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I missed a class where I was supposed to hand in an assignment. I arrived at my school at the end of the class, and the teacher had already left, so I sent them immediately by email.

It has been a week, and I understand that they are probably busy. I imagine that a professor's inbox can receive so many messages that they don't have time to read all of them either.

This is an important grade in an important course for me, and I would like to make sure that they have actually seen my message, and that they are willing to grade it (instead of failing the assignment).

Is it appropriate to follow up on my first message, asking politely if they could confirm that they have seen the email? Will that just anger them? I don't think I will have an occasion to see them in person to ask.

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  • In the e-mail you sent to the professor, did you explain the reason you were late? What was it?
    – Nobody
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 9:18
  • I stupidly didn't set up my alarm correctly that day. I didn't feel that this was an acceptable explanation, so I didn't put the reason in the email.
    – CSStudent
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 9:21
  • Did the other students already get the grades for their assigments?
    – quarague
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 13:11
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    Any update OP? Did you get that in? I need a closure. Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 14:25
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    @Penguin_Knight I didn't send another message, but the assignment was graded and appeared on the grade tracking system. :)
    – CSStudent
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 17:22

3 Answers 3

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It depends on the procedures at a particular institution, but using email as a delivery vehicle for assessed work is so unreliable and untrustworthy that at many places it is prohibited. You should consult your local rules.

Email is unreliable because, for the sender there is no guarantee that anything arrived. It could have been blocked by various spam filters on the way because of content, type of attachment, or originating domain. Did you use the institutions own email account to email from, or an outside one?

Email is also unreliable because the time in transit can be variable. It is also insecure as the message could be tampered with in transit as third parties are used for delivery.

You may not be aware of the recipients mailbox situations. It could be overflowing with messages. You do not know the message delivery rate; how many are received per day. You have no knowledge of what the situation looks like from the other side.

For the recipient is is untrustworthy as they have no assurance of authentication, that the sender is who they say they are.

These, and many other reasons, are why many places use a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) for the submission of graded assignments.

For you, however, without contacting the person directly you have no way of finding out if the work was received, and when it was received, and whether your email would be acceptable.

However, if email is an accepted or required form of submission, you could not expect an acknowledgement either. It would be quite time-consuming to individually reply to each message that was an assignment submission.

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    Well surely a student would know that their institution prohibits email and would not send it then if there was no other way? So if a student semds am emakl and posts this question here, it should be safe to assume email is allowed, no?
    – user115896
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 12:41
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    @Heutl You might be amazed at how many times I've replied to en email question by saying, "The answer to that question is in the course syllabus." You cannot assume that a student has even read the course syllabus, much less the student handbook or catalog.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 16:52
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    @BobBrown: Your students must be so much more illiterate than mine! Anyway, I would hope that such a unconventional rule as "you must not write emails" would be more prominent then just being in some handbook -- the university and the profs of the firat courses should mention this so often that the most stupid student would know.
    – user115896
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 18:15
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Totally independent of this happening in Academia, giving an explanation, even if or especially if it is a stupid one like “I forgot my alarm clock” and mentioning how sorry you are and explaining that you just missed him would make it so much more likely that your mistake would be forgiven.

The professor has every right to just throw your late homework away. You should have given him at least _ some_ reason not to do so.

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I will take a slightly different stance than these. I would state it is absolutely reasonable to ask if a professor has received your late assignment via email. This type of return receipt is a bureaucratic courtesy, particularly when the contents are valuable (as you describe). If I had copious free time or a personal assistant, I would send return receipts to all emails of this sort.

However, most professors have bad experiences with students demanding to know that a particular assignment has been received and that it is accepted. That is not appropriate.

Some good body text might be:

I hope that my assignment (on XYZ) has been received in good order. I submitted it late on DD/MM. I recognize the due date had passed by (1 minute/1 hour/1 year), but I was (attacked by piranahs/had a reasonable crisis/had embarrassing technical issues). I am unfamiliar with your late policy in those cases and hope that you recognize I submitted this in good faith and hope for your leniency. I generally performed (well/poorly) in your class, so I hope you can recognize I am (typically on time/trying to improve).

Some bad body text might be:

I absolutely sent you XYZ after the due date. It's not my fault it's late b/c (blaming on others). Why isn't it graded yet? I need a good grade on this.

Good luck for everyone at the end of this semester, by the way.

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