When is this due? Plan assignment deadlines to minimize technical problems when students submit their work.

December 1, 2015

We all face deadlines. We are accustomed to deadlines that end at midnight or at the close of business hours. A conference submission must be posted by 5 PM in a particular time zone. Our tax returns must be postmarked or submitted electronically no later than midnight on April 15.

Electronic deadlines are unforgiving; if the deadline passes before we upload our submission, we can no longer submit the work. Yes, people “ought” to plan their work to anticipate and adjust to unexpected obstacles near the submission deadline. However, we have all experienced frustration when an unexpected technical problem arises just as we try to submit work electronically. Web sites and severs get overloaded and crash. An electrical outage knocks out our internet service. The online submission form includes fields that don’t behave the way we expect. Our computer mysteriously fails to interact properly with the online interface. Unfortunately, tech support is seldom available at midnight or 5 PM.

Instructors have control over the deadlines we set for student work. If we set a deadline at a time when no technical support is available, students are left to their own devices to cope with technical challenges. Why not close drop boxes or set deadlines at times when last-minute submitters can get technical support if they need it?

Create user-friendly deadlines

Give special attention to the times we set for deadlines when students must submit their work through technology. Think about when students will have access to campus resources for help with technical problems when they submit their work.

  • Close the drop box in eLearning during business hours instead of at midnight.
  • Schedule intervals of time for students to take an online quiz during times when technical support is available, especially during the final hours of the testing schedule when usage will be high.
  • If students must use a piece of technology that is available on a limited number of machines in a computer lab, think about the number of students who must compete for time on these machines during lab hours. Make sure students have plenty of time to use these resources between the time when you make the assignment and when they must submit their project. Bottlenecks for lab access can create delays, especially near the deadline.
  • If possible, avoid deadlines that coincide with known times when eLearning will be offline for an upgrade or ITS conducts routine service.   
  • Set deadlines during work hours, when the technology help desk is likely to be staffed. Students who experience technology problems can then seek assistance and still meet the deadline.  

11/3/15 ecr