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Why is it important to know how to finish a project when you’ve only just started? It’s a combination of project management and assessment. 

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Topic: Project Management and Assessment


Email 3 (of 9)


Why is it important to know how to finish a project when you’ve only just started? It’s a combination of project management and assessment.

 
Our second lesson, “Project Management and Assessment” asks you to consider how you can incorporate virtual check-ins and feedback loops to support student learning. The most important thing you can do for online project-based learning is to start your project with a clear idea for how you will manage how students submit work to you and to their peers, how they talk to you and each other, and how their work will be assessed.


Imagine you’re a backpacker getting ready for a trip to scale a mountain. 


What would you need to do to get ready? You would probably research and identify the best route, pack and re-pack your backpack with all the necessary supplies, and maybe talk with others who had successfully summited before you. 

Embarking on leading an online project is a lot like this. You need to mark out your path ahead of time, and know what sorts of challenges and obstacles you are likely to confront. As your students’ guide, you need to plan the way to the end before you set foot on the mountain. This email’s lesson is all about considering the most important tools you will need to make that journey successful for you and your students.

Activity #1: Make a plan with three tools and/or routines that you will use to assess students learning

 

Activity Notes:


The purpose of this activity is to have you make a plan for systematizing assessment of online student learning using familiar tools and easily managed routines.


Considerations for creating your assessment plan:

  • Organize your Contacts so that your students are matched within small groups so that you can quickly check-up on individual students through email
     
  • Make your life easier by building from what you know and already use
     
  • When you introduce a new communication strategy, provide scaffolding and explicit teaching so that you and students can master this skill to use it effectively in the project

Activity #2: Draft an introductory email that sets up norms for your student contact groups

 


Activity Notes:


The purpose of this activity is to have you think about how to utilize groups of students to manage your online project. Groups are important and helpful regardless of the type of project you design for your students. When designing online projects, the group serves as a community for check-in and critique.


Considerations for drafting your email:

  • Consider groupings of 3-4 students so that they are provided enough options for connecting with each other without it being overwhelming. This also makes it easier for students to remain accountable because the group is not too large. 
     
  • Have students select group roles to streamline communication with your students and empower students. Group leaders can provide weekly updates to you on each person’s progress, and flag any issues that arise.
     
  • Create simple assessment routines so that students can easily learn the technique and apply it when they give feedback. For example, use one or two binary statements for each step that can be completed in a checklist or use the same communication structure each time. 
     
  • Make sure students know to include you in your email threads. 
This is the part of the emails where I start talking in the first person and tell you all the cool things I did in my project “Happy Science” that exemplify this email’s subject area.


I already use a lot of digital assignment submission with my in-person classroom, so my plan was to build on what we were already doing by continuing to use Google Docs/Drive, Gmail, and Google Forms. 


 
I organized all of the project activities and assignments into a single Google Doc with a full table of contents for the work they would do in the project. I likened this to a “Digital Project Binder.” I had students add assignments throughout the project and send one email every week with their document linked. In their email, I asked students to include a note about any missing assignments and what challenges or questions they had. I had to put a little energy into organizing my “digital filebox” (e.g. my Google Drive), but I tried to keep it really simple. I just created Class Folders to organize students’ works and made sure my students had consistent titles for their digital project binders (“Untitled” documents are useful for exactly no one).
 
For more complicated assignments like the reading logs for complex texts, I created an assignment submission form. The form is awesome for analyzing class trends, because it populates a spreadsheet so I can organize submissions by student name, and look across different parts of the form to see where students were having difficulty with the week’s readings.

Resources

The resources for this section consist of samples that you can reference to help you complete the activities in this lesson. You can review these materials in full by going to the course landing page.

 
 

Sample Assignment Submission Form
Google Forms can be used as digital worksheets to guide students for multi-step assignment prompts.

 

Sample Group Email
This email introduces online group structures to a small group of students to help create accountability and regular feedback loops.

Next Steps

You’re at the end of this section of the course! Check your inbox for the next email.

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