Shining a light on missed deadlines

One of the biggest complaints among my colleagues — and, I imagine, among journalism professors everywhere — is the student who misses deadlines.

Why else the dire threats in every journalism syllabus I’ve ever seen: a grade lost for every day the assignment is late. No credit for work more than a week late. No work accepted late, at all.

I’ve written those threats into syllabuses myself. Yet I find myself nodding in resignation when a student begs to print out her story during a break or to e-mail it to me after class.

What to do? I could develop a steelier spine and follow through on the threats — and I have lowered grades for late work. Yes, I could do that consistently, in theory.

But I’ve stumbled upon a couple of techniques recently that have proved effective, and they’re more pleasant than the glowering tough-guy approach. Both harness the Internet.

Like many colleges and universities, Stony Brook uses an online educational tool called Blackboard. Each course has its own Blackboard site, with pages for assignments, email, announcements, course documents, gradebook, discussion boards, blogs and many more.

I like to use the Announcement function, which also allows me to send the announcement as an e-mail to all students in the course.

The night before a deadline, I post an announcement reiterating the details of the deadline: time, place, format. I specify that the work is due in hard copy, typed, triple-spaced and stapled, at the start of class. For good measure, I e-mail the announcement to all the students.

This tactic worked well during my winter-session course. Everyone managed to make the deadlines, despite commutes of up to 90 minutes for a class that began at 9:30 a.m., pre-dawn by student standards.

This semester, I tried something else when half of the 12 students in the senior-project seminar I co-teach with Marcy McGinnis had missed two interim project deadlines three weeks into the course. I threw together a spreadsheet listing all the students. The next column listed missed assignments — blank for those who were caught up. Then a column with the due date, and a column — blank — for the date submitted.

I posted the spreadsheet on Blackboard and e-mailed it to the class yesterday. Then I sat back and watched the late assignments roll in. All but two students are now caught up.

A picture, or in this case a chart, is worth a thousand nags. Seeing their names on the bad-boy list means public embarrassment, however slight. Just stating the facts, folks; it’s up to you to do something about the situation.

These students are working on semester-long projects. If  they fall behind this early in the semester, they are doomed. I plan to make this chart a weekly feature of the course.

Advertisements
    • Aisha Breland-Henry
    • February 28th, 2010

    I agree that this method worked. My friend and I were making fun of another classmate because she was praised for finding her topic on time and we didn’t. It was a good laugh, but their was a tinge of guilt for not having a story idea submitted on time (at least for me).

    However, I was upset when I saw other students get praised for posting their blogs and I didn’t when I was the first to blog and was blogging regularly like them. The feeling came and went though because my name kept getting put on the list for the same work owed, I started focusing on that and other things instead to stay on top.

  1. Thanks , I have just been searching for information about this subject for a
    while and yours is the best I’ve found out
    so far. However, what about the bottom line? Are you certain about
    the supply?

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: