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I am the author and teacher of an online introductory course at my community college. Each chapter in my class is designed to take one week to complete, where the assignments are due at the end of the week. The students have the option to get ahead of the rest of the class by a couple of weeks, so if they have a trip planned, they can do the work in advance.

This week I had a student argue that I should not have assignments due for the week of spring break, as that time should be reserved for the students to relax. I never considered honoring breaks or holidays for an online class. Should I consider not having assignments due during the week of spring break or fall break?

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    Is this the first time the course has run with your structure? If it has run several times is it the first time a student has complained? And how many did not complain?... ie are you dealing with a "whiner"? – Solar Mike Mar 12 at 17:32
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    Give them a break. Your own reputation will suffer otherwise. – Buffy Mar 12 at 17:42
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    Are you even allowed to continue class as normal over an official school break? – Jeff Mar 12 at 18:26
  • We designed the course with oversight from administration and elearning officials, and the topic was never brought up. I have been teaching the class for several semesters now without any students mentioning it. – Inkenbrandt Mar 12 at 18:44
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Terminology, and thus expectations, matter here.

When I taught at institutions with winter/spring break, I would not assign anything due that week or immediately on return. This is a time for students to take a break, connect with friends/family, possibly move ahead on a job or internship hunt. And possibly, at their discretion, do some reading, catchup, or getting ahead if they are real keeners, but not an expectation.

However, if your institution has a reading week or study week, that's different. The expectation is students will catch up on their reading, get ahead of assignments, etc. - make work a priority, just get away from the rolling juggernaut of new material one class after another. Yes, maybe they'll catch up on sleep or have a party too, but that's not a priority. I and others would cheerfully have assignments due during such a period -- ideally at its end, since students should manage their time on their own, not be micromanaged by faculty during this period in particular.

You use the term "break", hence my bias is to answer "no".

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  • There is an interesting question of psychology here. If I tell my class that their assignment is due on the Friday afternoon before spring break starts, and then later relax the deadline until the Monday morning after the break, does that make a difference? – avid Mar 13 at 4:08
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The student is correct, spring break is, as its name suggests, a break. The fact that no students had complained previously does not say much - students can be timid and may not complain about any mild abuse by an instructor (as I discovered recently when I accidentally kept my class going 10 minutes past its end time; no one said a word...).

Also, your own rationale that “The students have the option to get ahead [...] by a couple of weeks, so if they have a trip planned, they can do the work in advance”, seems flawed to me, as it is premised oh the assumption that students have extra time in which they are sitting around doing nothing and can redirect towards “getting ahead”. You should assume that in the normal course of things students are as busy as they can get and don’t have spare studying capacity. The option to get ahead is nice, and may be used by some especially studious/efficient students or those that want to undertake a trip during time not officially sanctioned as break time and are willing to make an extra effort and sacrifice their normal free time to catch up. But this cannot be used as justification for requiring students to study during official break time.

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What's the harm in "honoring" breaks and holidays?

I'd say you should give them a break, as well. It's not so much any supposed sanctity of breaks, but rather than students seem to benefit psychologically from breaks.

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    Yes. It is good for their psyche, but also, some of them need to connect to family and such without other obligations. Life is important too. And some need the time to catch up on things - academic and otherwise. – Buffy Mar 12 at 17:40

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