Assignments & Assessments

an image of a paper being graded and coffee

“The second-best way to grade exams” by ilmungo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Positive distance learning experiences for adult learners requires real-world practice and feedback, critical thinking throughout the curriculum, and collaboration and inquiry with faculty.


As a degree granting institution our greatest concern is that our graduates develop a specific set of skills and abilities. The college’s outcomes-based degree programs and curriculum:

• Provide standards to be met in demonstrating competence;
• Form a base from which to design and pursue learning activities; and
• Foster the ability to demonstrate self-directed learning

In addition to individual student assessment and grading, learning outcomes assessment is conducted in all programs to ensure the quality of our programs and to prompt ongoing improvements in teaching and learning.


At all levels and in all of our programs, we provide opportunities for students to learn to:

  • Communicate: To successfully receive and deliver messages through a variety of means (such as verbal, non-verbal, written, and visual) using the appropriate tools and practices for a given professional or community-based situation.
  • Think Critically and Comprehensively: To effectively collect, evaluate, and analyze information; define problems; make judgments; and draw conclusions that matter in real-world settings.
  • Apply Knowledge to Workplace and Community: To engage with diverse individuals, groups, or cultural frameworks; develop solutions to shared challenges; and reflect on professional practice and community engagement.
  • Gain Specialized Knowledge: To use essential frameworks, research methods, and professional practices of a field or discipline to further personal and professional growth.


To examine the College’s effectiveness in providing an environment that facilitates the acquisition of skills and knowledge and the enhancement of lifelong learning, the college has developed an institution-wide assessment program. The program includes the assessment of student achievement of broad educational outcomes as well as specific program and course outcomes. Additionally, the program provides an examination of the effectiveness of teaching and learning environments as well as services that support learning.

The goal of the assessment process is to provide meaningful information that leads to continuous program improvement and enhanced educational services for adults.


Assignments and assessments that clearly align with course learning outcomes, allow for student choice and discovery, and provide clear and iterative opportunities for learning and real-world application are all part of course designs that strive toward teaching and student success. The following resources are intended to help faculty at GSC develop and refine assignments and assessments for a high-quality learning experience.

When developing assignments, a Backward Design approach (Wiggins & McTighe) can help students demonstrate learning in a way that is intentionally linked to learning outcomes and assessment strategies. When planning your course, it can be helpful to explore:

  • What do we want our students to know?
  • How will we know when students know it and how can we help them enhance learning?
  • How will students known when they know it, and can it be applied?
  • What types of assignments can best facilitate and demonstrate student learning outcomes?

In addition, assignments should strive to be:

  • Strategically spaced to allow for formative feedback and student growth
  • Varied to allow for multiple means of expression
  • Relevant to learning outcomes and transfer knowledge into application
  • Accurate in terms of expectations, due dates, and how performance will be assessed

Read How First Assignment Helps Establish Expectations (Faculty Focus Article)


Using a Backward Design approach to identify how we will know when course / program learning outcomes have been met can be helpful. In addition, assessments should be:

  • Tied directly to course and program learning outcomes
  • Varied to allow for multiple means of assessment
  • Ecologically valid (they mirror what learners will be expected to do in real life with the knowledge)
  • Accurate in terms of how students will be assessed, with use rubrics that have clear criterion for competencies and grades

Learn more about assessments with Matt Rhoads and Bonni Stachowiak’s free OER book and the chapter on Assessing Learning.


Instructional Approaches to Streamline Grading for Student Success

  • Iterative Assignments: assignments that build upon one another and are strategically spaced allow for consistent and formative feedback. This approach encourages student growth and also reduces the need for high-stakes assignments toward the end of the semester.  
  • Varied Assessments: Using multiple means of assessment throughout the term can help students and faculty understand their academic progress earlier in the semester.
  • Rubrics: Rubrics provide a concrete and descriptive summary of grading for students, and they help streamline the process and save time.
  • Final Assignments & Reflections: When final assignments are due early in the last week of the course (e.g., Tuesday), there is more time for faculty grading and engaging activities that help students reflect on their own growth, learning, and application.
  • Learn from Other Faculty: Many of our faculty include iterative assignments, rubrics, and engaging final activities as a way to streamline grading and create a quality learning experience for our students. 
  • Work with the Instructional Design (ID) Team: We are fortunate to have a group of experts in instructional design who help our faculty evaluate and develop effective course design. Contact the ID Team Today.

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