Nugget #4: Use Flexible Deadlines

Flexible deadlines return agency to students while cutting down on logistical work for course staff, in particular arbitration of requests for deadline extensions. When logistically possible, consider using a flexible deadline structure, especially for auto-graded formative assessments. Many students are likely to experience some form of disruption to their learning throughout a semester. These disruptions can range from a mild illness for a couple days, to serious matters that could require a student’s absence from class for over a week.

Rather than require students to ask for accommodations for these disruptions, flexible deadlines will give students agency to decide when to work on an assignment. Flexible deadlines also best utilize students’ time and energy given that they are simultaneously enrolled in multiple courses.

Dig Deeper:

There are many ways in which to easily implement a flexible deadline system:

Move Deadlines Back

The easiest method of adding flexibility in deadlines is to simply move deadlines backwards in time. Suppose a course has weekly homework assignments. Instead of releasing these assignments with a one-week deadline, simply use a two-week deadline. Given that homework is released each week, students are still encouraged to keep up and complete each assignment within a week, but failing to do so does not have an immediate and negative impact.

Rolling Deadline Method

Formative homework can also be put on a rolling deadline method in which the amount of credit received for an assignment decreases every week. For example, take an assignment from STAT 385, Statistical Programming Methods, a course with a weekly homework schedule.

Homework Released: Thursday, September 1, 11:59 PM
105% Credit Deadline: Thursday, September 8, 11:59 PM
100% Credit Deadline: Thursday, September 15, 11:59 PM
75% Credit Deadline: Thursday, September 22, 11:59 PM
Here we have three deadlines, all without students needing to ask for any accommodation. The above setup is enabled by the use of the auto-grading capabilities of the PrairieLearn system.

Dropped Assignments Method

Another method would be to implement a number of allowed “dropped” assignments, like allowing students to drop their lowest two homework scores. While this method is convenient and easy to implement, there are equity concerns with the drop method. For instance, students without any disruptions during a semester can use the drops to their advantage, possibly creating scheduling flexibility to work on other courses. This flexibility may not be available to students that need the dropped assignments as an accommodation for a disruption. Additionally, allowing drops can encourage students to simply “skip” some content, whereas flexible deadlines still require students to complete all assignments.

Thank you for your interest. If you found this tip helpful, please share it with your colleagues!

See you again next week!

-UDL and Accessibility Group