Step 2: Learning Assignments

Continuing with Alignment

If learning outcomes are the foundation of learning, then assignments are the walls.

Assignments help to provide structure and support the learning environment.

In this section, we look at ideas for online assignments that can be remote counterparts to your in-class assignments. We’ll also discuss the role of formative assessment.

In order to engage and motivate remote learners, courses have to include interaction and discussion. Remote or online courses are not correspondence courses. When designed well they can offer the same level of quality as a face-to-face classroom setting (Horton, 2012; Miller, 2016; Roediger, McDaniel, & Brown, 2014).

The key is to use various interesting activities that encourage students to absorb the information, apply it, and connect it to their lives.

Aligning Learning Objectives and Activities/Assessments:

Learning objectives play a key role in alignment, and we can use them to help us think about what types of strategies and learning experiences will help our students be successful.

A well written learning objective is measurable, specific, concise and should begin with a specific behavior or action verb that indicates what the students will be able to do.

Here’s an example CLO from a history course:

Analyze the social, economic and political impact of the Silk Road, the Indian Ocean maritime system, the trans-Saharan caravan routes, and the Mongol invasion on the eastern hemisphere.

How does identifying this action verb help us?

Each action verb aligns with a type of activity that promotes learning and student motivation. In our CLO example, the action verb was Analyze, which aligns well with activities that ask students to discriminate between different pieces, determine how they function together, or determine underlying intent in the material.

Let’s take a look at an example of how this might translate into an activity:

CLO: Analyze the social, economic and political impact of the Silk Road, the Indian Ocean maritime system, the trans-Saharan caravan routes, and the Mongol invasion on the eastern hemisphere.

Aligned Activity: Create a timeline of events for each of the cultures, allowing students to determine how each of the cultures influences and functions together.

Misaligned Activity: Define and recall the dates of important events for the Mongolian invasion.

Here are more examples of how action verbs can be translated into meaningful activities and assessments:

Type of learning objective
Examples of appropriate assessments/activities


Objective test items such as fill-in-the-blank, matching, labeling, or multiple-choice questions that require students to:

  • recall or recognize terms, facts, and concepts


Activities such as papers, exams, problem sets, class discussions, or concept maps that require students to:

  • summarize readings, films, or speeches
  • compare and contrast two or more theories, events, or processes
  • classify or categorize cases, elements, or events using established criteria
  • paraphrase documents or speeches
  • find or identify examples or illustrations of a concept or principle


Activities such as problem sets, performances, labs, prototyping, or simulations that require students to:

  • use procedures to solve or complete familiar or unfamiliar tasks
  • determine which procedure(s) are most appropriate for a given task


Activities such as case studies, critiques, labs, papers, projects, debates, or concept maps that require students to:

  • discriminate or select relevant and irrelevant parts
  • determine how elements function together
  • determine bias, values, or underlying intent in presented material


Activities such as journals, diaries, critiques, problem sets, product reviews, or studies that require students to:

  • test, monitor, judge, or critique readings, performances, or products against established criteria or standards


Activities such as research projects, musical compositions, performances, essays, business plans, website designs, or set designs that require students to:

  • make, build, design or generate something new

(Adapted from the Eberly Center)

Here are some more great resources for Bloom’s Taxonomy and alignment: (an interactive chart)

Formative Assessment

Many activities can also be used as a method of formative assessment.

Unlike final tests and exams (summative assessment), formative assessments are quick short knowledge checks designed to measure the current level of achieved knowledge ( Horton, 2012; Miller, 2016; Roediger, McDaniel, & Brown, 2014 ). They come in all shapes and sizes, from reflection questions to a couple of multiple choice questions at the end of a module.

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor or inform you about how well students are currently doing. It is an instructional technique that is used during the learning process in order to improve teaching and help identify areas of opportunity. Typically speaking, formative assessments are low stakes and may not count for a lot of points.

Here are a few examples:
  • Discussion questions
  • Concept maps to represent their understanding of a topic
  • Short summaries clarifying what they know about a topic
  • Turning in research proposals early for feedback
  • Podcasts
  • Blogs
  • Group Projects
  • Video Projects
  • Student Peer Review
  • Self-Assessment
  • Case Studies
  • Essays

When designing your course, be sure to include several types of formative assessment. These will help both you and your students succeed.

Resources for further investigation:

MERLOT Journal for Online Learning & Teaching – download this pdf article: Online Assessment Strategies A Primer.pdf

This elearning website on assessment:

Great Videos on Formative Assessment

While this video focuses on using Apps for formative assessment, it’s tips are universal and great for online students!

Embedded Video Player: 3 Tips for Great Formative Assessment

3 Tips for Great Formative Assessment

n/a – Added: 7/12/16

So why use formative assessment? Take a look at this video for more:

Embedded Video Player: Rick Wormeli: Formative and Summative Assessment

Rick Wormeli: Formative and Summative Assessment

n/a – Added: 11/30/10

Activity: Learning Assignments

Using the above video as a guide, continue working through your alignment chart.

If you need another copy of the handout, you can download one below.


Horton, W. K. (2012). E-learning by design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Miller, M. D. (2016). Minds online: Teaching effectively with technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Roediger, H. L., McDaniel, M. A., & Brown, P. C. (2014). Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Harvard University Press.

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