Redesign Final Projects to be Learner-Centered

For my online courses I like to design the final project using a strategy I borrowed from my Creative Commons certification courses. This also plays into strategies I have collected over the years to design and develop more applied and project-based learning activities.

The assessment design uses two “buckets”. They are instructed to pick one activity from each bucket.

Bucket one has a choice of two activities. Normally these are a) building a series of knowledge check questions that I can add to my assessment bank. I only use these for knowledge comprehension. They are required, but not graded; or b) using an annotation tool such as Hypothesis, annotate and add to my annotated course bibliography. I create a one-page Bib with all my course resources broken down into each module. This is in a PDF format that they add to. This bucket is worth 10-40 points depending on the course.

Bucket two has a choice of three activities. Normally these are either a) a 500-word paper that illustrates the basic concepts covered in the course; or b) a presentation using a medium of your choice that illustrates the concepts in the course (infographic, video, audio slide deck, etc.); or c) A self-directed presentation or project. This bucket is worth 25-75 points depending on the course.

This assessment approach plays to the students’ strength. If they feel they are better writers, they may opt for that option. If they feel they are better presenters, they may opt for that option. Given that they can pick the medium I am not limiting their creativity. If they prefer a self-directed activity, they may opt to design and develop something completely different, such as conducting an interview or developing a web site. They need my permission before proceeding with this option.

The key is that the grading rubric must be structured with equity. If a student chooses a paper over a presentation, for example, the rubric language must be tailored to accommodate either. Therefore, I avoid language such as “minimum of 500 words” and choose instead “creative”, “organized”, well-presented”, “original”, “uses proper citations” and so forth.

Robert Gibson, EdD
Emporia State University