Renewable Assignments: Learning Activities

Renewable Assignments


One of our goals, in the open umbrella, is for practitioners to see, collect and share examples of promising practices that they have used in a hybrid setting. Inspired by [David Wiley’s idea of Renewable Assignments](, we want these educators who consult the open umbrella to engage meaningfully with the work, contribute there expertise and add value to the collection. This renewable assignment is about learning activities. It is an opportunity for educators who are competing this course, to build upon past work. Renewable assignments are possible because of the permission to engage in the [5R activities]( granted by open educational resources (OER).

Your task

We want to contribute towards the collection of "renewable assignments". In this section of the open umbrella, we will be looking at various learning activities. Your task is to read through the given examples of learning activities (whether submitted by myself or other contributors) and

  1. Comment on whether the author of the activity is aware of the technical challenges a user might face?
  2. Note whether the learning activity promptS participation and communicateS the need for engagement with others?
  3. Give feedback as to how clear and concise the sequence of steps or directions are expressed when Introducing the learning activity to participants?
  4. .

After Using these criteria to comment on the suitability of a learning activity, you will then go ahead and post an additional learning to this topic (Renewable Assignments: Learning Activities). Derek will provide you with feedback on your learning activity.



Well done

In process

Getting started

Fit for purpose

The learning activity that has been posted is authentic, flexible, learning-centred and creative that invites reflection, real-world learning, student choice

The learning activity has either offered student’s choices or considered the context wherein the learning activity takes place.

The learning activity is rigid and focused primarily around content

Technical Support

The author of the activity is aware of the technical challenges a user might face and has included steps that offer support to common issues

The author of the learning activity has either addressed the technical issues or offered steps to assist students work through common issues

The author of the learning activity has assumed that there will be no technical challenges

Participation and engagement

The learning activity is written and presented in a manner that prompt participation while communicating the expectation of engagement with others.

The learning activity refers to either participation or engagement, but motivation, explanations presentation that leads to participation requires more attention

Participation and engagement with others is not foregrounded in the learning activity

Instructions and organization

The learning activity sets out clear and concise sequence of steps and the participant can quickly scan through them for meaning.

Instructions are either communicated clearly or sequenced in a logical manner

Instructions are vague and they are not organised in a logical fashion.


Below are five learning activities. Since they were shared under a CC BY NC SA license by Seattle University's Blended Flow Toolkit, you have the opportunity to add value to these five learning activities.

To review: Five learning activities

Learning activity*

Active learning is an accepted method for engaging students in what they are learning. As a pedagogical strategy, active learning will differ in class (synchronous and face-to-face) and digital (asynchronous online learning environments) settings.

  1. Muddiest point
  2. Minute paper
  3. Think pair share
  4. Concept map
  5. Case study

1) Learning Activity - Muddiest point

Title of approach

The muddiest point

Description and purpose

Muddiest point asks students to jot down a quick response to the question “What was the muddiest point in _______?”The term “muddiest” means “most unclear” or “most confusing.” The purpose of the muddiest point is to provide information about what students find most confusing in a unit or topic

Digital use

When using the forum, or engaged in an online presentation or assignment, construct an additional post, slide or instruction that can be inserted or shown. This post slide or instruction should enquire, “What was the muddiest point in [the lecture, discussion, homework assignment, film, etc.]?. Students should then be directed to a common location where they record their muddy points. The automatic response should inform students about how these points will be addressed. It’s probably a good idea to manage expectations and state that the amount of feedback will be limited to three main points

Benefits and challenges

When working online, students have the time to frame their response and think about what is truly the “muddiest point”

If all the muddy points are posted onto the same media, then the academic can see levels of understanding from the student perspective and understand the range of understanding. Students could however also be swayed by what others have posted if using a discussion or message board

Class use

At the beginning of the lecture, let students know about the muddiest point, tell them beforehand how much time they will have to respond and what use you will make of their responses.

Reserve a few minutes at the end of the class session

Use in class clickers, slips of paper, index cards for students to write on.

