Handling Late Homework

The Late Submission Token System

This policy applied to the homeworks that were part of the course’s ten modules. They were released as soon as we had them ready and a minimum of one week before they were due. Each homework had a one-week late window. We aimed to grade and return the homework within eight days of the due date (basically one day after the late window). This goal was to ensure we didn’t return graded work before everyone had submitted it and to accommodate the exam schedule, so students got feedback on a homework before a test on that content.

  1. If they finished the homework and submitted it 30 minutes into the late period, they got an email saying that we would not deduct a token regardless of whether they submitted the form.
  2. If they finished the homework, submitted it more than 30 minutes late, but did not submit the form, they got an email reminding them to fill out the form next time.
  3. If they did not finish the homework and had not filled out the form, they got an email reminding them about the policy, about help resources, and to fill out the form.

How Students Used the Tokens

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • 19% — Used no tokens
  • 65% — 1–8 tokens — 4% to 9% for each possible count
  • 11% — 9 tokens
  • 11% — Used 10–18 tokens
  • 5% — Used more than 18 tokens

How Students Felt about the Tokens

I ran a mid-semester survey and included a question about the token system. The students loved it. It was a Likert scale question of strongly agree to strongly disagree about the statement “I like the slip day policy.” 87% strongly agreed, none disagreed, and only 4% were neutral. Some students even mention how much they appreciated the policy or the auditing emails directly to me, in other emails, and in evaluations.

How I Felt about the System and What I’ll do Differently

I love this system. I feel like I’ve finally found a system that works with my current philosophy and has a good framing for the students. In the future, I hope to use these late tokens as part of an early warning system. For example, besides the emails I mentioned earlier, I can imagine reaching out to a student if they plan to (or do) use an unusual number of tokens, like 3. Just to check in, since most students only use one token for a homework.


So as I said at the beginning of this post, I love this late token system. I give it 5/5 stars, would do again. And, in fact, I am. One of the UTAs in charge of the audits is continuing on them with me next semester. I plan to have her work on writing code to help make the system more automatic and less human error-prone. Of course, there will be a teaching staff in the loop deciding what email goes to each student, but we’ll probably do a mail merge after that. I’m of two minds on who should send the email. I had my UTAs do it last semester mainly so I wouldn’t be a bottleneck. But this coming semester, if it’s a mail merge, maybe I can handle it? And if I send it and CC the UTA in charge of it, it might send a clear message that I care about my students learning. And the UTA being CCed is an excellent backup if a student asks a simple question they can answer.



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Kristin Stephens-Martinez

Kristin Stephens-Martinez

Assistant Professor of the Practice in Computer Science at Duke University