes.
  • Keep comprehension quizzes low-stakes:
    • Worth a few points
    • Untimed
    • With multiple attempts so students can practice

Canvas Quizzes

You will likely use Canvas Quizzes for most of your low-stakes assessments (to learn about high-stakes assessment, see Assessing learning). Quizzes includes automatically graded question types (e.g., multiple-choice, true/false, matching, numeric, and fill-in-the-blank) as well as manually graded questions, such as short answer and essay (both of which can be graded in SpeedGrader (Canvas article)).

  • Explicitly state that quizzes are "open book" in the Quiz Instructions. This gives students multiple exposures to the material which can aid learning (i.e., if they need to re-read a section of their text multiple times in order to answer a question, they are more likely to retain that information).
  • Shuffle answers for automatically graded questions such as multiple choice.
  • Provide automatic feedback for correct and incorrect answers where applicable.

Kaltura quizzing

You can use Kaltura Quizzing to insert questions into your videos or lecture recordings. The questions will help refocus students and reinforce the key points. Kaltura Quizzing can be auto-graded, and if you make it an Assignment the grades will automatically appear in the Canvas Grades.

Here are some general guidelines for how often to integrate questions into a video:

  • Short videos (less than seven minutes): add one or more questions in the middle and at the end.
  • Longer videos (greater than seven minutes): add one or more questions at least every five minutes.

Note: Viewer drop-off rate is high after seven minutes, so shorter videos generally lead to more complete and repeat viewing.

Adding digital courseware to your course

Digital courseware are supplemental, publisher-created materials that could include homework and problem sets, quiz and test banks, and adaptive learning tools with immediate feedback. Your students can use digital courseware for a great deal of extra practice. You can use digital courseware to reduce the time you spend creating and grading assignments.

If you are interested in using digital courseware in your course:

  • Contact your textbook publisher representative to see if you have courseware associated with your textbook.
  • Order your courseware through IU eTexts if it is from one of these publishers. By ordering through IU eTexts the materials can be integrated into Canvas. Additionally, ordering through IU eTexts provides your students:
    • Discounted pricing (usually around 25% off retail prices)
    • Access on or before the first day of class
    • Billing through their bursar account, so all forms of financial aid apply
  • About courseware:
    • Publisher courseware typically includes an eTexts as well as the courseware.
    • Both the courseware and the accompanying eTexts are presented on the publisher's e-reading platform, not IU eTexts (Unizin Engage).
    • IU eTexts does not load courseware to your Canvas course. Your publisher rep will provide instructions for how you will integrate their product into your course.
    • Be sure to ask the publisher if the courseware is accessible for students with disabilities. If a student cannot use the courseware due to a disability, you will need to create an alternative that provides equal benefits. For questions to ask, see, Accessibility questions to ask a publisher when considering materials for your course.