It’s unusual for us to devote a full blog entry to a single Harmonize feature, but we have a good reason for making an exception. The ability to apply multiple due dates to a single discussion assignment is the most-requested feature that instructors have been asking for? What does it mean and why is it important?
Here’s what one instructor told us:
"I like to use the discussion forum to encourage my students to listen carefully to what each other has to say and respond thoughtfully to each other’s ideas. To do that, I often ask students to respond to my prompt, comment on a few responses by their classmates, and, in a perfect world, comment on any responses their own post generates. Unfortunately, I can only set one assignment due date for all of this. What happens next? Even when I spell out my expectations for participation in my grading rubric, students still manage to wait until the last minute before posting their initial responses to my prompt. That triggers a mad scramble that leaves precious little time for a useful exchange of ideas. As for me, it’s a headache, particularly when it’s time to grade assignments. I’ve tried workarounds, like creating a non-graded assignment for each activity and tagging it with a separate due date. It’s time-consuming to set up and tracking that activity outside of the gradebook is frustrating at best and prone to error at worst. Help!"- Anonymous
We hear you, Anonymous!
We’ve just released a new feature in Harmonize that we call Milestones. It lets you assign any number of completion requirements to a single discussion topic and assign due dates to each of those requirements. You could, for example, require a specific number of:
Posts on a topic
Comments on a post
Replies to comments
“Reactions” to posts or comments
By assigning due dates to each, you can stagger the requirements across whatever time frame is right for your class. For example, as part of a weekly discussion that begins on a Monday, you can ask each student to:
Write an initial post by Wednesday of each week
Comment on posts by 2 of your classmates by 11:59 pm Sunday
Reply to 2 comments made to your initial post by 11:59 pm Sunday
You can easily define these expectations using Milestones. And when you’re finished, those requirements will display right at the top of a student’s screen, a clear reminder of what needs to be done by when. (You see a similar legend at the top of your screen, where you can track the progress your students are making on their assignments, which gives you a heads up should you need to send a gentle reminder of your own.) When it’s time for you to grade the assignment, all of that activity is automatically calculated, so all you need to do is refer to your grading rubric and assign a grade.
Here at Harmonize, we learn by listening. Thanks to all of you who made such a great case for the urgency of this feature update. Milestones will help instructors build student engagement, improve learning outcomes, and reduce the time it takes to grade discussions. At a time when instructors are seeking ways to deliver a more consistent and predictable learning experience, Milestones is one important way we can help.