I teach at a church-affiliated SLAC.
In a fit of insanity, I decided to make a nontraditional assignment in a course this fall. It was an experimental, senior-level course along the lines of "Basketweaving as a Calling," and it was intended to get students thinking seriously about why they are basketweaving majors and what it will mean for them as citizens and spiritual beings to spend the next 40 or so years of their lives engaged in the art, practice, and discipline of basketweaving. (I might add, for what it may or may not be worth, that I had my Dean's 100% approval for this course).
My nontraditional assignment was to require the students, for 10% of the course grade, to write an op-ed on the topic of "Basketweaving as a Calling." My idea -- and my explanation to students -- was more or less, "Hey! You are seniors. You ought to be able to hold and defend serious opinions in your major field of study."
I brought in a journalism teacher for one whole class period who lectured on writing op-eds and provided examples of both good and bad published op-eds. I provided a link to a web site on how to write good op-eds. I offered to critique and return the DRAFT of any student's op-ed, so long as the student submitted it to me at least one week prior to the due date of the assignment. (Yes, I know. No takers from a class of 18, but . . . .)
I had coordinated with the sponsor of the student newspaper, which is ALWAYS looking for student contributions. After I graded and returned the op-eds, each student was required to submit his or her revised op-ed to the editor of the student newspaper. If your op-ed gets published, you get 1 point of extra credit (Yes, I know . . .) added to your final course average. However, UNTIL you submit the paper to the student newspaper, you don't get the grade.
These instructions were included in the written assignment sheet. I mentioned the requirements at least half-a-dozen times in class. As you might expect, a couple of the op-eds were excellent; a couple were bad, and most were in the great, unwashed middle.
BUT . . . of 18 students, all of whom submitted the op-ed to me, FIVE did not submit to the student newspaper, thus getting a zero for the assignment and effectively reducing their course grade by one letter.
How hard can it be?
PS: Merry Christmas to all!