This blog post is part of a series to help you build an online course quickly. It is for people who are preparing to launch their third trimester in course that they thought would be F2F but will begin instead as an online course, those looking ahead to intensive May terms, and those who had planned to teach in person in the summer or fall but now find their F2F classes will be online. To follow along, begin by framing your course, selecting your materials, and choosing your assignments. We now shift to writing the policies for your syllabus? Why–given that writing your assignments is actually more important? Because, in a worst-case scenario, you can start a course without the assignments written, but you need to have your syllabus available to students BEFORE the first day of class so they see if it’s a good fit for them.
Below I’ve included the policies that I recommend for due dates, missed work, and late work. Feel free to use them word-for-word if they are helpful.
Due Dates: All work in this course is due by Sunday at 11:59 pm, except for work in the last week.
Once-a-week deadlines are best for students who have to manage work, childcare, and time for study, and Sunday works well because many students rely on family members to care for children. While work finished at midnight isn’t of the best quality for most students, many need the post-bedtime hours to complete work without children present. Finally, if you collected work on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, you would be using your weekend time to grade in order to guarantee a fast turnaround. Protect yourself (or your TA if you have one) by avoiding that. In all teaching but especially online teaching, it’s easy for your work to never end since you may be working from home and can access your work from your phone.
Missing Work: If you fail to turn in work, I am unable to determine if you are learning. For this reason, missing work receives a 0%. Since all work is listed on the syllabus, you are able now to schedule your time to ensure that you can complete it.
I didn’t think it needed to be said–until I met a student who insisted that late work should receive a 50% rather than a 0%.
Extensions: Since all assignments are indicated on the syllabus and since they are available to students for 1 week before their due date, extensions are extremely rare. They must be requested by Friday at 3 pm, except during the last week of the semester. That week, no extensions will be granted; if an emergency prevents you from completing the last week of work, you may instead request an Incomplete. Extensions requested over the weekend will automatically be denied, regardless of the reason for requesting them. For this reason, I strongly recommend that you do your work earlier in the week. When you request an extension, write Request for an Extension in the subject line of your email and explain to me your plan for completing your work, including the requested due date. There is no need to detail the reason for your request.
Unconscious bias affects how we interact with our students, making some students’ excuses more believable than others. For this reason, I do not evaluate students’ reasons for needing additional time on their work. I have found that this policy discourages students who would abuse it since those students don’t typically think two days ahead to request an extension.
This policy also works for me because I permit late work for half credit, regardless of how many days it is late, so students may choose to submit an incomplete assignment or complete it for half credit with similar results.
This also works for me because I often drop the lowest grade of similar weekly assignments. (This is another reason to have comparable assignments due each week.)
Here is an alternative late work/extension policy:
If you miss a quiz or exam, you may email me within a week to request an alternative assignment. The alternative assignment will cover the same material but will not ask the same exact questions; indeed, in the case of our class, it will be an essay question or multiple essay questions, drawn from a random pool. If it replaces a quiz, you should expect to devote about 2 hours to it; if it replaces an exam, expect to spend 3-4 on the several essay questions you will face. It will replace 75% of your grade on the quiz or exam. It is due by the last day of class at 11:59 pm. While you must request the chance to complete this assignment, you do not need to alert me if you have done so.
This policy allows students who do not wish to have a 0 on a major assignment a chance to earn up to a C on it, but they have more work to do to earn it.
Late work: The following work may be turned in after the due date for up to 50% credit: XXXXX. The following work cannot be completed late and will instead receive 0% credit if not completed on time or an extension has not been approved before the due date: XXXXX.
Late work is graded AFTER the last day of the class. It will remain in my “to-grade” pile until that point.
There is no need to seek my permission to turn in work late or to alert me that you have done so.
I like this policy a lot because it incentivizes students getting their work done on time (rather than working a little longer and getting a little penalty) AND it saves me the trouble of keeping track of how late the work is. Additionally, if someone cannot make the due date, it’s possible that they cannot make it by several days, which in another system, would make turning it in worthless. In this system, even if they need the whole semester to complete it, doing so still makes sense for their grade. At the same time, the penalty is severe enough to discourage repeated late work.
When I grade it, I simply scan it for signs of plagiarism, then award it a 50%.
Know what’s great about online classes? Students never roll in late, still in their pajamas, a cup of coffee in a disposable up in their hand, letting you know that they chose Starbucks over being on time. Above, a round-faced, blonde-haired young man sleeps outside, a flute in one hand and a bottle in the other. His spaniel sleeps nearby.