Extensions Requests – LatePasses
There are two camps when it comes to due dates. One holds firm that no matter what “in the real world there are no extensions”. These happen if you’re applying for a government contract, or even just buying a house. If the bid closes at 3pm on Friday, it closed at 3pm on Friday—no exceptions. In many professions due dates are critical. The other camp grants every student request, “life happens, due dates aren’t course content”. For many jobs getting a report to your boss 1 minute, 1 hour, or even a few days late can result in little more than a comment. But everyone has a limit.
Real Life vs School
We’ve heard stories of people being fired for being half an hour late to work, which sounds outrageous. But if it’s every day, and opening the store at 8am is important they might have just been at their boss’s breaking point. Throughout the semester a teacher can start to see the same names over and over again asking for extensions. Then the number of requests reaches an unmanageable amount and the teacher throws up their hands, “no more extensions!” Education should be a place where students are presented with a simplified, directed version of the “real world”. This is where LatePasses come in.
Instead of waiting for “some limit” to your patience and tolerance, you set the limit ahead of time. For example you could grant every student 10 automatic extensions on any assignments. This way there is an accommodation for late submission, but also a clear limit.
A LatePass is a token students receive at the beginning of the semester that extends a single due date by some prescribed amount. A common starting place for classes is to begin with 10 LatePasses that extend the due date by 24hrs. So a student could get one 10-day extension on one assignment, or 10 one-day extensions, or 3 three-day extensions and a one day extension. Or more commonly, redeem none but feel supported that if something does come up there’s a system in place. You can require students to redeem LatePasses before a due date for a slightly more “authentic” experience, but that’s up to you.
This is in contrast to a late penalty, where students lose marks for submitting late. There is a clear expectation and guide, but the grade and quality of their work is conflated with its lateness. Late penalties aren’t really the same “in the real world”, but you could argue people view late work as less good.
The MyOpenMath assessment platform uses LatePasses as a default approach to late assignments. This is by far the most seamless and integrated approach I’ve seen, and was how I was first introduced to the idea. Students are automatically assigned LatePasses, and redemption is automatically controlled by the system when due dates pass.
Outside of MyOpenMath, LatePasses can be implemented by creating a counter and deducting them when needed. A gradebook item worth 0% and assigning all students a “grade” of 10, then deduct as needed. It would mean some manual work after each assignment to deducting the LatePasses, and lockout if they run out, but still less work than dealing with every extension request.
When there is no system automatically handling LatePasses you will need a backup policy in the event a student submits late after they run out. You could simply give 0 for late assignments. Alternatively you could fall back on a standard late penalty. I personally use 0.5%/hr for labs when students run out. This type of hourly penalty encourages students to keep working and submit it as soon as they can. Some Learning Management systems, like Canvas, offer this as a default option. But it is better to communicate with the students and open a discussion and rectify the issue directly. Additionally you could grant LatePasses in batches throughout the semester to prevent students from burning through LatePasses before midterms.
Be sure to say “yes” to extension requests when students do ask. A yes means they’ll revisit the assignment and either submit or use the built in LatePass system. If the student gets “no extensions, use a LatePass” they only hear “no” and may never revisit the assignment, and miss the learning opportunity.
While some students may still ask to get an extension to avoid using a LatePass, the LatePass system sets clear guidelines for the bulk of students. It gives the class a peace of mind that if something goes wrong their professor has planned ahead to support them. The system is always there if they need it. Watch out for the keeners at the end of the semester asking “Can I ‘cash in’ my 10 remaining LatePasses for a 10% bonus?” You might need a disclaimer that “LatePasses cannot be combined with other offers or redeemed for cash”.