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Using Assignments in Moodle

Last updated: December 13, 2023, 8:38 p.m.

Moodle is a very efficient way of collecting and facilitating the grading of assignments. Once an assignment is set up, Moodle automatically sets up an assignment "dropbox" where students submit date-stamped electronic files directly into Moodle. Most of the benefits of using the Assignment feature are administrative, but it can be very helpful in streamlining the assignment workflow in the following ways:

  • submission and feedback/grade more accessible to students
  • records for both students and instructors about assignment submission and status; no "lost" papers
  • facilitates assignment collection and feedback
  • more efficient grading

For the latest support videos, login to Moodle 4.1.

Assignment submission types

There are three ways for students to submit assignments:

This submission type allows students to record audio through a built-in recorder. Once they press the red record button, they can record up to ten minutes.

In this mode, student do not upload any files, but rather they copy and paste text into a text box. This type of submissions is not recommended for assignments more than 800-1000 words. It is best suited for smaller assignments that do not require any markup by the instructor and that you want to read through quickly. 

Some examples of assignments that might be appropriate for online text submission include:

  • reading summaries/responses
  • reflections
  • homework questions

Grading for Online text assignments can be done right in Moodle without downloading attachments. Instructors either assign a grade or complete a rubric (see section below for more information) and make comments directly into Moodle that will become available to the students at the time designated by the instructor.

The most popular type of submission is the file submission. Moodle accepts any type of file for submission, including movie and program files, but it is recommended that faculty provide guidelines for students on which file types they will accept as students sometimes submit unexpected file types. You will need to be sure that you will have the appropriate software to run which ever file types students submit.

It is worth noting that in the Assignment set up, it is possible to limit the number and kinds of files accepted.

Bulk downloading & uploading of student submissions

One of the benefits of using the file upload submission type is that with one click, you can download all students’ submissions to your computer. You can then open each individually and work on giving feedback directly in the submission using track changes, comments, etc. Once finished with all the files, you then zip up the set of submissions and upload it back to Moodle in a zip file. Moodle then returns all the files to the associated students. This is a real time saver!

Grading assignments & giving feedback

There is a lot of flexibility for instructors to grade assignments using Moodle. They can either download files to their computer and do it offline, or they can do all the grading directly in Moodle. You will need to determine how you will grade when you are setting up the Assignment activity in Moodle in order to enable the desired functionality.

Grading options using Assignment

Moodle offers three options to grade.

This option allows for assigning a number or letter or other type of scale (many are preloaded in Moodle).

Moodle allows you to create a set of criteria for different aspects of the assignment (e.g. Argument, Analysis, Conclusion, etc.) and assign a maximum number of points for each section. When it comes time to grade, you assign a grade for each section and optionally provide comments.

This particular mode of grading also allows you to preload a set of frequently used comments that you can pick and choose from for each student, making grading much more efficient.

Instructors can create a rubric (or use one they have already created or import one another instructor has created) for any assignment. The rubric can be made available to students before they submit the assignment, so they can see exactly where they lost marks once graded.

Once created, rubrics can be used or adapted in other Moodle courses and shared with colleagues.

Options for giving feedback in Assignments

There are several ways of giving feedback using the Moodle Assignment activity. It is important to make sure you have checked the format(s) you would like to use when you set up the course so that the options are available as you begin grading.

Feedback comments

This option provides a box at the bottom of the grading page Moodle to write overall comments about the assignment.

Annotate PDF

This option allows for instructors to mark up PDF submissions within the grading page by highlighting, commenting etc. No downloading of files is necessary to mark up individual submissions. Note this feature only works with PDF submissions, so if you prefer this feedback method, you will need to tell students to submit PDF documents. Most word processing programs (including free cloud editors like Google Docs) allow for options to save/export as PDF. You can also point students to a number of free online conversion tools.

Feedback files

This option allows for instructors to upload a file (any type) to give individual students as feedback that can be dragged in or uploaded as part of a bulk upload. The uploaded file may be their original submission with your suggestions, comments, etc. or it may be a different document that you created for that particular student.

Offline grading worksheet

Although not specifically for giving feedback, the offline grading worksheet offers a way to input grades for each student into an spreadsheet so that you do not need to grade directly into Moodle. To use the worksheet, first you download the blank sheet in Moodle, complete your grading at your leisure, then upload the sheet to Moodle. It then directs the grades to individual students.

Online Poodll

This option provides a built-in audio recorder at the bottom of the Moodle grading page to record audio feedback. This is a great way of giving lots of feedback to students in a very efficient way.

Setting up Assignments in Moodle

Tips for creating accessible assignments

When designing assignments, it's important to keep in mind some other principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in order to make it as accessible as possible. When following the principles of UDL, generally there will be less need to make individual accommodations; thus saving you time and effort later. Some basic things you do to make the assignment accessible:

  • Write clear directions - as if you were having a conversation with a student, so they don’t read like a textbook.
  • Create an informal two-minute explainer video to flesh out some details of an assignment and answer FAQs
  • Provide a rubric the rubric in advance (this can be done if using a Moodle Rubric ).
  • Share examples of student work (one excellent example and other average). These can be attached as files in the Assignment set up.
  • Provide options on the delivery format where suitable (i.e. video, poster, academic paper, info graphic, white paper, etc.). Moodle will accept any kind of file, so just make sure you will be able to open submitted files on your own computer.
  • Provide "soft" and "hard" due dates.  The soft due date is the due date for most students, but any students who need additional time (regardless of the reason) may have the extension without needing to ask. This will save you time and effort later so that you will not need to respond to individual emails and make separate accommodations.

It may be necessary to give individual students and extension to an assignment from the designated due date. Note that Moodle automatically time stamps all submissions, so if you have not enabled a "cut off date" students will continue to be able to submit after the the due date. However, if you want to adjust individual students' due dates in Moodle, you can grant individual students an extension following these instructions:

1. Click on the assignment for which the you want to offer the extension.

2. Click View all submissions.
   A List of students and their submission status appears.

3. Locate the student for whom you would like to give the extension and click Edit next to their name.
   The edit menu options appear.

4. Click Grant extension.

5. In the Extension Due Date drop-downs, enter the new due date for that student, and click save changes.

    The student's due date is now updated.

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