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COVID-19 has clearly changed our classrooms—from social distancing and mask-wearing to dual-mode delivery. But how has COVID-19 changed our courses? 

In the following blog post, Judy Ableser of Oakland University recognizes COVID-19 as a relevant, meaningful, and authentic learning opportunity and advocates incorporating it into our courses via intentionally designed assignments and assessments.

Authentic Assignments- Applying COVID-19 into your Courses

By Judy Ableser

We don’t know how this coming year will play itself out, yet we do know that COVID-19 will continue to impact our teaching, learning and life for some time to come.  Consider creating authentic assignments that directly connect your course’s learning outcomes to COVID-19. Authentic Assignments provide rich, meaningful and relevant opportunities in any discipline connected to COVID-19.

Authentic Assignments/Assessments

  • Relevant, meaningful, practical assignments that connect “real-life” situations to the course content
  • Engaging and interesting learning experiences 
  • Authentic Assessments directly measure students’ performance through “real life tasks” or “situations” that resemble “real life situations” (Wiggins, Grant. (1998). Ensuring authentic performance. Chapter 2 in Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 21 – 42.)
  • Often used synonymously with “alternative assessments” or “performance assessments”
  • Examples often include demonstrations, debates, field work, simulations, problem solving
  • Align with learning outcomes of course

How are Authentic Assignments different then Teachable Moments-  teachable moments are unplanned opportunities that arise due to a situation in which the instructors turns the experience into a learning opportunity.  Authentic assignments are planned experiences incorporating “real life” situations into the assessments.  

How to create an Authentic Assessment relating to COVID-19

  1. Begin by designing your course’s learning outcomes as you normally would.
  2. Create Authentic Assignments that align your learning outcomes with COVID-19 topics, issues and themes.  Be creative.  Be interesting.  Be relevant.
  3. Develop rubrics or marking schemes for your authentic assignment.
  4. Introduce and discuss COVID-19 as it relates to your course with your students
  5. Provide current resources and references on COVID-19 for your students to use in their assignments.
  6. Plan for additional “marking time”.  Using the rubric will help make your marking more efficient and effective but will require more time than giving a “traditional test”

Examples of Authentic Assessments relating to COVID-19 by discipline

  • Math- have students predict the spread of the virus based on current trends and statistics. 
  • History- compare previous pandemics to this one. 
  • Biology- analyze and compare the Coronavirus with influenza or other illnesses
  • Chemistry- explore and analyze research being done  vaccinations and treatments for COVID-19
  • Communication and Journalism- analyze different news coverage of the illness.
  • Psychology- have students interview others (virtually) about their stress and coping mechanisms. 
  • Business- analyze the economic impact of COVID-19
  • Nursing- develop strategies to support dying patients and their families when they cannot be together due to COVID-19
  • Nursing- analyze the threat to COVID-19 spread when limited PPE and how to address and reduce the threat
  • Public Health- analyze CDC updates and predictions
  • Social Work- develop strategies and interventions to help reduce domestic abuse due to stress and “stay home orders” during COVID-19
  • Engineering- develop plan for transitioning from building automotive parts to building ventilators
  • Additional Resource with some great ideas- Transforming COVID-19 into Learning Activities  (developed by Nanda Dimitrov Centre for Educational Excellence * Simon Fraser University)

* Today’s blog comes from the 2020-2021 Teaching Messages Collection, a collaboration of over 30 institutions of higher-education. This post is written by Judy Ableser, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Oakland University.*

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