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Reduce Stress (for Instructors and Students!) with Due Date Best Practices

By Hannah Jackson

Do you ever wake in a cold sweat, feverishly dreaming of students asking you, “When is that due?”? Maybe you want to shout, “It’s in the syllabus,” but your dream-throat won’t utter any sound. Ahh, due dates. They’ve been making students and instructors sweat since the beginning of… dates? Obligation? We won’t be discussing history here– just practical tips for simplifying the due date mystique.

When it comes to pedagogical best practices for assigning due dates, we cannot prescribe one method that will make all students happy and prevent any Can I please have an extension? emails for the rest of time. However, there are a few straightforward steps you can take to greatly improve your practice.


Be consistent.

It doesn’t matter the day or the time of your due dates as much as it does your consistency from week to week. Does your class meet Mondays and Wednesdays? Consider making your weekly work due Sunday night at 11:55 pm. Or Wednesday before class at 10:00 am. Or Friday evenings at 10:00 pm. It doesn’t matter so much which time you pick, as long as it is the same from week to week. Pick your due date, or two to three weekly due dates (two or three due dates can work if your course meets as many times per week), and set it for the same day and time every single week. Of course, major, scheduled exams can bend this rule, but otherwise due dates need to be consistent.

Not only is this a best practice for helping students to organize their schedules and plan their work out, they will also less ask, “When is the such and such due?” The student who knows all their work for Chem 190 is always due on Thursdays at 11:00 pm, for example, has a clear idea of their expectations without needing to hunt for dates across multiple platforms (but to your nightmare’s point, yes– they should still read the syllabus).

A mustard yellow Isidore text template displays an image of a lightbulb followed by the text: All work for this course is due on Sundays at 11:55 pm. New modules open Mondays at 12:00 am.

An Isidore checklist is displayed. The title reads, Due Sunday at 11:55 pm followed by 3 assignment items for students to complete

Consider using a text editor template or checklists to add your due date notices in Isidore. (Learn more in detail about the Isidore text editor to craft messages in your course site.) After you establish this, you will not need to adjust many dates when your course is rolled over to the next term. Days of the week stay evergreen while numerical dates require lots of manual updating!


Utilize “accept until” dates on Isidore.

This is especially helpful if you have an online asynchronous class. Accept until dates do not show up on the student’s end (with the exception of a timed exam, and we do not recommend using “accept until” on high-stakes, timed exams).

Students will still see the due date you’ve set. However, let’s say you set the weekly quiz to be due on February 6th. A student asks for a reasonable extension, which you grant. Now what? Well, you could email the Center for Online learning to ask for an extension for that particular student (we’re happy to help), or you could go in to set it up yourself. However, if you had set your “accept until” date in Isidore for February 13th, the student logging in to do her quiz would see it marked as “late,” but would still be able to complete her extension.

It is up to you to decide if students get points taken off or not for late assignments, but the “accept until” feature allows for students to turn work in without having to reopen an assignment every single time somebody needs an extension. 

The Isidore assignment settings for establishing an accept until date is located just after the two boxes for setting open and due dates.

Determine your flexibility policy.

Speaking of extensions, did reading the last section cause a slight rage to bubble up inside? If you’re tired of giving extensions, you’re tired of emails from students, and you’re tired of trying to decide who honestly deserves extra time and who is pulling your leg to get a little leeway, one of our innovative members at the Center for Online Learning created a learning app just for you: Tokens.

What are tokens?

The simple gist: each student gets a certain number of tokens at the beginning of the term to spend on a late assignment, missed class, quiz extension, or whatever concern you see fit for your course. Once the student has spent their tokens on that one, or two, or three (you decide) instance(s) of exemption, they get no more. Requests to use a token do not require an explanation as to why the student is using it, only a note stating what the token is being spent on. No emails to you with long-winded explanations of why the student couldn’t get it done and no deciding who gets what amount of leniency.

This image shows the settings for determining categories and costs of Tokens settings. The example shows categories of Missed Class and Skip a Quiz.

Again, if you are allowing students to turn something in late one time per semester, say, it is valuable to have a few-day to one-week window on your assignments for “accept until" submissions. Remember: students do not see this window and you do not need to communicate with them that it is there. However, it allows them to give work to you later than expected for special circumstances without having to reopen an assignment, test, quiz, or discussion forum. 

The three major areas to consider when creating due dates and communicating them in your syllabus are:

  • Consistency across the term (both day of the week and time of day)
  • The details of your flexibility policy
  • How you plan to handle excuses and exemptions (consider Tokens!)

Clear and plain communication of your late policy is critical to student success. No matter where you lie on the spectrum of late-submission forgiveness, it is essential that your syllabus and beginning of term messaging share your expectations explicitly. 

At the Center for Online Learning, we hope to provide you with best practices that can help to reduce your due date-related nightmares. If you would like to discuss a particular due date situation or how to use any of the tools mentioned in this post, reach out to us at 

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