Understanding Flexible Assignment Deadlines
- What is this accommodation used for?
- Who receives this accommodation?
- How to evaluate the reasonableness of assignment extensions in a class
- Considerations to keep in mind when implementing Flexible Assignment Deadlines
- Access Center responsibilities in supporting Flexible Assignment Deadlines
- Faculty responsibilities when implementing Flexible Assignment Deadlines
- Student responsibilities when eligible for Flexible Assignment Deadlines
The information below is adapted with permission from the Stanford Office of Accessible Education.
What is this accommodation used for?
For students with conditions that are episodic in nature or that impact their ability to devote sufficient time to the assignment, strict assignment deadlines and a reduction in points for late assignments can prevent them from demonstrating their full mastery of class content. The purpose of reasonable accommodations is to ensure access, and this extends to providing flexibility within class policies to ensure students with disabilities are not disproportionately penalized for exacerbations in their condition, as they may be unpredictable and inevitable despite ongoing health and time management practices.
Who receives this accommodation?
Students with disabilities who navigate with a wide variety of disability-related experiences are approved for this accommodation. Granting extensions on assignments ensures that the student is not unfairly penalized for having to use alternate means or methods to access written materials and complete their work. Examples of when a student may benefit or be approved for this accommodation:
- Students dealing with fluctuating and unpredictable periods of exacerbations of their condition associated with chronic illnesses or mental health disabilities.
- Students who need frequent rest periods or who are able to work only for short periods of time, such as those with recent concussions, brain injuries, or chronic illnesses.
- Students with reduced or limited stamina who have difficulty sitting, reading, writing/typing for extended periods due to chronic illnesses, physical disabilities, or injuries.
- Students who rely on adaptive technology (e.g., screen readers or speech-to-text software) to read and/or write as this process may be slower than reading with normal eyesight.
- Students with compromised reading abilities arising from a learning disability who need more time to process and complete the volume of reading/work.
- Students with significant executive function impairments who find it difficult to focus and concentrate for sustained periods of time and need to break their work into shorter bursts of time.
How to evaluate the reasonableness of assignment extensions in a class:
The accommodation for Flexible Assignment Deadlines should always be considered on an individual basis, allowing an intentional and critical analysis of how the sequencing of assignments and their corresponding deadlines are essential to the class learning objectives and pedagogical components. While a late assignment policy may be incorporated into the grading scheme and syllabus, this accommodation is intended to modify any stated policies to allow additional flexibility to account for the student’s disability-related need.
The accommodation should be provided unless the accommodation significantly compromises the integrity of the course as offered. If you believe assignment extensions are not possible, then instructors should consult with the Access Advisor to determine the reasonableness of the request within the specific context of your class. The Access Advisor/Coordinator will consult with instructors using the following questions to determine the reasonableness:
- What does the class description and syllabus say about assignment deadlines or late work?
- How is the final class grade calculated? To what extent are assignments factored into the final grade? Are there any alternative grading schemes for assignments (i.e. one assignment grade may be dropped, etc.)?
- Are assignment deadline policies consistently applied? (i.e. Have any exceptions made to the policy for non-disabled students, such as for athletic travel or religious observances? If so, then these exceptions must also be granted to students with disabilities.)
- What is the purpose of the assignment? Is it necessary to have it completed before an exam? Before a discussion?
- Is the material being learned in the class sequential? Does each week’s material build on the material learned in the previous week(s)? (This may shorten the window of time in which an extension can reasonably be granted.)
- Are assignments used as class content when they are due? Are students required to actively participate in class discussions/activities based on the assignment? (e.g. problem sets reviewed as the first lecture on that content)
- Are answer sets released that would impact a student’s ability to request an extension? If so, how important is the timeliness of providing the answer sets to student learning and course sequencing?
- Are there other lab or class sections the student could attend to catch up on missed material?
- Does the assignment involve teamwork? Would failure to complete the assignment on time compromise the educational experience of other students in the class?
- Is it possible for students to “work ahead” in this class?
Considerations to keep in mind when implementing Flexible Assignment Deadlines
- Limits are reasonable. Provide clear limits to the number of extensions allowed and the length of such extensions. Note: This is not a “free pass” for students to turn in late work. Agreed upon extensions should be specific and limited to a specific amount of time.
- The instructor’s class policy on late work (e.g., 10 points off a grade for each day late) will remain applicable to students with the Flexible Assignment Deadlines accommodation if they fail to meet the agreed upon disability-related extension, or if they miss deadlines for other non-disability related reasons.
- Students are never required to provide doctor’s notes to justify use of this accommodation.
- Accommodations are not retroactive; instructors are not obligated to adjust/reverse previous grade reductions for late work if the Flexible Assignment Deadlines form is provided after-the-fact.
Access Center responsibilities in supporting Flexible Assignment Deadlines:
Access Advisors/Coordinators will:
- Review documentation and meet with students to better understand their disability-related experiences. Through this interactive process, the Access Advisor/Coordinator will determine if a student is eligible for Flexible Assignment Deadlines to mitigate disability-related impacts throughout the semester. If so, Flexible Assignment Deadlines will be listed as an eligible accommodation on the Faculty Notification Letter.
