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Charles Huenergardt, Online Director of Game Development, asked:

I have a student who feels like he should be allowed to turn in late work due to the hurricanes. He just told me that he was affected directly by the hurricane in Texas (According to his profile, he lives in Arizona). He never said that before. On 10/1 he informed me that he had a ton of mandatory overtime because the company he works for has a client in Florida that was affected by the hurricane and they had to scramble to fix it, so he didn’t have time for school. He also mentioned a crazy commute to work which he had to move to mitigate. And he wants to be able to turn in his work for the semester now. I’m not sure if we must make an exception in this case. I’m pretty understanding and most students who were affected either dropped or made up the few modules of late work. I’m not sure what to do here.

Should we allow him to make up all the work for the whole semester?


These cases come up periodically, and it's always a bit of a puzzler to figure out how to respond, especially when you're not sure whether the student is telling you the truth (and suspect he might not be). 

Here's my approach:

First of all, it doesn’t matter whether or not the student is telling the truth with his many excuses for not completing the work. While it's galling to be lied to, I choose to set that issue aside.

Whatever the reason, this student has fallen way behind. He does not fall into the circumstances described by the Academy policy on Excused Lateness in Online Classeswhich means that you are not required to let him submit his work late. However, if he thinks he can catch up, I prefer to give him that chance. I would:

    • First, ask him to think realistically about whether or not he can actually make up all his missed work before the semester ends. Does it make sense for him to scramble, given the tight timeframe, or would he be smarter just to take the class again next semester?

    • If he wants to go for it, then ask him to tell you when he will be able to submit the work and use that as his final deadline. (Obviously, it must be in before the end of the semester.)

    • Spell out any grade penalty you plan to impose for these late submissions.

    • Explain where the student should post his late work. (Ideally, this should be in the original assignment topics — edit the close dates to reopen the topics. But if you have concerns about other students feeling that you're giving this student an unfair advantage, have him post his work in a private topic. A private instructor's office is useful for this. Ask him to identify each assignment in the subject line of the post.)

CAUTION: If you decide to have the student post his work in a private topic, you will need to enter his grade for each late assignment in its original assignment topic.

To do this, just open the original assignment topic, then click the blue Grades button to open the grading interface. Even though the student did not post his late work in this topic, you can still use this interface to record his grade. I'd recommend making a note in the grades comment that the work was posted elsewhere. 

And then see what happens. Critique any work that comes in as quickly as you can. Grade as you would any other student’s work, but apply the grade penalty you spelled out. Maybe the student will pass — a win for everyone! Maybe not, but at least you gave him the chance to step up, however belatedly. Beyond that, it’s on him.

from my Inbox

I occasionally get messages from online instructors seeking advice on teaching issues. I review their class, think through the problem, and do my best to offer them a workable solution and relevant resources. When it (finally) occurred to me that other teachers might have similar concerns, I decided to post some of these questions and answers here. I hope you find them helpful! If you need help or advice or support with online teaching, please drop me a line (

Have you ever had a similar issue in your online classes? How did you handle things? What do you think of this advice? Do you have other suggestions? Please post a comment and share your thoughts!

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  1. First thoughts on this subject:

    The key here is the excuse of natural disaster. Ordinarily, I would tell a student who had not handed in any work, and who wanted to make it all up, that the class is not just an assignment in isolation, but feedback, participation with the other students, and a progression of learning. So I would deny the request at this late date to do all the homework and get credit for the class.

    However, since we have been requested to consider student issues in regard to natural disasters, I think your solution, Jenny, makes sense. I'm wondering if Academy policy allows for any penalty for tardiness of work, or tardiness of informing your instructor that you have an issue. I usually try to mimic work world practices, and tell my students that things happen, but the sooner you let your boss or teacher or art director know that you have a problem, the better. Waiting till the last minute is not a good practice, and I wonder if there is Academy policy governing when a student should let the instructor know of a natural disaster situation.

    Thanks, Sandra

  2. Just made an update to the above — see the CAUTION box. Thanks to Thomas Thanangadan for bringing this to my attention!

  3. My Key West home was completely destroyed by Hurricane Irma and I made it to class–tell him that! (haha.)

    Seriously, I had to go buy a larger MiFi hotspot plan but that was still insufficient. I picked up a Uhaul and now live in Alameda, luckily, teaching the class from motels along the way.

    But, I logged in for a different reason. My singular case of letting a student make up a large amount of classwork–for whatever his reasons were–was successful. The enormity of this student's thought process impressed me from the beginning. I was curious if he could synthesize the class content and still pull off the Collaborative Project--which is three modules of interactive communications--and he did, marvelously.