This complete research paper will detail our analysis of how implementing a generous flexible deadline policy impacted student performance across course assignments over one semester in a large introductory computer programming course. Our goal was to help students stay on track for the course by posting regular deadlines while reducing stress for students by allowing them to submit past the deadline for all assignments.
Some key questions we will address through our research are: 1) For which course assignments do students benefit from having a flexible deadline policy? 2) Is enforcing a “hard” deadline for weekly learning content necessary for students to perform well on larger assignments such as projects and assessments? 3) Do flexible deadlines reduce stress and improve the course experience for both students and instructional staff?
We will use data from the Fall 2022 academic semester to inform future implementation of a flexible deadline policy in large first-year courses. For Fall 2022, we piloted a flexible deadline structure such that if students submit past the initial posted deadline for specific types of assignments, the assignment will only incur a small grade deduction -- students could still earn an ‘A’ on the assignment. We have found so far that students submitting much later past the deadline (more than a couple of days) struggle more than those who submit assignments within a reasonable period (within a few days) after the first deadline. The students themselves reported some struggles with time management on some assignments because the flexible deadlines allowed them to fall too far behind with no external penalty. However, the students also greatly appreciate a few extra days leniency, especially on larger assignments like projects and assessments.
In this paper, we will describe our motivation for this research, analysis of student performance during Fall 2022 with flexible deadlines for various assignments, and recommendations for implementing a flexible deadline policy for courses.
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