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Tips for Effective Digital Assignments

September 2, 2021 by ProofreadingPal in Essays

In my previous post, I reviewed some common types of digital assignments: screencast videos, video essays, websites, infographics, podcasts, and annotated collections of resources. These assignments are both practical for remote/online learning and help students learn, review, and demonstrate knowledge of content in newer, more innovative ways. In today’s post, I will discuss some tips to complete such assignments more effectively.

Be a Student, Not a YouTuber

When I started thinking more about digital assignments, problems with video essays came to mind right away. Too often, video essayists present themselves as YouTubers, not as serious students in their field. If a video essay is for your own personal use and enjoyment, use whatever tone and language you like. But if the assignment is for school, consider the audience. Do not start an academic video with, “Hey, guys! I hope you like my video,” or speak to the camera like your pals are on the other end. Use language similar to what you would use in a written paper, unless otherwise directed by your instructor.

With any digital assignment, follow steps similar to those you would  follow for a traditional assignment like a paper. Read the assignment carefully and make sure you understand it fully, plan your process, ensure your argument is solid, conduct thorough research, write the text of your video using appropriate language, revise and proofread, and document your sources.

Digital assignments are meant to stimulate your brain in new ways and to be highly engaging, but they are still serious work, so treat them as such.

Use Quality Resources

As with any assignment involving research, make sure to use good resources. Your instructor may specify types and quantities of sources to use; make sure to follow those guidelines. Remember, when selecting sources, just because an assignment must be completed using a computer does not mean the sources you use must all be digital, such as online books, articles, and reports. Visit the brick-and-mortar library and use real books and journals too. When you do use online sources, make sure they are of high quality. The information you get from a website or blog often comes attached to an agenda and may not be the most credible, informed, and unbiased account available.

Practice Your Best Learning Habits

When completing any assignments, digital or otherwise, you always need a few general skills such as mindful self-discipline, goal setting, and time management. Digital assignments necessitate sitting in front of the computer, often using the distracting internet. So when completing a digital assignment with heavy computer use, it is especially important to plan—and stick to a plan —to avoid going down the internet rabbit hole of distraction.

Understand the Technology You Use

I am quite used to the way Microsoft Office works, and when I first used Google Docs I found it a little tricky to navigate the menus and find needed tools. Writing students of mine also struggled with Google Docs tools, and at first turned in work littered with spelling errors. I could not figure it out. Sure, they were bad spellers, but this was ridiculous spelling. It turned out spelling errors were not being highlighted because the feature was not being switched on, and so my students thought there was nothing to fix.

It is easy to get used to one type of software and expect other programs you use to function the same way, and thus you may fail, at first. Because many digital assignments will involve using a new program, browser extension, and the like, you many find yourself in new technological territory.

When I started using Loom to make short videos for students, it took quite a few tries to produce a decent-quality presentation. Should you have a new modality in which to operate for an assignment, taking some time to practice before starting on your official assignment can save you considerable time in the long run, as you are less likely to have to start over repeatedly if you already know what you are doing.

Remember, digital assignments can be especially engaging and more “fun” than traditional papers, but do not get carried away with the fun and lose sight of the more serious, academic purpose of  the task at hand.

Sarah P.

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