Collect responses as or before students leave. Stationing yourself at the door and collecting “muddy points” as the students file out is one way; leaving a “muddy points” collection box by the exit is another. Respond to students’ feedback during the next class meeting or as soon as possible afterward.

Benefits and challenges

In class, the Muddiest Point is quick and simple to administer. It requires little preparation and can be used on the spur of the moment. There could be a tendency to respond to “muddy points” from past sessions and loose forward momentum

Ideas for extending


Don’t become angry or disappointed if students identify something as a “muddy point” that you’re positive you presented with absolute clarity

2) Learning Activity - Minute paper

Title of approach

Minute paper

Description and purpose

The Minute paper is a very short, in-class writing activity.

Students are usually asked to

  1. “identify what the most important point that they leaned today” and
  2. “what key questions remain un answered”.

The minute paper is NOT an assessment. A minute paper is for the lecturer to see from the students perspective what they see as the most significant things they are learning, and what their major questions are,

The minute paper is more than recall. By asking students to add a question at the end, the minute paper also becomes an integrative task. Students must first organize their thinking to rank the major points and then decide upon a significant question.

The minute paper provides manageable amounts of timely and useful feedback for a minimal investment of time and energy.

Digital use

When using the forum, or engaged in an online presentation or assignment, construct an additional post, slide or instruction that can be inserted or displayed. This post slide or instruction should enquire, “Identify what the most important thing you learned in this module (topic)?” or “What important question about remains unanswered?” in [the lecture, discussion, homework assignment, film, etc.]?. Students should then be directed to a common location where they record their minute paper. Encourage student to read each others posts and comment on them. If you would like to respond, then its probably a good idea to manage expectations and state that the amount of feedback will be limited to three main points

Benefits and challenges

The minute paper provides rapid feedback on whether students and the lecturer share the same perception about the main idea.

But if the same question is asked each time, then this learning activity can also be quickly dismissed as gimmick or a pro forma exercise.

Time should be set aside to prepare suitable questions. For the activity to be meaningful repeatedly, the question might want to seek to highlight shift in understanding or help students identify unrecognized interrelatedness of concepts.

Class use


Make a decisions what you want to focus on (students understanding home work assignment etc) as this will affect whether you want to run this activity at the beginning or at the end of a class

Then write down minute paper prompts that fit your course and students. Try out your Minute Paper on a colleague or teaching assistant before using it in class.

Plan to set aside five to ten minutes of your next class to use the technique, as well as time later to discuss the results.

Before class, write one or, at the most, two Minute Paper questions on the chalkboard or prepare an overhead transparency.

In class, let students know about the minute paper exercise

Hand out index cards or half-sheets of scrap paper at the determined time .

Unless there is a very good reason to know who wrote what, direct students to leave their names off the papers or cards.

Let the students know how much time they will have (two to five minutes per question is usually enough), what kinds of answers you want (words, phrases, or short sentences), and when they can expect your feedback

Benefits and challenges

Ideas for extending


Students may confuse details with significant topics. They might pose questions instead of answering the topic. The point of this exercise is to see the class response through different eyes, hear it with different ears, and make sense of it differently than you do.

3) Learning Activity - Think pair share

Title of approach


Description and purpose

Think-Pair-Share is a short activity intended to prompt thoughtful consideration and conversations among students Think-Pair-Share offers students time and structure for thinking on a given topic, enabling them to formulate individual ideas and share these ideas with a peer. 1) Students THiNK (ie must consider alone) about an answer to a higher order question, solution to a problem or topic. 2) Students then PAIR to discuss ideas or ask their partner about their own thoughts. 3) Following the discussion, students SHARE what what they discussed with their neighbor. Often this group discussion "sharing" is followed up with a larger classroom discussion.

Digital use

This activity provides a way for students to get to know a peer. It also gives students the opportunity to refine their thoughts and practice articulating them with just one person before presenting to a larger group.

Students are paired up and use an online platform (see tools) for back and forth communication either synchronously or asynchronously.

Benefits and challenges

The interaction around TPS motivates participation among the entire class and allows quiet students to answer questions without having to stand out from their classmates.

