13 Assessments and Grading

Assessments and Grading

Create an overall assessment plan that sequences a variety of assessment types over the duration of the course.

Consider how you can help guide students’ learning by providing smaller, low stakes “practice” assignments (formative assessments) to help students prepare for the larger, high stakes (summative) assessments. What is the difference between formative and summative assessment? (Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon).  For a list of both formative and summative online activities, see the Online Activity Index from the Illinois Online Network. 

Once you have created your overall assessment plan, clearly indicate how grades will be distributed among the assessments. Indicate how students will receive feedback for their work; options include self-assessment, peer- assessment, or instructor-assessment. Consider using a bit of each option.

Ensure your grading and feedback plan and any accompanying policies are included in your syllabus.

Assignment Guidelines

For any online assignment, students must read all details and instructions on their own, without the benefit of you being present to guide them in real-time about expectations and examples. It can be more difficult for them to seek or get help on even simple questions about how to complete an assignment.

Consider using a transparent assignment framework to structure your assignment details and better support students’ ability to complete the work for your online course. This means providing [1]:

  • Overview
    • Introduce the assignment task and relate it to the recent course concepts and ideas.
  • Purpose
    • Indicate why are we doing this assignment: What do we hope to practice or learn as a result of this activity?
    • Include learning goals or objectives for the assignment.
  • Detailed Instructions
    • Be very explicit and outline each specific step or requirement.
    • Have a student review your instructions to make sure you aren’t missing any critical steps.
  • Assessment Criteria
    • Include a rubric or other clearly articulated evaluation plan (ideally provided to students before they submit the assignment).
    • Clearly indicate your policy for accepting late assignments.
    • Indicate how and when students will be provided with feedback.

Sample Assignment Guidelines

The following are 2 sample guidelines to help you envision what you might include in your own guidelines.

Facilitating effective assignments in Canvas will require the ability to perform functions such as setting up the Canvas gradebook and managing grades, managing student assignment submissions, and uploading grades to PeopleSoft. More information and training on these technical skills can be found at http://it.umn.edu/canvas.


  1. Winkelmes, M.A. (n.d.). TILT Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://tilthighered.com/.

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Guidelines for Online Teaching and Design by TeachingSupport@UMN.edu and Faculty Development for Online Teaching task group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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