Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rethinking Homework for Online/Blended Learning

Our blogger today is Heather Hart, a math teacher at Center Grove High School.

I am excited to write a short blog regarding Online/Blended Assessments and Canvas in Mathematics. I am currently teaching and developing an online statistics course for Center Grove Global Campus. I teach at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana. My Probability and Statistics Course will be offered this summer statewide for secondary students to explore statistics and receive course credit. Currently, I am teaching this course in a blended format in my classroom. Students work on laptops to complete the lessons (modules), and I facilitate small group discussions and provide feedback to students regarding their work. It is a great opportunity for students to get their feet wet in the online world. Rethinking Homework for Online/Blended Learning: A struggle I have had in developing the course is rethinking what homework means. I have been a classroom teacher for 16 years and I am accustomed to teaching the lesson and giving a worksheet or a textbook assignment to reinforce the concepts just taught. In the online world, paper submissions of worksheets and textbook assignments are no longer applicable. This new way of learning has forced me to be more creative in assigning work, taking into consideration that student’s work will need to be easily uploaded into Canvas, our new LMS for grading. I’ve also taken a more project-based approach in the types of work I assign. Here are some examples of what I have assigned.

1. My students were asked to create histograms on their graphing calculators. I created a an online activity with data sets for them to analyze using their calculators. After the students created the histogram, they were told to take a picture of their graphing calculator window and paste it into the document. The students then uploaded their completed activity into Canvas for easy grading. Example:
2. I have found many interactive sites for students to participate in discovery learning and reinforce and practice concepts. Students are often asked to take screen shots of their computer screens to prove they have completed a task. They can paste their screen shots into a word document and upload it into Canvas for easy grading. For the below task students were to visit the website: and view the interactive lesson on Box Plots and then answer the 10 questions following the lesson. After the student completed the questions, they were given instant feedback based on their responses. Here is an example of what one student submitted:
3. I have created a few interactive assignments for the students to complete as well using a tool as simple as Microsoft Word. I included an elementary example to show you the concept. Students will access the Word document through Canvas. They will click and drag the answers to the correct question. In essence, this is a neat online way to do a matching activity to reinforce the necessary skill. After the students have matched up the questions to the correct answers they will save the document on their computers and upload it into Canvas for me to grade. Take a look:
4. The students that have access to iPads can complete their assignments using different annotation apps. I personally like neu.annotate which is available from the app store. They will be able to open the file (PDF) in this app and annotate with their stylus to show all of their work. Then they save their document and submit it within Canvas.
5. Students were asked to create a presentation displaying and interpreting their results from a statistical study they performed. This was a summative assessment to our first unit. Students are unbelievably creative when taking ownership in their learning and creating. Below are a few slides from one project that was submitted.
Grading on Canvas Students submit all of their work online, so I needed to throw away my red pens and learn how to give feedback to students online. Ongoing communication to the students is vital to their success and willingness to continue with the course. I have found that using the rubric feature in Canvas allows me to comment on every question if I choose to. I can even save comments that I seem to be making frequently so that I don’t have to type the same thing over and over again. I set up the rubric to have as many criteria as there are questions. I name the criteria the question number and assign the amount of points that question is worth. Take a look at the rubric that I created for our first project.
This is what it looks like when I am grading the project in canvas:
Notice that I can write a comment for each question and assign how many points they earned for each question. Canvas will even total the points together for you! Say goodbye to your red pens and calculators!
I am constantly looking for creative ideas to assess student’s knowledge in the online setting. I believe in engaging and exciting students in Mathematics in the face-to-face classroom and in the online classroom. I want to continue to create assignments/assessments that keep the students interest in new exciting ways. Please share your ideas with me!! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, or if you would like to brainstorm together

The Challenge
If you are already having your students submit assignments through your LMS or are doing some blended learning, share what you are doing in the comments section. If not, try it out. Start small and try partnering with some other teachers at your school who are interested in doing this. If you do not have an LMS at your school you can sign up for a free Canvas account here.


  1. Heather, what exciting examples you've demonstrated. Your statistics course is truly unique with your project-based approach. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights!

  2. Heather, I can tell you work hard at finding good quality math activities and assessments. From experience, I know that can be tough sometimes. Good job on creating such a wide variety of things for the students to experience. And thanks for sharing with me some ideas!

  3. My school is just starting to use Canvas. We are all in the process of creating Canvas pages for our courses. Thank you for the guidance!