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Create & customize an assignment

In Actively Learn, you can engage, motivate, and support students in the best reading environment for deep learning. By embedding questions, notes, and links directly into the text, you can provide differentiated instruction right when and where students need it. You can also add images or videos to help fill additional gaps in background knowledge.

Pick a text

Picking a text is easy. You can chose to teach:

  • A text from our Catalog. We have over 20,000 texts to chose from, many with assignments you can use as a starting point.)
  • Add your own content. (You can add up to 3 Google Docs, Web Articles, and PDFs a month on our free plan.)

You even have an assignment in your Workspace that we think you might be able to use right away!

Add Directions for Students

Adding Directions for Students to your assignments is a great way to provide them context for what they are about to read. To do so, open the assignment you want to edit from your Workspace and select "Add Directions for Students". You can also add media by providing the URL of an image or video.

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Add instruction and assessment

To add instruction and assessment to an assignment, open a text from your Workspace.

There are a few different types of instruction, scaffolding, and assessment in Actively Learn:

  • Questions (can have media) used to encourage meaningful thinking
  • Notes (can have media) used as that digital "tap on the shoulder" to help fill gaps in background knowledge. Can also be used to ask students questions that won't be graded, and are great places for discussions!
  • Links to other websites
  • Whiteout to remove parts of the text

Add a question

How are questions in Actively Learn different?

In Actively Learn, you embed questions at the exact moment you want students to stop and think. That is, questions chunk the text and STOP the student from progressing in the text until they answer the question. Ever wanted a real time comprehension check as your students were reading? Done! Wished you could help focus their attention to a certain part of the text? Done!

If you don't want questions to stop students from continuing, you can change either the ”Class Reading Settings” or “Assignment Settings”. 

And AFTER students answer a question, they can monitor their thinking by comparing their responses with those of their peers. This way, they're incentivized to submit their best answer, they can learn from others' perspectives, and even think about how they might have improved their answer. All without you having graded yet! 

Check out this blog post on "How to Ask Great Questions in Actively Learn"

Note about PDFs: PDFs are designed not to be editable, so in Actively Learn, you are only able to add questions at the bottom of each page. (Instead of anywhere in the text like every other text.)

STEP 1: Highlight a portion of the text where you want to insert your question and select "Insert Question"

STEP 2: Pick a question type

STEP 3: Align your question to a standard (optional)

The standards added to your question will be reflected in the Proficiency by Standards section in your Reports. 

You can also Change Standard Set

Changing standard set for questions will help you assess your students based on subject specific standards. It will also provide your students with a rubric as they are answering questions.  Furthermore, selecting a standard set enables you to accumulate data on student performance in your reports. 

STEP 1: Open the "Select a standard" picker

STEP 2: Scroll to the bottom and select "Change standard set" 

STEP 3: Type in a question you want your students to answer

STEP 5: Apply any of the options you would like. More here on options

STEP 6: Select “SAVE” once you are done. You are all set!

Add a note

How are notes in Actively Learn different?

In Actively Learn, notes act as that digital 'tap on the shoulder' for students as they are going through and reading. They're GREAT scaffolding for students, and you can add them into any text, just where they'll be most helpful for your students. Better yet, you can also add images, or videos into notes, to help fill additional gaps in background knowledge.

Students can also respond to notes to share their own ideas and start discussions within a text.

Note about PDFs: PDFs sometimes are just pictures of pages, so in Actively Learn, you may not be able to highlight text and annotate it. In this situation you may want to convert your PDF to a Google Doc and import the document as a Google Doc. This way you'll be able to annotate the text.

STEP 1: Highlight where you want to insert your note and press "Insert Note"

STEP 2: Write out your note, add a category, and add media if you want to.

 (OPTIONAL)The note categories can be edited. 

To do this simply select the pencil icon and make the changes you want and then select save. 

If you're focusing on a specific learning objective or framework, and have a specific note categories you'd like to use across multiple assignments, you may want to customize your defaults. See how to customize your default note categories

STEP 3: Press Save, and you're done!

Add a link

Why embed links into your assignments?

In Actively Learn, links help provide additional information to students as they read. Students can click on links and review other websites you want them to read.

STEP 1:  Highlight where you want to insert your link and press "Insert Link"

STEP 2:  Enter a URL

STEP 3: When a student selects a links, a new browser tab will open

Whiteout text

Whiting-out portions of the text

In Actively Learn, you can also remove portions of the text from your students' view by using the Whiteout option. 

STEP 1: Highlight the text you want to white out and press "Whiteout"

You can restore the text at any point by clicking on the icon located where the text once was.

Adding Media to Notes and Questions 

To add media to a question or note to Actively Learn, you'll need to find the media's address (URL or link). Every browser does this a little differently.

Image (Chrome)

Right-click the image, then "copy image address" to get the link to just the picture.

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When you're adding a note or question to an assignment, you'll use this link to include an image!


You can simply copy the URL of many videos including those from TED Talks, Youtube, and Vimeo and paste them into the "add media" field.

See below for an example:

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