7 Jul 2012

Tackling course assignments the smart way...

The Assignment Planner is our customised assignment support tool. It is based on the original Assignment Calculator developed by the University of Minnesota Libraries.

The idea behind this planning tool is to improve understanding of the library's role in information literacy, as well as offering an opportunity for librarians and faculty to collaborate. Students have a practical instrument to PLAN, EXECUTE and DELIVER their assignments in a timely fashion.

So how does it work? You begin by entering the assignment start date and due date into an online form hosted on our Moodle site. The tool will then (1) calculate the number of days available to you in order to complete the given assignment on time, (2) break down the process in a logical, step-by-step sequence, (3) link to just-in-time resources that help you complete each individual task. In addition, the tool has an email reminder function built into it alerting the user that a particular task is due for completion at a certain date.

From a student perspective, the tool aims to tackle procrastination and offers access to relevant information resources when they're needed. At the same time, lecturers are provided with direction in guiding students through the assignment writing process.

The library uses the tool as a means to support information literacy coaching. The idea here is to get learners to ask the right questions at the right time throughout the assignment writing/research process.

In its original form, the tool breaks the assignment process down into twelve steps. We have decided to tighten this up and streamline the process down to five steps. The idea here is to mould it into our existing landscape of information literacy resources and the strategy our Information Skills Librarian applies.

  • Search the catalogue
  • Databases via Subject Portals
  • Finding & evaluating
  • Evaluating websites
  • Using a mind map

Each step includes links to resources specific to our library, as well as external materials such as The Writing Center and the Online Writing Lab.

There are opportunities to customise the planner even further, e.g. by optimising steps and resources based on the needs of individual faculties and schools. This is something we envisage to provide if the generic version above is successful and in demand by our user base.

In essence, the assignment planner is a tangible time management tool for students to help them focus in their assignment writing efforts and thus succeed as best as possible.

Assignment Calculator Blog
Download files
Classic Calculator (University of Minnesota Libraries)
Assignment Planner (Library Presentation)


  1. Very interesting Alex - do you have any screenshots of the version you have adapted? Also do you have any feedback or usage stats on how many students use it and/or how they use it? I love the way you have aligned it with your overall IL strategy, do you also promote it through your IL classes?

  2. Hi Michelle, the tool's not up and running yet; it'll be launched with the start of the new academic year (that is our IT will link to this from our library website to Moodle + get a directory with relevant files i place etc. i.e. it's in their pipeline). Access to our version will be exclusive to our Moodle users. Tracking usage will be done through Google Analytics. Usage feedback will be gathered by means of a survey further down the line. And yes, the tool will be promoted during IL classes and student inductions.

    I've played with the original version by installing Microsoft's WebMatrix on my desktop (see http://www.microsoft.com/web/webmatrix/ for free download). Go ahead and give it a go if you like, but make sure to enable PHP support (see WebMatrix help for that). I'll post screen shots of our version once it's up and running. As said, the original tool breaks the process down into 12 individual steps - way too many and possibly confusing for students. So this was broken down into more digestible 5 steps and made to fit in with our Info Skills Librarian's existing IL strategy.

  3. Thanks for the info Alex. Sounds like a great project and I hope it goes well. It will be really interesting to see the usage and feedback in time. I think you are definitely right in 'simplifying' it to a more manageable 5 steps.

  4. Alex

    This looks great. Would you mind sharing the Moodle plugin for this feature please I cannot seem to find it on the Moodle database of plugins.

    Thanks in advance