Make it personal. Assignments that focus on individual growth and helping others

Online Course Design Pitfall #5: Ignore the ways students learn from each other. 

I try to avoid this pitfall by creating flexible assignments that focus on personalized learning outcomes rather than specific assignment instructions. For example, I create fairly open ended peer reviewed written (paper) assignments and ask students to be sure to demonstrate mastery of course concepts but from there to approach assignments in whatever way will befit them and other students the most. The focus should be on personal and professional growth and adding value to other students learning not getting it “right”. When I receive questions privately (unless it is personal) I ask students to post questions to the Module Q&A Discussion Board so that everyone has the same information. I then typically respond by asking students to do what they think their own and others’ learning the most.

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2 Responses to Make it personal. Assignments that focus on individual growth and helping others

  1. Desiree Tullos says:

    I like the idea of focusing on personal and professional growth, but I struggle with how to evaluate this as an instructor. How do you approach this in an efficient and fair way?

    Also, I may have misunderstood the statement about the value of not evaluating students based on getting it “right,” but I do think that students should be encourage and motivated to pursue correctness in their ideas and approaches. Perhaps it is my disciplinary bias (I am an engineer), where there is sometimes a single right answer, and if not a right answer, then there is at least a right process to reach one of several right answers. Especially in these crazy times, students and the public are exposed to so much information, some of which is objectively wrong. How do we, as instructors, foster students’ confidence in their critical thinking while also emphasizing that information can’t always be interpreted in any way that suits the agenda of the interpreter?

    • David says:

      Great points. In an MBA class academic mastery and personal and professional growth are related but not perfectly aligned. For example, different leadership models are important to different students at different points in their careers. I grade based on demonstrated mastery of course materials and attainment of course learning objectives but also encourage students to focus personal and professional growth over getting an “A”.

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