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Assignment (including Essay)


An assignment is typically written/typed task that has a deadline attached but which is not carried out under time constraints.

A well-known example is the essay, where students are required to write about a particular topic or answer a question in depth. Other examples include literature review, written briefings on particular topics, defined contribution to an online discussion.

What can it assess ?

Assignments, as they usually have an extended timeframe, can be useful in assessing higher order outcomes, such as complex learning, critical thinking and problem-solving. It is a broad term that can be adapted for individual discipline requirements, for example, assignments can be in the form of case studies, essays, creative writing tasks, etc.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Can be authentic (meaningful for students) 
  • Allow students time to investigate topics more deeply 
  • Often allows student some choice of approaches to use in order to carry out the task
  • Likely to be familiar to students
  • Can be less stressful for students than examinations or other time limited assessments.


  • Can be time-consuming for students
  • Can be time-consuming for staff to correct
  • The term ‘assignment’ can have different meaning in different contexts/discipline.

Design and Online Assessment Considerations


Assignments can be time consuming so ensure you give sufficient time to the students to complete the task. Provide specific task instructions to students, for example, if using an essay, what type of essay are you expecting, e.g. Expository Argumentative, Persuasive, Descriptive, Narrative.  Use a rubric, or similar, to help clarify your expectations and to support student feedback and/or opportunity for self/ peer review before submission. Exemplars from previous years may also be useful to share and discuss with students. Where the assignment takes significant student time, ensure this is reflected in its weighting toward the module grade. Where possible, try to make the assignment authentic (meaningful) to the student; this can enhance the academic integrity of the assignment as students are less likely to plagiarise.

Online Assessment 

Ensure students have advice on how to submit their assignment online. If using a multimedia assignment, ensure students have access to the technology they require to complete it. Consider the length required, for example, shorter videos may work better. Provide guidance on the maximum file size for submission. Tools and technologies to support assessment include:   

Preparing Students

Remind students of the outcomes of the assignment and where possible get them to discuss previous examples. Consider the diversity of students in your module; all students should have an equal chance of succeeding in the assignment. Could you provide some choice in the assignment method, as a means of enabling students to play to their strengths? If there is a technology component to the assignment, students may need technical upskilling and or time in class to practice the relevant technology. 

Educate students on academic integrity, including what is meant by plagiarism. Make them aware of the UCD resources on these, such as UCD Plagiarism Policy-Student Guide, FAQ for Students on PlagiarismUCD Library guide on Academic Integrity.

Learn More 

The following are some key resources that are currently available if you would like to learn more about this key assessment type.