Daily Archives: October 31, 2013

Procrastination, Late Days, Special Exceptions – Dog Ate My Homework

My Coursera class has started a thread about wanting extensions on assignments. I don’t have complex late day policies- I publish a deadline and don’t move it.

Here is my post to the thread:

I will be honest and tell you that there is no policy that I can come up with that will make everyone happy. Last summer I taught the class and had late days. People would use up all the late days in the first two weeks and then threads like this would start about “we need more late days”, “the software is broken and misleading” , or “late days are a mess – can I have four more?” etc etc. I have agonized over this a lot and this is what I conclude:

Some people procrastinate and some people do not procrastinate. Procrastinating is not bad (I do it all the time). But when you procrastinate – you add risk. The only way anyone misses a deadline by 10 minutes is to have carefully calculated the latest possible time to do the quiz and then something turned out wrong. If the student did the work a day earlier – the time zone or a small network failure or the need to go pick the kids up from day care does not lead to a late assignment.

Those who procrastinate will take any late days and just add that to the deadline and start working right before the deadline + late days – and then some thing goes wrong and they still need an extension.

People who don’t procrastinate – don’t need late days. They have a little extra time built in to cover for little things in the software or important things that take priority in their life.

But I am not 100% anti-procrastination – as I said I do it all the time. If you miss the deadline on a quiz or two – just let it go and keep up from that point on. In the previous three times I have taught the course, one or two late quizzes has *never* been the reason that folks don’t earn a certificate. Those that don’t earn a certificate – miss 50% of the class usually.

At the end of the class I do several pre-calculations of the overall grades and look at those who are “close” – sometimes I adjust the grading if it appeared that a bunch of students who worked hard during the entire class and missed a few points – I will change the grading scheme a bit.

So instead of advocating for adjustments – just make sure the rest of the quizzes are done on time. I assure you things will work out.

I have learned a few things in 30 years of teaching and one of them is that if I start giving individual students exceptions, then it simply means that those students will need even more exceptions in the future. If you can tell me a story about the dog chewing on your cable modem and get an extra week and then word gets around the class – you would be surprised at how many dogs all of a sudden start eating cable modems.

So I just keep it simple with no exceptions and then take a close look at all before I award grades at end of the semester.

Comments welcome.