Thursday, May 24, 2012

Missed an Assignment in an Online Class? What to do and What to Avoid

An assignment is posted in an online class and alas, the date has already come and gone. It happens. So, now what?

Overdue Assignment in an Online Class? - Photo by S Sepp at Wikimedia Commons
What to do if you Miss an Online Assignment

First, it is important to review the information that was missed if possible. If you had a reading assignment in a textbook, online, within the online class, etc., studying the information should be the primary focus initially. Online instructors provide assignments with the hope that students will internalize the information, and you are likely to see this information again in the form of future assessments. Unfortunately, some online learning information and opportunities may not be available after a due date.

Check the syllabus and other class documents to see if the online instructor has provided specific directions regarding what to do if an assignment is missed. He or she may provide make-up assignments, extra credit, or may allow re-sets. If these are already in place, take advantage of them or plan to schedule time to complete these opportunities for additional points.

Even if you will not receive credit for a missed assignment, you may wish to complete the assignment after the due date. For example, if a discussion board or forum is still open but grading has closed, it is a good idea to complete the assignment. You might still receive valuable feedback from the instructor for future reference. Do not attempt to email the instructor and claim that you posted the information before the due date – online assignments can easily be tracked by the online instructor, and trying to falsify information typically violates the honor code at an institution of higher learning.

Next, touch base with the online instructor and acknowledge that you have missed the assignment. You may want to give added information about why the assignment was missed. Be honest. I do have respect for a student who can email me and simply say that he or she forgot to complete an assignment. Honesty and integrity have a much greater impact on one's life than any letter grade.

Explain to the online instructor what you have done to attempt to learn the information and ask about any opportunities that the teacher may provide to make up the work. Do not automatically expect that an assignment will be re-set. Even if you have a great reason for missing an assignment, an online instructor may or may not extend a due date for an individual student. Part of the learning process in an online class is being self-motivated and managing one's time in order to complete assignments.

If a re-set is provided, the instructor may give additional instructions, such as a password or a time and place for a proctored make-up, and will generally set a due date for the assignment. It is very important to check one's email frequently if you have special requests in an online class. Missing a requested re-set because you didn't check your email for a couple of days is not going to be a satisfactory resolution for you or the instructor.

How Serious is a Missed Assignment? - Photo by Ed Sweeney at Wikimedia Commons
Determine How Serious This Missed Assignment Is

Some missed assignments may cause minimal damage while others could severely affect one's ability to successfully complete the course. Some assignments may carry a heavier weight than others, meaning that they are worth a higher percentage of one's overall score. You may find it helpful to review How to Calculate Your Grade in a Class.

If your previous grades are borderline and/or if the missed assignment carried a heavy weight, you may determine that the missed assignment may make it impossible for you to successfully complete the course. If that is the case, you may wish to check to see if you may drop the class. Most courses have a deadline for dropping a class with certain coding. Other classes might hinge on successful completing of certain courses, so you might need to change plans for future semesters. You may wish to seek guidance on this decision because financial aid and major courses of study may be affected. Always notify the online instructor before dropping a class as well.

Some students choose to continue with the class even if they cannot successfully complete the course. Learning opportunities are not lost simply because one cannot achieve a desired score. Success can be measured in many different ways, and students may find their own personal sense of accomplishment by finishing what they started, regardless of the final grade.

Timing might not be right for some students. Even if you have the potential to successfully complete the course, you might determine that this is not the best class for you to take at this time. Sometimes life circumstances dictate a need to change direction, even in the middle of a semester.

What to do if You Miss an Assignment - Photo by Dion Joel at Wikimedia Commons
How to Avoid Missing Future Assignments

Examine the circumstances that led up to the missed assignment. Many situations might be avoided with a bit of planning. Develop a clear strategy for completing future assignments within the assigned time frame. Sometimes assignments are missed due to an unforeseen emergency, but online classes often offer much more flexibility than on campus classes, and smart time management skills may help students to avoid missing additional assignments.

First, determine when all future assignments are due and how long each is available. Make notes of when each assignment is due. If the instructor provides a calendar of assignments, print that information and highlight or check assignments when complete. You might write or type that information into your calendar, making sure to check it on a regular basis.

Use online resources to your advantage! Some instructors might send email reminders of assignments, or you might want to send yourself an email when each assignment becomes available. Keep that reminder in your inbox until you complete the assignment and develop a schedule for ensuring that you check your email and the online class on a scheduled basis just as you would attend class on campus at a set time.

Avoid the temptation to wait until the due date to start working on an assignment. Plan to complete each assignment early so that you have time to trouble-shoot if you are experiencing technical difficulties. It can be quite freeing to be able to do spur of the moment fun activities later with the knowledge that your work is completed! This can also be helpful if an emergency occurs close to the due date.

Look at your environment and determine whether or not additional help should be enlisted. For example, if you have small kids, you might make arrangements for babysitting during times that you plan to take online tests. If you can anticipate a major conflict with your schedule during future weeks in the class, communicate those issues with the instructor. He or she might provide special arrangements for completing an assignment in the future. Being proactive will often achieve better results.

Develop a schedule for completing assignments and a back-up plan with alternative dates, times, and places for completing assignments in case the original plan is not working. Taking online classes can be a great alternative to traditional classrooms, especially for people with busy schedules and who are self-motivated to learn the material.

I hope you find these tips to be helpful in your future endeavors! Find additional tips, flash cards, and practice tests at the Student Survive 2 Thrive site map.

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