Alternative Assignments: Creative and Digital

Goals for student learning:

  • Combine, curate, or interact with course materials and information in original ways
  • Develop skills that college courses don’t often teach

Be aware that:

  • Creative or digital assignments may require extensive preparation for students to complete and faculty to evaluate.
  • Student facility with tools can mask weak mastery of content.
  • Students may not understand the ethos--or mechanics--of citation in digital media or creative work.
  • Digital assignments may tempt students to “cut and paste” from online materials without proper attribution.
  • Anticipate that students will want to apply the skills they learn in other endeavors; discuss source use guidelines to follow in work they’re doing on their own. 

To encourage active, deep, and honest engagement:           

  • Don’t assume students are technology natives; prepare students to work in the media that is assigned. 
  • Get help from experts. Even if you're familiar with certain media, you might ask someone who produces art or digital media professionally to train your students and provide support for the assignment.
  • Consider whether a digital or creative assignment accomplishes your learning goals better than a traditional assignment. If your assignment is about making an argument or engaging with print sources, then a written paper or oral presentation might be more effective than a digital or creative project. 
  • Require students to cite faithfully and appropriately, which may include submitting a bibliography for a digital assignment.
  • Share your discipline’s debates on originality and source use with your students.

Assignment types and examples:

  • Movie-making
  • Art-making (drawing, painting, assembling, collage, etc.)
  • Creative writing
  • Performance
  • Digital annotation; mapping

Resources for faculty: 

Academic Technology Group, “Technology for Teaching, Learning, & Research
The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, "Grading and Responding to Student Work" (scroll down to Creative Assignments)
The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, "Assignment Modalities"
Office of the General Counsel, “Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community
Digital Arts & Humanities at Harvard
Digital History at Harvard
Tomorrow’s Professor, “Projects, Tests, or Assignments that Encourage Original or Creative Thinking