Here's a new twist on the new grace-period-reminder strategy. A student wrote me back this morning who was unhappy that I had suggested he make his own schedule for the class (see post below; he got the email on Friday as one of the people who cycled on to the watch list). I'm actually glad he wrote me so that I could have a chance to try to explain; it makes me wonder about the other students who might feel the same way but who didn't reply. I can't include his email here, but you can probably guess what he said from the reply I wrote. One item that in my reply that might not make sense out of context was that he told me he had two tests and three quizzes in his other classes (so his claim that my class takes up 90% of his time cannot be true, although I believe that it could feel that way); so, that's why I mentioned that there are no tests in the class he has with me. Here's my reply:
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[name omitted] you're not being scolded, truly, and I'm really sorry if I gave you that impression. You also don't have assignments due every week; that misunderstanding is why I wrote the email. If you pick two or three days a week to do the work, it's usually more efficient, especially since you can pick any days that are convenient for you based on your schedule. Each week the work takes about 6 hours per week, so if it feels like 90% of your time, that's probably a result of spreading it out and doing it at the last minute. You can schedule it like a regular class with 3 two-hour sessions (one hour of class, one hour of homework) or 2 three-house sessions (a three-hour class with one big bout of homework), or any way you want; it doesn't have to be every day. And if this class takes up six hours a week, that cannot be 90% of your time, especially if you are physically sitting in classrooms for twelve hours a week in your other classes, right? But if it feels like that, then that means you need to find a different way to schedule it.
     Of course it is just a matter of opinion, but I disagree with the idea that "as long as there is a due date, then that might as well be when you turn it in," especially if you end up turning things in during the grace period because you missed the due date (the grace period is not on time; it's late — but I offer that late extension no questions asked because I know how complicated people's lives can be). To me, using the grace period every day or almost every day is an indicator that the due dates are inconvenient for you and that you should set up a schedule that is more convenient... but that's just my opinion. I think deadlines are stressful, which is why I built this course around the idea of working ahead. I also find tests totally stressful, which is why there are no tests in this class. 
     So, the reason I sent that email on Friday is because you got four grace period reminders from me in one week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday), and I won't be sending those reminders to you next week, that's all. If you are going to do the work late every day during the grace period, you'll need to set up a reminder system for yourself, but I really hope that you will choose instead to make a schedule that will truly be convenient for you, one that fits in with your other time commitments. Only you know what that schedule would be; there's no way I can set that schedule for you. There have to be due dates so people don't get behind, but the schedule is up to you!
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This student's email reinforces my impression that many students have very chaotic schedules, responding ad hoc to the things that happen around them, and that they are just not used to making choices of their own. The idea that someone might as well use my deadlines as make their own schedule is exactly the assumption that I am trying to change. And honestly, if the only thing this student learns from my class is how important it is to take charge of your time based on your own needs and priorities, instead of letting other people make those decisions for you, then that's probably the single most valuable thing anyone can get out of my class, and I would be very happy about that!
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#ProcrastinationNation  
Week 4: deadlines / reminders update. So, the experiment with the new approach to grace period reminders seems to be going well! In response to the "how to design your own schedule" email last week (with no grace period reminders during the week at all), there were 9 people who did great and more or less stayed on schedule (they would have received 3 reminders or fewer if I had been sending them reminders), as compared to 8 people who still kept missing assignments (people who would have received 4 reminders or more). So, I've taken those 9 people off the list (meaning I will send them grace period reminders next week if they do miss something next week, per usual), while carrying over 8. There were just 5 new people who cycled on, so overall that is a net gain of 4: I'll call that a good gain! That means I'll be sending a second intervention email to the 8 people who are still struggling (I'll have to craft that email really carefully since the first one didn't have any effect), along with the same "how to design your own schedule" email to the new 5. Overall: 17 people listed last week, and just 13 people this week. 
Progress! I am curious to see what will happen next week, esp. as there are going to be midterms in other classes soon. 
Meanwhile, I have to point out that I get no help at all from D2L doing this: I can't flag people based on multiple fields, can't track them automatically, nothing. I can just record my notes in a hidden text item (and it has very limited space) that I add to the Gradebook. I'm doing all the real work with a GoogleDoc, manually. Big data? Analytics? Uh-huh. I'll believe it when I see it!
Week 3 report here:
https://plus.google.com/111474406259561102151/posts/9kuR7r4sAQ2
#ProcrastinationNation
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Procrastination humor:
http://ouclassannouncements.blogspot.com/2012/09/resource-field-guide-to-procrastinators.html
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