Have you ever thought you created the perfect research assignment for your students? You made sure it perfectly aligned with your course goals. You were careful to give very detailed instructions in a student-friendly tone in the syllabus. You discussed with your colleagues tips on creating the perfect rubric. This was it, this was the mother of all assignments, you thought to yourself, my students are going to enjoy this one. And you hoped that they would come to love your subject just as much as you do. Then your students submit their assignments……..what?!!! These are 300 level courses, I held small group sessions, and held one-on-one office hours. What happened??!!

Unfortunately, many of us have had this experience, in my case, the reassurance I received from a colleague was “that’s why I don’t give research assignments”. Can you imagine? However, I did not allow that to stop me from wanting my preservice teaching-students in my “Intro to Instructional Technology” course to develop valuable research and writing skills. Over the years I have discovered several tried and true, research-based best practices that have helped my students achieve greater. Here are a few of my favorite strategies using technology: 

  1. Encourage students to use planners – Even some of our best students can give us mediocre or subpar research projects just because they haven’t learned how to balance it all and struggle with time management.  You can schedule assignments and share them with students on both Microsoft Teams and Google Calendar. Students can use apps such as Microsoft Planner and  Google Calendar
  2. Have mini-research homework assignments – Using a social bookmarking tool such as Microsoft One Note, students can collaboratively research content taught in class, and share in one place. Then in class, you discuss the validity of one or two of the sources found. If this is done throughout the semester, by the time that the final research project comes around students will have a list of credible resources, to start their project or research paper.  
  3. Discussion boards, discussion boards, …did I say, discussion boards? – Discussion boards are powerful tools because they: 
    • Create a space for students to practice citations and references. Students can back up their opinions and arguments with resources. Take this opportunity to model for students what you do when you are researching. Encourage students to use Microsoft Word to create a bibliography, citations, and references. You can require students to have at least one reference, and use at least one citation
    • Give a voice to the students that would not talk in a face-to-face setting
    • Provide human interaction in what can feel like isolation and loneliness in a fully online environment
    • Help students improve their writing skills, as well as gives you opportunities to give them feedback for improvement
  4. Introduce students to journals in the discipline – point students in the right direction by encouraging them early on to find journals in the field to support discussion posts and homework assignments. Again, you have an opportunity to discuss credible resources and another avenue for students to build resources collectively before the actual research assignment even begins.
  5. Take a field trip to the library be it in person, virtually, or both! 
  6. Invite a librarian! You can connect with a research librarian and they can join your OAKS class, come to your class AND help tailor resources specific to meet your learning objectives 

 You and your students will be juggling several projects at once. The key to a successful research project is to provide scaffolding to your students before the project is even assigned. Look for small bitesize opportunities that will lead to greater success!