• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


New Kinds of Assignments

Making a virtue of necessity.

October 1, 2020

Sometimes I really miss the comments section. This is one of those times.

In a meeting earlier this week, a professor mentioned that they have had to tweak their grading schemes to reflect remote delivery. In the remote context, they mentioned that reliance on exams can be particularly problematic -- proctoring is a major issue -- so they’re shifted the weight of assignments to give more weight to other activities. We’re only a few weeks into the semester, but so far the results seem promising.

That struck me as a terrific idea, and it got me wondering what kinds of alterations other people are making to the graded assignments in their classes.

For example, someone else mentioned that they’ve started having students create mock podcasts in lieu of one of the usual short papers. They’ve been pleased with the results and report that the students really take to it.

I liked these ideas for two reasons. The first is that they make sense (and the podcast one strikes me as especially fun). The second is that they make a virtue of necessity. Instead of just trying to recreate what was done before, albeit in a slightly less satisfying way, they’re taking advantage of Zoom and virtual delivery to do things that might not have worked as well in a traditional classroom.

Normally, I’d end this piece by asking my wise and worldly readers how they’ve changed their graded assignments in light of the pandemic. But that requires a second step now, so I’ll specify venues. If you’ve come up with -- or have seen someone else come up with -- a nifty way to make a virtue of necessity, please respond on Twitter (I’m @deandad) or via email at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ll be happy to share some really good ones in a future post.


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