Topics Map > Large Courses
Topics Map > Instructional Technology > Canvas
Topics Map > Active Learning > Large Courses
Topics Map > Active Learning > Online
Topics Map > Active Learning > Prior Knowledge

Minute Paper/Muddiest Point in Large Courses (online)

Using Minute Paper/Muddiest Point activity to measure prior knoweldge in large online courses
Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Low
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Medium
Complexity of Activity Low


Minute Paper/Muddiest Point has students write a quick response to questions to help instructors gain insight or understanding of content. Questions could include: “What was the most important thing you learned today?“; “What important question remains unanswered?”; or “What was the muddiest point in _______ ?” in large courses, it can be challenging to facilitate active learning. This document walks you through planning and implementing this approach in your large course.

Example: Explore students' prior knowledge by using a one-minute reflection to assess their existing knowledge on the topic (e.g., Today we are discussing callable preferred stocks. Write down anything that comes to mind when you think of the term "call premiums".). Use a Graded Survey with anonymous submissions for students to get credit for the activity without worrying about revealing potential gaps in their understanding.


Use it when you want...

  • To facilitate students’ recall of content they have learned,
  • To help them self-assess their understanding of the material,
  • To focus, collect, and organize their thoughts around a topic before a discussion, or
  • To discover which points students are having difficulty understanding to guide further instruction.

What students will need


The following workflow is meant to guide how to facilitate a Minute Paper/Muddiest Point active learning activity in large courses within an online learning environment.


  • Identify a concept in a lecture, article, video, or a knowledge gap identified through a prior activity (e.g., quiz or online discussion).
  • Craft a question to which students will respond in class. The question should be difficult enough to elect careful thought or reflection but not too difficult that the response would not fit on a half-sheet of paper. Try to answer the question yourself.
  • Create a Graded Survey with anonymous submission.

Creating a Graded Survey in Canvas

  • Select Quizzes from the course navigation.
  • Select + Quiz.
  • Provide a title for the activity (e.g., Minute Paper Activity).
  • Provide a description and directions for the activity.
  • Under Quiz Type, select Graded Survey.
  • Under Score, identify the points students will receive for completing the assignment.
  • Under Options, select Keep Submissions Anonymous.
  • Under Options, deselect Let Students See Their Quiz Responses... and Let Students See The Correct Answers.
  • Under Assign, specify the section(s) of the activity to which the activity will be released.
  • Provide the assignment's start date and time under the Available From box.
  • Provide an end date and time for the assignment under the Until box.
  • Select Save & Publish.


  • Direct students to complete the Minute Paper/Muddiest Point activity after they have completed the pre-class activities. Let students know how much time they have to complete the activity (usually two to five minutes is sufficient). Explain the kind of answers you want (words, phrases, or short sentences), how you will use the information, and when they can expect your feedback.


  • Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.

Access and Accessibility Considerations

  • Some students might not have the network bandwidth to participate in synchronous sessions. Please make sure students turn off their cameras to reduce bandwidth. Students can also use the dial-in phone connection for audio instead of their network connection.
  • The technologies recommended here should meet most campus accessibility requirements. However, you should check with the McBurney Disability Resources Center for guidance on any specific accommodations for your students.

Technical Documents

  • None


Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: a Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass, 1993. pp. 148-158.

Keywordsminute paper, reflection, muddiest point, large courses, knowledge gap, online instructionDoc ID103368
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-06-25 11:17:04Updated2024-04-24 10:39:26
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Feedback  8   9