Online Teaching - Short 'Free Writes'

Teaching Online, 101: A Guide for History Department Instructors 
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Overview Basic Communications Lectures Discussions Assessments

It is common in history classes to use small, low-stakes assignments to help drive critical student engagement with readings, lectures and key course questions.

In many ways this overlaps with the pedagogical goals of group or class discussions--but in order to create variety and encourage individual accountability, it is nice to have the small free-write in one's arsenal as well.

There are many ways the small free-write can be implemented in an online setting. One could use a Canvas Assignment or Quiz. However, we recommend that the easiest way to do this would be through a Canvas Discussion.

You can find the basics for Canvas Discussions here: Tutorial - Canvas Discussion Board

In that tutorial, our advice is geared toward free-form, interactive online discussions. However, you can redirect the Discussion into the form of an individual free-write by tweaking just a few settings.

In particular, when creating your Discussion:

  • Uncheck "Threaded Replies" (unless you want students to be able to comment on their peers' posts)
  • Check "Users must post before seeing replies" - this will ensure that students have to submit their own, individualized response to your original question
  • Check "Graded" (assuming you want to hold students accountable for submitting a response)