Assignments and Grading

Note: As the priority is maintaining continuity of teaching, this may not be the best time for dramatic experimentation in your use of technology. Please work within your comfort zone.

Distributing writing assignments

As your students will not have in-person time to discuss your assignments, it is all the more important that each assignment clearly articulates the goals, actions, deliverables, and processes/scaffolding/timeline for producing it. For a variety of scaffolded sample assignments, check out the material in Baruch’s Teacher’s Guide to First-Year Writing.

Commenting on papers

You can comment on papers digitally. The file the student sends you will determine what programs you can use to open it. You can leave comments with Microsoft Word, Google Doc, and Apple Pages files.

To leave a comment in a Microsoft Word, Google Doc, or Apple Pages file: Highlight the passage you’d like to comment on and select Insert > Comment. This will open a box to comment on that passage. Save and email Word or Pages files with your comments to students; “Share” Doc files with students.

Conferencing with students

Students may especially benefit from one-on-one conferencing opportunities while they are remote. Try repurposing class or office hours for conferences, which can be check-ins on their writing processes or live feedback on their writing after you’ve evaluated it.

Peer review

Students benefit from working with each other and reading each other’s work in small groups. Consider ways to guide small group peer review; try including a guiding tool for them such as a cover survey about their peers’ work.

Students may have trouble scheduling live peer review sessions and may benefit from having a certain amount of time to reply to each other.


Blackboard has a useful “Grades” tool for keeping records of students grades. You can use this tool to choose when to allow them to see their grade calculations—such as during midterm time. You may alternatively or also want to update students with a heads up about their grade so far mid-semester.

You may want to email your feedback as separate prose. For example, you could offer feedback that ends in particular revision tasks.

Creating Assignments Beyond Essays

You may decide this is an opportunity to try out a digital assignment, or retool the delivery of one you already planned to give. In either case, consider what other mediums might be useful to explore as vessels for students to learn with. Perhaps students could put together videos and podcasts—just note that many may have various mobility restrictions, meaning its best to be flexible.