Due Dates For Online Courses: Should They Exist?

Recently I had an online student (unrelated to Beacon Heights Tutoring) who mildly complained when she found out that my course included due dates. In her message, she explained that she had taken other courses online, and with her busy schedule, she loved that she could work at her own pace; so it was a big disappointment when she realized that my course was different. I politely responded to the student’s message by pointing out that, for many years, I allowed students to turn in late work without a penalty or reduction in credit, but that the task of grading the work of students playing “catch up” at the last minute had taken its toll; the policy had become unfair to me and my time. Still, the girl’s point had resonated with me.

I asked my mother-in-law, a retired, veteran teacher, for her take on the issue. Not having due dates “doesn’t teach them a lick of responsibility!” I agreed, but explained how I had taken a college course with a professor whose argument for accepting late work was: the work doesn’t get any easier, so why wouldn’t a teacher accept it?

Let me be clear: I believe that middle school and high school students who take courses online should have some flexibility. Self-paced learning is an effective model. However, my current policy matches that of the organization I work for: keeping assignment submissions open for 2 weeks after they become available. That’s hardly a short amount of time for, at best, a few hours of studying and work. Furthermore, the organization has left the decision of whether or not to accept student work after this window up to the discretion of the teacher; it’s based on the philosophy adopted by the educator.

Honestly, I’m still on the fence when it comes to this issue. Part of me feels that self-paced learning is still in effect in tandem with due dates. After all, students in a regular classroom have to turn in work on time, but they don’t have the liberty of missing live lectures (direct instruction), or pausing a teacher’s presentation until late in the evening. Not to mention, what is a student really learning when they check-in an online class irregularly? Is it not just another version of the late-night-book-report cram?

Whether you are an educator or not, I’m interested in your comments. Please leave them below.