Center for Teaching and Learning

online assignments


August 25, 2020

Why choose asynchronous?

person working on laptop

By Aimee Kelly, Reed Garber-Pearson, and Sara Vannini, UW Integrated Social Sciences

Since February 2020, most classes around the globe have moved online. Higher education is preparing for continued online and hybrid models of instruction and learning going forward. With this move, a number of resources to help instructors convert their classes to the digital environment have emerged.

We want to advocate for examining course design more critically. What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous? Why should instructors choose one or the other?


Strategies for successful asynchronous courses

person working on laptop

By Aimee Kelly, Reed Garber-Pearson, Sara Vannini, UW Integrated Social Sciences

A well-developed asynchronous learning experience usually requires significant work before the quarter begins. It is critical to align the overall course objectives, the individual lesson objectives, and associated course materials and assignments to create a coherent structure.

Establishing a “pattern” or a predictable flow of content, assignments, and associated due dates is another crucial component. Without transparent course objectives and a predictable flow of materials students can struggle identifying what they need to be doing and when, and as a result, may miss assignments or find it difficult to make sense of the course content.


Take-away strategies for asynchronous online learning

By Aimee Kelly, Reed Garber-Pearson, Sara Vannini, UW Integrated Social Sciences

Take-away strategies for asynchronous online learning from the Integrated Social Sciences Program. Including: thinking about your lessons in terms of a flipped classroom environment, designing a space to foster social learning and community building, and working on your instructor presence.


May 28, 2020

Teaching Spanish: A multi-day “finale” instead of a final exam

Samuel Jaffee, UW Spanish & Portuguese Studies

By Samuel Jaffee, Spanish & Portuguese Studies 

This spring quarter I’m teaching Spanish 302 and Spanish 303, both of which guide students in developing writing strategies in Spanish (creative fiction, business letters, reportage, argument and counterargument, and literary and visual analysis). In lieu of a final exam, both classes will enjoy a multi-day “finale.”

My Spanish 302 students are collaborating during Week 10 on synchronous debates (using Zoom, with a mix of speaking and writing). These debates are design-centered and inquiry-based activities that ask students to engage critically with current events and rely on the skills built during the course.

Students in Spanish 303, will collaborate one day synchronously (on Zoom, mostly speaking) and one day asynchronously (in writing, via Canvas Discussions) on creative activities that allow students to rethink, rewrite, and build upon four stories read in the second part of the quarter, in order to make the characters’ identities and lives experientially real.

Both these design-centered activities encompass methodologies that democratize learning for the current generation and make the class a lot more dynamic. After all, who wants to learn Spanish in order to take an exam?


April 23, 2020

Teaching physics: Videos instead of midterms

person working on tablet

By Peter Selkin, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Tacoma.

For the past two quarters, I’ve used an approach based on an idea adapted from Andy Rundquist, a physics professor at Hamline University in Minnesota. Instead of a midterm and a final (and in addition to weekly content quizzes), students submit short videos walking the viewer through solutions to physics problems of their choice. Overall, I have been impressed by the solutions students — including those who are struggling in other aspects of the course — submit. Even if the students are getting help from other sources, I see their ability to explain their work on a video as a demonstration of their knowledge.


April 21, 2020

Math in the time of coronavirus

math problem on white board

By Jennifer Quinn, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at UW Tacoma 

The COVID-19 viral disruption affects us all, particularly our most vulnerable citizens. It’s vital to find ways to connect our students and humanize this unprecedented and isolating experience.

These days I’m trying to worry less about the integrity of online examinations and the quality of online content — and think more about the people. I start by assuming students’ best intentions.