Increasing student completion of assignments

One of the most challenging parts of online learning for students is time management. And, unfortunately, students may have learned more about how to stall for time than they have learned about how to complete their work in a timely way.

This semester, you can help students complete their assignments with a few easy steps. These choices also tend to reduce student stress and cheating, which in turn reduces teacher stress.

  • Make larger projects due in chunks. The prevents students from putting off work and lets you see who is off track before it’s too late to get back on track. It also lowers the risk of plagiarism and other forms of cheating. It’s okay to make the small components graded based on completion and to give minimal feedback, as long as you make it clear that that is the grading criteria. You can even set up your LMS so that students can’t turn in the next stage of the assignment unless they’ve turned in the previous one.
  • Set consistent due dates in your course, so students get in the habit of turning in work on the same day at the same time. One to three due dates per week is fine. More than that and you’re micromanaging.
  • Now (like, right now, stop reading and go do this!) is the time to schedule reminders. You have consistent due dates; now add a regularly-scheduled reminder. For example, in classes with one due date (Sunday nights), I send a reminder on Thursday morning. Don’t detail what work is due since the details might change from semester to semester and you don’t want to have to re-write the announcements. The subject line “Work due soon for Module 1 in Organic Chem!” is enough. If you want to add a message, include something relevant every semester–like a link to an article with tips for them to manage their time well. Scheduling once-a-week reminders in a 16 week course will take about 30 minutes. For me, it helped increase completion of work to almost 100% in my classes. (Note, Blackboard and Canvas make scheduling announcements a breeze. This function is not currently available in Moodle.)
  • Send reminder announcements the morning that work is due. Blackboard and Canvas both permit you to click on an assignment in the gradebook and send students who haven’t yet completed it a reminder that it’s due. In Moodle, you need the re-engagement plug-in to do this.
  • The easiest way for you to help students manage their deadlines is to add due dates to assignments, which populates their individualized calendars in their LMS. You can do this by setting due dates for work that you will collect online or, if you are collecting work in person, creating a graded item for it.

Have a tip that has increased students getting their work in on time? Share it in the comments!

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1931) shows melting clocks.

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