- Consult and support faculty in determining reasonableness of accommodation or how to implement this accommodation in light of essential class elements.
- Provide support to students and faculty when questions or difficulties arise related to the accommodation.
Faculty responsibilities when implementing Flexible Assignment Deadlines:
Once instructors have been notified of a student’s eligibility for accommodations, instructors should determine the extent to which they can reasonably grant assignment extensions without fundamentally altering the learning objectives. The Access Advisor/Coordinator is available for consultation if you have questions regarding how the accommodation interacts with essential elements of the class and determining if or what adjustments are reasonable.
If you believe the accommodation is not reasonable in light of your class objectives or pedagogical methods, contact the student’s Access Advisor/Coordinator immediately as instructors should never unilaterally deny an accommodation. Instructors are expected to clearly articulate why flexibility is not reasonable.
The instructor should engage in dialogue with the student and/or the Access Advisor/Coordinator regarding assignment extension expectations: delineate the preferred communication process for when the student needs to notify you of a disability-related extension; discuss the typical grace period for an extension, and any critical assignments that cannot be extended.
It is highly recommended that the agreed upon parameters for flexibility be captured in writing using the Flexible Assignment Deadlines Agreement Form presented to them by the student. This written agreement will ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and that any confusion regarding the agreement can be clarified. Students and instructors are to have an interactive discussion to determine the parameters for flexible deadlines and arrive at an agreement for each type of assignment. Instructors should complete and sign the form, make copies for themselves and return the signed copy to the student. The student will then sign and return to the Access Center. Students and instructors are welcome to include the Access Advisor/Coordinator on these email exchanges for documentation purposes. Sample form:
- When a student needs to utilize the agreed upon flexibility for a certain assignment, they are responsible for notifying their instructor in a timely manner. “Timely” is defined as “as soon as possible.” If the request is within the original agreement parameters, the instructor is expected to recognize and honor this. If the student is requesting additional flexibility, the instructor must reply to the student’s request and offer deadline extensions that are workable for the specific assignment.
- Instructor will request consultation with Access Advisor/Coordinator if they believe that extending the deadlines for specific assignments would fundamentally alter an essential element of their class or if they have questions about what a reasonable amount of time extensions is within the context of their class.
- If extensions are pedagogically possible, the instructor will work with the student in good faith to determine a reasonable amount of time and set a new deadline for each eligible assignment.
- Instructor will verify the specific plan for the new assignment due date in writing using the Flexible Assignment Deadlines form and sign this with the student. The student will then return a copy to the Access Center. Both instructor and student should keep copies for themselves.
- The Access Advisor/Coordinator is always available to mediate any concerns about assignment extensions, including concerns about academic integrity and logistics of this accommodation. The Access Advisor/Coordinator remains a neutral party in evaluating what is reasonable as an accommodation and is here to support you.
Student responsibilities when eligible for Flexible Assignment Deadlines:
- Students approved for Flexible Assignment Deadlines must send their instructors the Flexible Assignment Deadlines form via email and request to meet with their instructors at the beginning of the semester, or as soon as they are made eligible for the accommodation.
- Note: The Flexible Assignment Deadlines accommodation is not retroactive to assignments not covered by the agreement.
- Students must collaborate with their instructor(s) to determine the reasonableness of assignment extensions within the context of each class and discuss the parameters of the accommodation and develop protocols for implementation.
- Students may also request guidance from their Access Advisor/Coordinator or request assistance from the Access Advisor/Coordinator in initiating or facilitating the conversation with their instructor to determine the parameters of the accommodation and any necessary protocols.
- Students should clearly understand if or how assignment extensions will be granted with respect to the class learning objectives and structure. This entails knowing the finite number of extensions that can be allowed, how to communicate with the professor when they need to request an extension, and any critical assignments that cannot receive an extension.
- Students who receive flexible assignment deadlines as an accommodation are expected to meet and complete course objectives.
It is highly recommended that the Flexible Assignment Deadlines agreement is summarized in writing using the Flexible Assignment Deadlines Agreement Form presented to them by the student. This written agreement will ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and that any confusion of the agreement can be clarified. Students and instructors are to have an interactive discussion to determine the parameters of the flexible attendance agreement. Instructors should complete and sign the form, make copies for themselves and return the signed copy to the student. The student will then sign and return to the Access Center. Students and instructors are welcome to include the Access Advisor/Coordinator on these email exchanges for documentation purposes.
- When a student needs to utilize this accommodation for an upcoming assignment, they are responsible for reaching out to the instructor through email as early as reasonably possible to request the extension and clarify the due date.
- At no time are students required to present documentation to instructors in order to justify a disability-related need for an extension.
- Students should not plan on the extension being automatically provided and should always use this accommodation, if available, with care.
- If a student receives a paper or assignment extension and is unable to meet the deadline, a new extension request must be made.
- The Access Advisor/Coordinator is always available to mediate any concerns about navigating Flexible Assignment Deadlines in a specific class.