Recently, some students skipped some lessons without note (within the drop policy limits). I post basic instructions to a course Web site where any student can check, but since these students missed classes, the instructions are insufficient, so they send me E-mails or call asking me "explain what to do". As the homework involves on-going projects, such requests is occupying much of my time. I can demonstrate aspects in the class that require extensive writing to explain in an E-mail.

  • Is it acceptable practice to turn students away?
  • Is it my responsibility to assist students who fall behind in this manner to catch up with the other students?
  • 5
    Quite often I have found people miss class with an acceptable reason but without a note for whatever reason. That being they are too shy or don't think its your business so long as its within the drop limits. However, I do feel that providing a simple overview of things online is sufficient, so long as things such as "What to do" are answered, as you cannot expect them to suddenly know what question to answer and they may not have friends who attended or any friends who do attend to tell them. However, it is not expected you provide long detailed explanations of every step for them online. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 11:29
  • "drop policy" -- I assume that this is a policy which states how many classes a student may drop before questions are asked?
    – Nicholas
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 0:56
  • 1
    I know instructors who as a general policy only accept these types of inquiries in office hours and not by email, which seems like a reasonable policy as long as you have it in your syllabus. Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 8:02
  • 1
    "Come to class".
    – Fomite
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 21:45

3 Answers 3


I'll look at these two points:

1) Your course is structured in a way that there is no any alternative way to acquire the materials you cover in class; attending the lecture is the only way. AND

2) You have never expressed, either written in syllabus or spoken to the full class, that it's the student's sole responsibility to coordinate with other students/TAs to catch up with the materials they missed when they were absent.

If either of this is yes, I'd at least help the student once, and then make sure the whole class will know of point 2 as soon as possible.

If there are a lot of them waiting for you, try:

  1. Name the chapters/sections in the assigned texts that will cover a majority of what you talked about in class.
  2. Have them work in group to come up with a strategy on those "what to do," and meet with them as a group to go over their questions.
  3. Group them and give a blanket tutorial. You can also make this a challenging task by asking each of the absentees responsible for sorting and summarizing the texts, or have them work on a problem set together.
  4. Invest in either a cheap recorder or screen/voice capturing software to archive your lecture, so that you can prevent other situations like this from happening again.

It's hard to give a "should" or "shouldn't." Analyzing the situation case by case and contrasting with our teaching philosophy along the way should be sufficient to hint what to do.

  • 12
    Instructors often say/write in syllabus, "If you miss class, you are responsible for making up the work" - which students interpret to mean, "If you miss class, you must email the instructor to find out how to make up the work." If you want them to get the work from other students/TA and not the instructor you have to make that very, very, very clear.
    – ff524
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 17:20

During my student years, I quite seldom attended lectures. It clashes with my preferred method of learning: I always want to stop and think things through before moving on. Hence, I always fall hopelessly behind during lectures and am much better off spending that time reading the course material. I don't know how responsible the students who skipped your class are: whether they do their best to keep up with the course, but please be aware that some people just aren't suited for learning via lectures.

I don't know what kinds of courses you teach, which country/university you're in or whether your university requires students to show up for lectures to get a passing grade, so let me just state my policy when teaching courses: All information on what is required of a student to pass the course should be made available online. So should hand-outs and instructions for assignments etc. I claim no responsibility to remind absent students of deadlines etc., but in my view, a student who skips lectures but who is responsible and willing to actively keep him/herself updated on what is going on in the course, should have access to everything required to take part in it.

  • 2
    The added benefit of publishing everything necessary to complete the course online is also for those who did attend. They may want to refresh their memory or misinterpreted part of your lecture the first time. It would be interesting to see studies on how this would influence the average grade, but I think we can all guess the outcome.
    – Mast
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 6:37

These students want to have it both ways. They want to skip class, but they also don't want to deal with the consequences of skipping class. The way you've been handling this so far has indicated to your students that this is OK with you. If it's not OK with you, then you may want to send a broadcast email to the class laying out a policy on this, and incorporate such a policy into your syllabus in the future. You have broad authority to set such a policy.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .