Monday, December 9, 2013

Preventing late work in online courses

A colleague asked a question on our listserve and my response was robust. I decided it needed wider circulation. She asked how to prevent students from turning in late work of shoddy quality in her online courses.

  • First of all, make sure you have your late policy clearly stated and make sure they know the consequences of late work.
  • Make sure you have good rubrics for the work so you can accurately grade the poor quality so they know why they are getting the scored they earned, late or not.
  • Make sure they are aware of the course calendar and remind them of upcoming due dates especially for big assignments.
  • If the student has a legitimate emergency they should let you know as soon as possible. The definition of an emergency in my courses is something which cannot be written on the calendar in advance (so... not weddings, and family vacations). I tend to be pretty lenient with emergencies and I think I am pretty good at telling which are the real emergencies. Our students lives are so chaotic that they really could not make up the excuses I see. Real life is crazier than they would dare make up and try to pass off as a fake excuse. My experience is if I give them a little leeway on a real emergency they usually do a great job.
  • That said there are always some procrastinators and just lazy folks who want to do the minimum. Then you are back to the first two points about late policies and solid rubrics. 
  • In many of my classes students are told that if their work does not meet my standards they will be expected to re-do it. I provide them with support so they know what needs to be fixed and how to fix it, but they don't earn a score until their work is re-done. This is very important if the assignments throughout the course are building to something bigger, like a research paper. I have learned to state a date and time when the re-do must be submitted.
  • I am a big believer in positive reinforcement so I also will post Thank you's to everyone who has already completed something such as a survey. This one is tricky, you have to make sure your record-keeping is accurate so you thank everyone who has done whatever it is. I find that usually I immediately get a few others completing the task.
  • If they have to post something publicly for peer review by mid-week you are more likely to get the final version on time at the end of the week. I use a lot of peer review.
  • I am also finding that making connections with students makes a big difference. If I reach out to those who are chronically late and just have a conversation and make that connection we can often discuss what is happening and why things are coming in late. They sometimes don't know where to find due dates or the calendar and that is an easy thing to fix.
  • Finally, I email students first thing after the due date i.e. Monday morning and let them know I did not find their work in the Dropbox. These quick friendly reminders are very helpful if they put it in Draft but did not Submit, or just plain forgot to submit it after their peer review. I usually have at least a couple more pieces of work after such an email.