Full class discussion is generally more fruitful after a think-pair-share and throughout the semester as the frequent use of such activities generally improves student comfort levels and willingness to participate throughout a class period. One of the biggest challenges of the think-pair-share is to get all students to truly be engaged.

Class use

This is a three-step process where first each student thinks silently about a question that is usually posed by the teacher. Next, students are paired and discuss their initial responses. In the third and final step, students share either their own response or their partner’s response with the larger group. This activity provides a way for students to get to know a peer. It also gives students the opportunity to refine their thoughts and practice articulating them with just one person before presenting to a larger group.

Benefits and challenges

The lecturer can easily see pairs that are having difficulty with their assigned activity. But when it comes to sharing, if this is a large class, then time constraints will prevent complete class sharing.

Ideas for extending

Pair sharing in class can be enhanced with clickers as all responses can be communicated and a record of all responses are saved


4) Learning Activity: Concept Map

Title of approach

Concept Map

Description and purpose

Concept maps and mind maps typically have a central concept from which ideas radiate and take shape in an organized and visually memorable way. All ideas are located on one page

and students connect what they know with their own ideas

Mapping concepts can help your writing through structuring ideas and innovatively constructing arguments

Concept mapping encourages students to

• engage with course material

• find linkages between course concepts or theories

• surface a synthesis of ideas

Digital use

Benefits and challenges

When a concept map is online, then students have the option of working individually or in groups (on the same concept map) while separated by time and place. This activity can greatly increase productivity for in-class student group work formulating an original thesis or drafting and outline for a student paper, for example.

New users to online concept mapping tools might be focussed on technical matters

Class use

After completing a topic, students are asked to complete a ‘concept map’ or spider diagram that summarises the key points and includes the main relations and principles. Student then compare their maps in groups and suggest improvements to their own maps, and then to each others.

A concept map also works well as group activity. Students can gather around a large piece of paper or designate one person to input the information into a digital concept map. The result is a visual way to link where the class has been, where they are, and where they would like to go - drawing connections between concepts to synthesize the relationship of elements in a new and novel way.

Benefits and challenges

The classroom drawn concept map is is either 1) not easily shared with student group members outside class or 2) a static version of the concept map. Further refinements to the concept map after the class session are not as easily made or shared

Ideas for extending


Include a link to help resources for any of the concept map tools you suggest to students.

Produce a concept map yourself using the tool you are about to suggest as this will help with troubleshooting any problems

5) Learning Activity: Case study

Title of approach

Case Study

Description and purpose

Provide real or simulated stories to students with problems for groups to analyze. Each group must arrive at a solution by applying course concepts and evidence found in literature. How to do this online

Digital use

A case study and associated resources can be uploaded to the LMS (if copyright permission has been granted) or a link provided if the case study is elsewhere on the web.

Benefits and challenges

Using case studies online affords flexibility; case discussions can be conducted either synchronously or asynchronously and either individually or in groups. Students have time to contemplate the varied dimensions inherent in well-written cases. Students learn to communicate their ideas using a variety of textual and multimedia tools.

If group work is required, it can be difficult for students to establish a meeting time that is acceptable for all. The ambiguous nature of case studies could lead to frustration if students feel isolated.

Class use

Case studies can be handed out or projected on a screen.

Benefits and challenges

If working in a group, students not only hone their problem solving and analytical skills, but also develop interpersonal skills and the ability to work with others. Discussions around case studies can be very lively and facilitated by lecturers asking probing questions.

Good case studies are multi-faceted and therefore students may need time to absorb the facts before they can act on the material.

Ideas for extending



“Renewable Assignments: Learning Activities” is a derivative of the June 2020 Creative Commons Certificate Course by Creative Commons, licensed CC BY 4.0. Derek Moore has re-used and remixed Wiley’s concept of a renewable assessment and drawn exemplars of such learning activities from Blended Flow Toolkit. The sources listed below


  • Toward Renewable Assessments by David Wiley, CC BY
  • Learning activities drawn from the CDLI Blended Flow Toolkit Seattle University,, CC BY NC SA