For a long while I had a section in my syllabi on alternative assignments. Students could skip papers and invent just about any way they wanted to engage with the course and materialize their learning. The only condition was that as part of the project they had to tell me how to tell the difference between a good version of what they’d done and a bad version of what they’d done.
I had various students take me up on the alternative, but none who actually satisfied the requirement to think through and explain the criteria of competence and excellence in the field they’d chosen. As a result, I devised my own standards and the alternatives rarely did very well. Eventually I dropped the offer altogether as I realized that the vast majority of my students are not usefully aware of the critical continuum between incompetence, competence, and excellence within fields of accomplishment. So now I use teaching them how to write papers as a means to teach them this much more important lesson.