Fall Quarter starts tomorrow for a lot of colleges and universities, including one I am teaching online for. I was putting some finishing touches on my syllabus in the weeks leading up to quarter’s start and ran into a little snafu. In general, the college (meaning both the on-ground and online components of it) only considers Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week as holidays. On-ground students are expected to go to class the Monday-Wednesday of that week. And this week is considered one of the ten weeks in the quarter.
But, as we know, online courses don’t happen in terms of “days.” They tend to happen in denominations of weeks (which includes weekends, especially important schoolwork times for busy adult learners). So what this represents is a shorter week for online students. But here is the conundrum: I usually have my student’s discussion boards due on Thursdays and their classmate responses due on Sundays. Thursday, as we all know, is Thanksgiving Day.
I found myself with three options.
- Take Thanksgiving week off completely. But on-ground students still have this week and there isn’t an “extra” week to give at the end of the term. So, in my instance, I couldn’t do this. The quarter needs to be at least 10 weeks long.
- Have the discussion board assignment due on Wednesday that week. This was an option for me, but what I didn’t like about it is that for every other week of the quarter the discussion responses are due on Thursday. To have one week where things are different isn’t in keeping with an online learner’s need for consistency (it provides the structure akin to what the brick-and-mortar environment provides). So having one week where the due dates were different didn’t seem fair. And online adult learners often need entire weeks to structure their work time. And, indeed, holidays (off from work) and weekends are when they really can focus on schoolwork.
- Keep things as is. Have the discussion due on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day and the classmate responses due that Sunday. This is what I decided to do.
But, Brooke, how fair is that? Why do online students have to work on their Thanksgiving and is that even fair or allowed? Won’t they be upset with you?
No, online students should not have to work on their Thanksgiving Day. I, their instructor, do not want to work on Thanksgiving Day either. (I plan to be in the kitchen knee high in chopped onions and pumpkin seeds myself). But I decided to trust my online students to structure and calendar themselves as they see fit in their lives. If they don’t want to work on Thanksgiving day, they don’t have to. They can answer the discussion prompt Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of that week. But if they need Thursday, then they have it. There is no requirement that they work on Thanksgiving, this is just when the due date is. My online students can decide for themselves how they will use that time this week.
And this solution satisfies both kinds of students. The student who does not want to work on Thanksgiving (or even Black Friday!) AND the working adult learner who needs Thursday to do school stuff because they worked at their day jobs Monday-Wednesday (to have a shortened week would have even stressed this student out more).
I explain this in the syllabus to my students so that expectations are clear. I write a blurb in the course calendar that says something like:
Week 8 Deliverables:
Initial Discussion Response Due Thursday 11/28 by 11:59 PM EST.
(Yes, this is Thanksgiving You are not expected to work on your holiday, so this week I would schedule things so that you can get this one done early. But you have the holiday day to work if you want/need it).
Week 8 Deliverables:
Initial Discussion Response due Thursday 11/28 by 11:59 PM EST
(Yes, this is Thanksgiving Day. I want you to know that you are not expected to work on your holiday. You are welcome to post this one early to have that day off. But you have the holiday day to turn it in if you need that time.)
Something along those lines. This is not the first time I’ve run into this problem and made this choice. I’ve done it a couple of times before and do students mind? No. No one has ever complained to me or left some comment on the student evaluation to the effect of “This instructor made us work on Thanksgiving!” On the contrary, a lot of students end up turning their work in on that day. Because they needed it. And it didn’t ruin their holiday!
What have you all done in similar circumstances? What questions does this topic bring up for you? Feel free to leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!