Late Policy & Grace Period Options

A statue of an angel with an uplifted arm. Its wings are spread wide open. Surrounding tombstones are also visible.

Grace by Jonathan Lin on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA license

I seriously hate having to change my late policy. I had more than a few students thank me for it last term. Several even said that they would have had to withdraw without it. That said, I understand that members of a group cannot all work under different ideas of the due dates if they are going to create collaborative documents.

My challenge then is to search for some way to give everyone some freedom without hampering collaborative work. I thought brainstorming the options would help:

  1. Screw it. Use the old system. Let the groups have anarchy.
  2. Also screw it. No grace period. No humanity. Meet the deadline or else.
  3. Use a short grace period on everything. 3 days.
  4. Use 3 day grace periods for tasks like homework, check-ins, etc. Longer grace period for major projects (up to one week?).
  5. Use 3-day grace periods for tasks like homework. Groups set their own independent deadlines for all collaborative work. Provide “suggested” deadlines to help them pace things out.
  6. Give up. Go live under a bridge with the other trolls.

Option 6 is looking like best right now. Okay, not really. I suspect Option 5 is the best way to focus students on Project Management, which is, after all, the focus of the final unit. They are to write proposals, progress reports, and recommendation reports; but the overarching goal is learning project management in the context of composing technical writing.

In some ways, earning a Complete on the writing projects should not be the goal. Working smoothly and effectively as a group should be. I’m having flashbacks to the good old days when I taught Writing and Digital Media. Back then, students had a major project that could be anything from a video documentary to a website. I tried to be aware that the goal was learning about how to compose with digital tools, not perfect productions. I emphasized being brave and taking risks. I regularly reminded the class that if they put in the effort, took risks, and tried, they would do fine in the class.

Obviously I don’t want to set students up to have problems with the grace period, but I could emphasize that the goal is to collaborate well while meeting as many of the writing goals as possible. I’m beginning to see that the deadlines put the emphasis on the wrong things. I’m freaking out over how to have work turned in so that the group can proceed to the next task. If I control all the deadlines and have a lockstep progression that I expect the class to follow, students aren’t practicing or learning anything other than obedience—and I don’t teach courses on obedience.

I hope this still makes sense tomorrow.