Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Deadlines & Pacing in ELI Courses, Continued

In some of my early blog posts, I let you all know that I was revising my ELI course for summer to use regular deadlines, and asked for your feedback on your experiences with using such deadlines. I thought I'd update you on how it's been going.

I ended up structuring the course quite rigidly--I have one or two deadlines each week. (When they are doing a project or paper, it's usually just one deadline, turning the paper in at the end of the week. When they are doing a discussion, there are usually two deadlines, one mid-week by which they have to have posted their main response to the prompt, and then one at the end of the week by which they must be done with their interaction with their classmates.) I gave them three "freebie" late assignments, and after that am taking a 10-point grade penalty for each late assignment (in a 1000-point total course).

I have been extremely pleased with the results so far (although we're only halfway through the semester, so the full verdict is not in). There were several students who dropped right away after my welcome message (which clearly explained that the course was not self-paced), but that is okay with me--not everyone is going to be able to follow a schedule that moves the whole class through the course at once. But for the remaining students, nearly every one is thriving. Work is high quality, and they are meeting the deadlines. And as a very wonderful side benefit, I do not have to spend so much time cajoling, and worrying about, students who are not making progress. I have put the deadlines in front of them, and by golly, they are doing what has been asked of them. Is this a case of high expectations producing better outcomes? Are we asking too little of our students when we allow so much leeway in deadlines and course progress? How can we structure our courses in a way that pushes those students who will thrive on structure while also creating enough flexibility for those students with legitimate needs for it (and who are actually able to complete courses without rigid structures)?

The real test will come with my fall group, since summer tends to bring more transient students who may have more college experience and therefore are better able to meet these expectations while producing quality work.

3 comments:

Miriam said...

Jennifer-

This is a great post for me to read. I have always followed a pretty strict class structure: weekly written assignments due each week by Sunday, twice weekly discussions due by Wednesday and Sunday, and then either weekly quizzes by Sunday or a mid-term at the half-way point. As an instructor I almost can't imagine not having regular deadlines to help the students keep on track. I also can't imagine trying to grade the semester worth of work in one week before grades are due.

I hope some other folks respond, as I would love to hear how others are running their classes.

Laura said...

I have not instituted weekly deadlines in my ELI courses. I have maintained the minimum required by certain key dates. What I have done, however, is try to make more clear to students that there ARE these minimum expectations and that there IS an expected timing to meet between assignments. I have always had my "recommended" schedule but allow a "grace period" for late submissions to a certain point. After that a late penalty does apply. HOWEVER, what I am doing different this summer (at the suggestion made by one of you in this blog) is to make that first late submission a "warning". If and when such comes in, I e-mail the student and leave a not in the assignment feedback, bringing to their attention that this IS the first late assignment and reminding them of the grade penalty/late submission policy. I also (at the suggestion of one of you) put together a calendar with important deadline dates noted. I added this calendar as an attachment to the course syllabus and also attach it with the late submission "warning". So far, no one has had a second late submission in my ELI courses. When I had a second late submission in my LFCC courses (where I use the same policy but they DO have weekly deadlines), the students either volunteered that they knew this was late and expected a penalty or, if they did not volunteer such knowledge, when I explained that a late penalty was applied to their grade, they came back with "yes, I realized that". This semester, in FOUR online courses, I have had ABSOLUTELY NO students complain that my grading/late submission policy was "unfair". I also FEEL much better because I do feel like I am being more fair.

I have also maintained my practice of e-mailing students who seem to be slow in their progress. The first such reminder goes out after the end of the first week (before the drop date) to remind students that there IS that first assignment due (and to also "sign-in"). The second reminder goes out at the end of week 4 to anyone who has not yet submitted even ONE graded assignment (they will be withdraw at the end of week 5 if they don't get started ASAP). Again, at midterm for students who have not yet met the minimum required by the "last date to withdraw". And, again, 2-4 weeks before the end date, for those who have not yet met the minimum to qualify for an Incomplete or do not seem close to finishing in time (reminding them that they do need to REQUEST an I grade from me). So far, I do seem to have had fewer names to submit for withdraw.

Laura said...

One more note... I had one student explain why they were delayed with submissions in my course - it was because they had to prioritize for courses that DID have more strict deadlines! I guess that shows that deadlines DO help students progress with their work in a more timely manner.