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Aaargh! Assignments! For many learners, assignments are associated with strong emotions, ranging from mild anxiety to blind panic. For many tutors too, assignments are an emotional matter. Assignments test not only the learners, but also the educators. They test our professional judgment; our ability to be fair; our ability to be both objective and supportive at the same time. Ultimately, they test our ability to enable learners to learn, or in plain language, our ability to teach.

The way in which assignments are designed says a lot about the educator’s philosophy of how people learn: collaborative or individual work; multiple-choice or open-ended questions; regurgitating content or showing that you know how to access information, critically evaluate it and apply it.

In this unit, we will look at the kind of assignments that challenge learners to go beyond mere regurgitation of facts. We will look at ways of constructing assignments so that the assignments themselves provide the scaffolding through the course. We will explore options for encouraging collaborative learning while still ensuring that each individual pulls his or her own weight. We will also look at the use of e-portfolios as a teaching and assessment tool.

And finally, we will discuss ways to prevent every educator’s nightmare – plagiarism – from occurring. (Well, at least from occurring often!)


Tick the things you would like to be able to do by the end of this unit:

  1. Discuss the role of assignments in supporting the learning process

  2. Create assignments that enable learners to show what they can do, not what they can’t

  3. Structure an assignment in such a way that it promotes constructive participation in the discussion forum and provides scaffolding for learners

  4. Consider ways that e-portfolios may be useful in your context

  5. Take steps to help prevent plagiarism

  6. Provide constructive feedback to learners on their performance

Use your selected outcomes to help you decide which parts of the unit to focus on in the greatest depth.

Reading and reflection

Click on the following links to access the materials for this unit:

The role of assignments in supporting learning
Building collaboration into assignments
Case study - a collaborative assignment
Giving constructive feedback on assignments
Giving audio feedback via podcasts
Using e-portfolios for assessment
Preventing plagiarism in the digital era