It is critical to communicate expectations, especially due dates and times, to your students.

In a face-to-face course, there may be more flexibility. On an assignment due date, students could drop it by your office early, hand it in a few minutes before class starts, or submit it when you walk around the room collecting it during lecture. Online, those options aren’t always available. You need to be much more specific about the time an assignment is due and the methods of submitting the assignment you will accept.

Be strategic about your communication as a deadline nears. If you do not have regular class meetings, regularly post announcements and general updates to keep the course flowing smoothly and to answer common questions before they arrive as student emails in your inbox.  However, expect to receive more questions about an assessment the closer you are to the due date.

Also, technical difficulties can crop up unexpectedly, for both you and your students. Set a date and time that provides you with the opportunity to respond to student queries, if you need to do so.


You can set expectations in a variety of ways:

  • Include the information in your syllabus

Example: “I will respond to emailed questions within 24 hours.”

  • Restate the due date and time on the learning area (in your LMS or your hosted site)

Example: “Portfolio Project: Due by 5:00pm PST, electronic submissions of a .doc or .docx file through Canvas only.”

  • Post a reminder in the announcements area or discussion board

Example: “Your assignment is due tomorrow by 12:00pm EST. Submit it online through email, or drop off a hard copy during my office hours, from 10:00am-12:00pm.”


  • Set
  • Communicate
  • Follow

In addition to setting your expectations for assignment due dates and times, also make sure you set expectations for your policy regarding deliverables and technology. Explicitly tell students to practice using course technology and communicate your tolerance policy.

For example, many instructors will require their students to practice using relevant technology before the assignment is due. An assignment like creating a video post requires a camera, Internet access, and knowledge of how to use a video hosting site. If a student goes through these steps independently at your encouragement, prior to the due date, you’re less likely to receive complaints like “My camera is broken, can I get an extension?”

Set your expectations, communicate them, and follow them consistently. You’ll be helping your students—and yourself.


Dr. Jones is developing assessments for her History 101 course. Here are the steps she followed:

  • Choose student learning outcome to build on

– Identify the beginning and end dates of WWI and of key battles

  • Design assessment that relates to the SLO

– Multiple choice quiz, graded

  • Set expectations for deliverables

– Due Wednesday, September 16 at 12:00pm

  • Communicate to students

– List due date in syllabus

Test Yourself

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