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2017-18 Teaching and Learning Excellence Division Calendar

Sustainable Assignments for Student Engagement and Meaningful Learning

One of the goals of teaching and learning excellence is to create engaging learning experiences for students. Traditional assignments typically end when they are graded. Sustainable assignments, on the other hand, can provide meaningful learning experiences that last beyond the classroom. Also known as non-disposable assignments, sustainable assignments can be used to teach a skill, build relationships, invite engagement, and add value to the world (Wiley, 2013). Sustainable assignments are considered a part of open pedagogy and are meant to be shared.

How do we design sustainable assignments for student engagement? How do we share them for impact beyond the classroom? We will explore a different sustainable assignment each month and share strategies and resources for implementing them in the classroom through this webpage.

SOURCE: Wiley, D. “What is Open Pedagogy?” iterating toward openness, 21 October 2013, Accessed 1 Mar. 2017.


Write a case study

Students can apply research techniques to create case studies on a specific topic or problem. This type of project can be semester long and done individually or in a group. Case studies give students an opportunity to practice research and analytical writing skills.

Share examples of case studies and review some resources for doing research to help them get started. To engage students, challenge them to tackle an issue that is important to them. Students can share their perspectives on issues or problems affecting them, their communities, or the world. Sharing your students’ case studies online via a website offers the potential for impact beyond the classroom. Future students can add their own case studies to the website.

To read some examples of case studies, visit the Open Case Studies project at the University of British Columbia:


Design a game

Students, individually or in a group, can design their own games based on what they are learning from the course materials. Encourage creativity in their choices of different technologies and delivery formats for their games.

To share the games, build an online space with all the games categorized by type or the course materials they cover. Games can also be rated in terms of usefulness and/or difficulty. Future students can build new games and re-design games from previous semesters.

Visit an example of a game created by students: View additional examples from the OER Commons online:


Create a digital learning object

Digital learning objects are instructional components that are reusable and shareable. Digital learning objects can be videos, podcasts, or other types of media. Digital learning objects are only limited by the imagination.

Students can create a digital learning object to explain a concept or idea. Subsequent classes can update previous digital learning objects or build their own to add to the collection. Instructors can share them through a class website to make them available for future students and interested communities.

Read about Dr. Simon Bates experience with having his students create learning objects:


Develop an online textbook

An online textbook may sound intimidating, but when you share the work with your students it can be a positive learning experience for everyone. An advantage is the ability to tailor the textbook to your course learning outcomes. Also, the cost of your online open textbook can be considerably lower than a traditional textbook, or even free.

Use your online textbook just as you would any other textbook. Online open textbooks are meant to be shared, updated, and reused by others. Future classes can update the textbook as needed. Additional resources, such as multimedia content, can also be created to be a part of the textbook.

Read Robin DeRosa's blog post "My Open Textbook: Pedagogy and Practice" that describes her experience developing an online textbook:


Produce a tutorial

Tutorials can come in different types of formats such as text, video, and audio. Videos in particular continue to be a popular medium, because there are so many different ways to record and share.

Provide guidelines for creating the tutorial, but allow students the freedom to choose their topic, the design, and delivery method. If creating videos, advise your students to keep them short, to check the lighting, and to capture high quality audio. A popular option for sharing a collection of videos is through a YouTube channel.


Compile a question bank

A question bank is a large collection of questions created from course materials to build assessments. When students create their own questions, they are taking ownership of their own learning process. Review examples based on a rubric to help students create appropriate questions. Students can work individually or in a group.

Choose the best questions to use in exams, quizzes, discussions and other types of assessments. Don’t limit the process to one semester. New students can add their own questions and/or revise those already in the bank. As course materials are updated, do the same for the question bank.

Read about Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani's experience with having students create a question bank:

MARCH 2018

Build an assignment bank

Students can create their own assignments based on predetermined criteria. Before submission, students can review classmates’ assignments to offer feedback and suggestions for improvement. Introduce your students to different examples of assignments to help them get started.

Assignments can be rated for difficulty and time on task needed for completion. Share the assignment bank through an online searchable database. As with the question bank, new students can add their own assignments and/or revise those already in the bank.

View assignments for DS106, a digital storytelling course, created by students:

Read more about the history of DS106:

APRIL 2018

Generate a Wikipedia entry project

Wikipedia allows users to submit entries that can be updated by other users. A wiki entry project is a group of users who contribute to a specific topic. Contributions are vetted through Wikipedia's submission process.

Review the Wikipedia format and submission process with your students. Choose a topic of focus and create a rubric to guide peer feedback. If accepted, your students’ articles will be available on Wikipedia. Future students can review and update previous classmates’ articles and/or create their own to contribute and keep the project going beyond the course.

Read about how The University of British Columbia's class SPAN312 -- "Murder, Madness, and Mayhem: Latin American Literature in Translation" created a Wiki Project.

MAY 2018

Launch a course website

Course websites can be a dynamic resource for your students that can be designed to be useful beyond a semester. Use a variety of mediums to share materials. Invite your students to give input on what should be added to the course website.

Move beyond just posting your syllabus and assignments. Create opportunities for interaction like enabling comments for feedback on posted materials or open a discussion board for questions. A course website can also serve to help you reflect on your teaching goals and learning outcomes.

JUNE 2018

Organize a student conference

A student conference is a great way to culminate the semester and showcase your students’ work. Additionally, students get the opportunity to expose their ideas to real-world feedback. Students can help with organizing the conference and spreading the word to their peers and communities.

Use streaming technologies to open the conference to a wider audience. Post your students’ posters and papers online to widen the circle of sharing and raise their chances of impact outside the classroom. Create a toolkit to share with others on how to organize a conference and make it available online.

JULY 2018

Publish an article

Drafting an article can be a semester length project that culminates in submission for publication. Teach your students about the publishing, researching, and writing process. Students can research and write their articles individually or as a group on a chosen topic.

Provide a rubric to guide their writing. Create a list of possible journals for submission. While acceptance is not guaranteed, the class can create an online website to self-publish their written articles and invite feedback from outside of the classroom. Subsequent courses can add their own articles to keep building the collection.


Collect legacy advice

Legacy advice is tips and materials that your students share regarding their course experience. Advice can be anything from what’s important to study and/or how much study time the course may require. For current students, the legacy advice can help guide them to be successful in the course. Future students can use the legacy advice to decide if the course is right for them.

Legacy advice can be collected in a variety of forms such as short videos, text and audio. Students can also post reflections on their course experiences through blog posts. Create a central online open space, like a course webpage, to upload the collected advice and make it available to those interested.

View what students had to say about their experience with DS106, a digital storytelling course: