Tips for Homework Assignments

    • Create Application Assignments  

Create assignments that require students to apply essential course concepts to a relevant problem. This may force students to seek relevant information beyond the assigned readings and lectures, and to conduct independent research by identifying credible sources to support the development of their assignments. Students can be required to report their progress on a regular basis through email or a shared Google doc. This documentation makes it easier for faculty to see the development of a student’s work from inception to completion, and possibly identify unexplained gaps that could occur if students used the work of others and claimed it as their own. Faculty can add input at any point in this process to provide guidance, and perhaps suggest new directions for students. Both documentation of progress through regular status reporting and occasional faculty input can add a greater level of scrutiny to students, making it more difficult to pass off the work of others as their own.

    • Create Group Assignments  
      Create group assignments that require students to interact with group members regularly (there are various ways to do this in the Titanium/Canvas). Groups can be made responsible for determining the functional roles for each member, establishing a mechanism for accountability (i.e., submitting weekly progress reports), and sharing drafts of individual progress on a group project. For a project to be truly collaborative, each group member should be familiar with everyone else’s work, and be able to describe how every group members’ contribution supports the whole group assignment. Students who are using the work of others may not be able to adequately describe the significance of their ‘own’ work, or how it integrates with the group’s overall project.
    • Create Assignments that Require Presentations  
      Faculty can use the web conferencing tool, Zoom, to conduct a synchronous online session for class presentations. Students may be asked to submit a progress report to reflect on what they have learned in the past week that supports work toward the presentation. To further scrutinize work on the presentation, students may be asked to include time for questions and answers. Students who have developed the presentation should be comfortable answering a range of topic-related questions. Another option is to add a VoiceThread activity in the Canvas/Titanium that requires students to engage in an asynchronous discussion.
    • Check for Plagiarism using Turnitin  
       Turnitin is a plagiarism prevention tool that detects matches between students’ submitted assignments and existing works by others.
    • Use Discussion Assignments
       Create a Discussion Board/Forum assignment that requires students to demonstrate critical thinking skills by responding to a relevant forum topic. Create a rubric that gives very specific instructions on what the student needs to address and how they are to address those items in the forum assignment. Having assignments that are very specific makes it more difficult for students to use portions of a previous term paper or other sources that may only indirectly touch on the Discussion Board topic. 
  • Identify your new expectations for students: You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.


  • Create a more detailed communications plan: Once you have more details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, remote office hours, etc.). A useful communication plan also lets students know how soon they can expect a reply. They will have many questions, so try to figure out how you want to manage that.