When faced with designing a major end-of-course project, instructors often turn to the 8-10 page research paper as a default. In some cases this may be completely appropriate but it is important to consider if a research paper is properly aligned with the learning goals of a course. Of particular concern are major projects that expect students to employ a skill they have not yet developed. Another challenge is major projects that are tacked on to the end of a course without encouraging students to work on the project over a significant amount of time - the result is that students leave the work until the last minute, rarely receive constructive feedback in time to apply it, and produce student work the instructors is dissatisfied with.

Ideally any major course project is aligned with course goals, provides an accurate measurement of student learning, and is integrated throughout the course to help students develop applicable workplace skills.