Asynchronous online learning is gaining popularity with students from all walks of life to access academic programs from the comfort of their own homes. Similar to traditional classroom-based courses, one challenge students in an asynchronous online program face is fully understanding and meeting the requirements of assignments. While students can learn at their own pace, they have the disadvantage of limited contact with instructors and reduced opportunity of immediate feedback.
To help students succeed or acquire mastery in important skill sets, some online instructors offer a second chance to redo assignments and improve their grades. This practice can be extremely beneficial for students who struggle with a particular assignment, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the course material and achieve their academic goals. It is not far-fetched to say that in any learning circumstances, there is a high probability that students may fail to meet course requirements.
A second chance to redo the assignment aligns with the scaffolding theory of learning. As posited by Vygotsky (1978), learning is most effective when students are provided with the appropriate level of support and guidance to help them develop their skills and knowledge. Clear instructions and guidelines are scaffolds that instructors provide for students to be successful in the course. Providing students with rubrics or checklists will clearly explain to students the expectations and encourage self-assessment. Despite providing various forms of scaffolding, some students may struggle to understand the assignment requirement. Some reasons include a lack of prior knowledge, poor grasp of the content, language barriers, personal issues or stress, and difficulty comprehending complex instructions.
Most times, students who perform poorly are not allowed to redo assignments. Depending on the circumstances that caused this poor performance, it is important to note that students miss the opportunity to master the skills they need to function effectively in their future workplace. In some programs like teaching, nursing, physical therapy, engineering, etc., students are required to be skillful professionals to minimize risk in their professions.
Benefits of redoing assignments with accountability
- It develops a strong sense of personal responsibility and a commitment to academic success. Students are more likely to take ownership of their mistakes and apply their newfound knowledge and skills to the task.
- It promotes student learning and understanding of the task, and helps students develop a stronger foundation for future assignments.
- It increases student engagement when instructors motivate students to participate more actively in class.
- It develops critical thinking skills. Students who are given the opportunity to reflect on their mistakes and revise their work are likely to develop a more critical perspective on the subject matter. This can help them identify areas for improvement and develop problem-solving skills that will be valuable throughout their academic and professional careers.
- It helps students achieve their full potential, improves overall grades and academic performance, and creates a more positive academic experience.
This is a quote from an online student when she was given a second chance to redo her assignment in my course, “I also want to thank you for allowing mistakes and revisions—I learn best this way and can only improve by being encouraged to make necessary changes.”
Ramifications of not re-doing assignments
- Motivation to put in extra effort diminishes leading to a decline in overall engagement and enthusiasm.
- Repeated failures without the opportunity to improve can impact students’ self-esteem and confidence in their abilities.
- Learning environment becomes stressful.
Some factors to consider when allowing students a second chance to redo an assignment includes the following:
Nature of the assignment
Some assignments may be more suited for a second chance than others, especially in courses that require mastery and competence in certain skill sets. It may be appropriate to allow students to redo assignments to demonstrate they have achieved the required level of proficiency.
Nature of the mistakes
Instructors need to evaluate the type of mistakes the student made. Were they simple errors or did the student miss the mark completely. If students showed a good effort, a second chance may be warranted.
It is important that only a student who has met the learning objectives be given a second chance. If a student submits a random piece of work, a second chance may not be warranted.
Timelines of submission
The student should have submitted the assignment on time. It may not be fair to give a student a second chance if other students have submitted their assignments on time.
Equity and fairness
When offering a second chance to a student, it must be equitable and fair to all students in the class. If other students were able to meet the requirements without a second chance, it may not be fair to give one student an advantage over the others. In this case, the instructor must inform the students at the start of the semester that students would earn a score of X% (percentage of your choice) less when a second chance is given to redo the assignment.
Institution or course policies
It is crucial for an instructor to consider the institution or course policies on redoing assignments. The second chance guidelines must be included in the course policy to be fair to every student.
Based on the questions above, the decision to give a second chance should be made carefully on a case-by-case basis. Other questions that the instructor should consider that may impact the decision on allowing a second chance include the following:
- Will students learn the critical content or skills?
- Will students reflect and self-correct their work?
- Will redoing the assignment promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills?
- Will repetition and practice help students internalize their learning and avoid similar mistakes in the future and improve their performance over time?
Assignment redo and the impact on instructors
It is an instructor’s prerogative to offer a second chance to redo assignments with accountability. Although second chances can be beneficial, it should be balanced with considerations such as time constraints, curriculum requirements, and the need to promote accountability. The instructor should clearly communicate the expectations and guidelines for the second attempt. Instructors should be wary that students do not misuse second chances as an easy way out of passing the course, but rather an opportunity for them to learn from their mistakes and improve their understanding of the course material.
Redoing assignments will inevitably take time from the course instructor’s schedule. Many hours of grading and providing feedback can be time-intensive and demanding in addition to preparing each class, advising students, advancing scholarly work, and serving on committees. Instructors do not always have the time to revisit content and skills to develop students’ competence. Therefore, it is understandable if instructors only allow students to re-do poor quality assignments.
Giving higher education students a second chance to re-do their assignments with accountability is a beneficial practice. It promotes student learning, encourages personal responsibility, increases student engagement, develops critical thinking skills, and improves overall grades and academic performance. By embracing this approach, instructors can help students achieve their full potential and lay the foundation for a successful future.
Thilagha Jagaiah is an assistant professor of special education in the College of Education, Nursing, and Health Professions at the University of Hartford. Her research focuses on writing instruction and assessment, and student engagement for students with postural dysfunction.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978.