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Piloting a Flexible Deadline Policy for a First-Year Computer Programming Course

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division (FYP) - Technical Session 3: Evaluation & Assessment

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs Division (FYP)

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Paper Authors


Isha Bhatt University of Michigan

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Isha Bhatt is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Science in Robotics at the University of Michigan. She is also a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) for Engineering 101: Introduction to Computers and Programming, a required first year engineering course. Her teaching responsibilities include teaching labs, holding office hours, and implementing staff professional development efforts through the Foundational Course Initiative. Isha previously received her bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering, also from the University of Michigan. As an undergraduate student, she was an Instructional Aide for Programming and Data Structures, a direct follow-on course to Engineering 101. In addition to teaching, Isha is interested in software for embedded and autonomous systems and deep technology startups.

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Laura K. Alford University of Michigan

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Laura K. Alford is a Lecturer at the University of Michigan. She researches ways to use data-informed analysis of students' performance and perceptions of classroom environment to support DEI-based curricula improvements.

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Lesa Begley

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Ryien Hosseini


Deborah A. Lichti University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Deborah Lichti earned her B.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Science at Purdue University and her M.S. and Ph.D. at East Carolina University in Biological Sciences specializing in coastal ecology. Currently, Deborah is a Instructional Consultant in the Foundational Course Initiative in the Center for Research in Learning and Teaching. While completing her doctoral studies, she redesigned the second-semester introductory biology laboratory, integrating authentic research experiences using citizen science. After joining the University of Delaware in the Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratories, she continued developing authentic learning experiences for students in her integrated biology and chemistry course. Deborah has also created pedagogical training programs for graduate assistants teaching lab courses and mentored both undergraduate and graduate students interested in teaching. Her areas of expertise include qualitative and quantitative assessment, STEM curriculum development, and graduate student training.

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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.

Bhatt, I., & Alford, L. K., & Begley, L., & Hosseini, R., & Lichti, D. A. (2023, June), Piloting a Flexible Deadline Policy for a First-Year Computer Programming Course Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--43892

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