Editorial: Universities should consider unique assignment formats

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College professors should encourage students to submit assignments uniquely and opt out of typical paper submissions.

The pandemic has transformed the nature of education, demonstrating that online learning is an avenue with proven potential and success. The ways in which students can present their knowledge should also be experimented with for the sake of engagement.

Knowledge can be shown in many ways. YouTube documentaries, creative writing, commercials, and children’s books are just a few of the ways students can prove they understand course concepts without writing dozens of pages in a traditional academic essay.

Assignments like these can be memorable, reinforcing an end goal of education: to remember and apply knowledge outside of educational settings. A student may forget an article they wrote, but they will likely remember a creative project that required them to present information in a unique way.

This is not to say that research papers are stagnant or less valuable; Writing research papers is the hallmark of academia and an important skill to learn. But in a world where students are increasingly challenged to think outside the box and demonstrate unique skills, they should have assignments that push them to innovate.

Both types of assignments serve a purpose, especially for upper-year students wishing to pursue a master’s degree, which requires strong examples of published academic papers. However, as the nature, function and structure of education are re-examined, students should have the freedom and challenge to present their knowledge in non-traditional styles.


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