The hour before the deadline

We all have stories, usually told while shaking ones head, of how students do things at the last minute.

Long ago, the deadlines for my online classes were set at 5 pm on the day something was due. But “everyone else” (the dozen or so others teaching online) set theirs at Sunday midnight. I would receive panicked emails between 5 pm and midnight, or after an assignment was graded late. So my nicely planned evenings of sitting and marking papers didn’t work. I changed my deadlines to Sunday midnight.

So when I began using Perusall for annotations, I asked, repeatedly, for students to participate beginning on Tuesday and ending Sunday midnight. Some do so. But many try to read five documents and cram in all the annotations on Sunday. This prevents the close reading I had intended by assigning annotations in the first place, an issue for another post. But it also provides a bizarre opportunity.

Perusall emails me when a student answers a question I’ve posted.  It also emails when a student tags me with an @. Throughout each Sunday, these emails increase, with a flood of them in the last hour: 11 pm to midnight.

If I go into Perusall on Sunday night between 11 pm and midnight, I can participate in the discussion, adding questions and using @ to reply to individual students, and I’ll get a response. It becomes almost synchronous.

I’m not saying I do this every week and every class, but if I’ve assigned a particularly difficult document (last week’s Henry Miller: Tropic of Cancer comes to mind), I can engage a great deal of the class at that hour.

No, I’m not recommending this. But it does seem to open potential for the last hour before the deadline. I have a colleague who uses Google Docs and notices that same activity shortly before the deadline — he sees the number of participant bubbles at the top increase as he watches.

So I wonder two things. First, is it safe now that we have many online classes to change deadlines to a more reasonable hour? And is the last hour before the deadline an opportunity to teach that we should be using?

2 comments to The hour before the deadline

  • jmm

    Is it just students who leave work to the last second, or is it the species?

    If it’s a sign of their immaturity, then it seems to me it’s part of our job to get them out of the habit–so no to last-second instruction.

    If it’s species essence (I’m grading a lot of papers on Marx at the moment…), then I say jump on it as a teaching moment, if you’re awake. (I would not be.)

    • Lisa M Lane

      Not sure I could get them out of any habits at all – I tend to focus on trying to break them of the habit of quick judgements as priority. Last-minute work I figure at least they care about the deadline.

      The very good students, of course, have already done their work and thus likely miss the whole thing, so I think it’s more of a middle-of-the-pack thing…

      Is it contradictory to grade papers on Marx?

      Off to look up things about species essence…