Suggested Guidelines for Conversations on Coursework and Program Deadlines

These guidelines provide information for holding conversations when students share concerns about their capacity to complete their coursework and discuss expectations and support to manage it.

Who can benefit from these guidelines?

Class instructors, academic and research advisors, administrative staff, and chairs of academic units and areas.

What are students told?

During present and future challenging times students are told to:

  • Approach your professor and share concerns about completing your coursework and discuss expectations and support options.
  • Approach your academic and/or research advisor to discuss expectations and accommodations related to other departmental or program deadlines.
  • Contact the Dean of Students at for further information and support.

How should I respond to students’ requests for conversations, expectations, and flexibility?

  • When requested or expected by the student, set up a synchronous conversation instead of email communication. Establish rapport, communicate trust, acknowledge their experience, and seek to understand their situation.
  • Listen to the situation and hold questions until the person has finished explaining.
  • Ask questions to clarify what the student is currently working on, and what their needs and expectations are in terms of support for their academic work.
  • Engage in a conversation to understand better the student’s needs, instead of simply extending the deadline for missed work.
  • Consider flexible and creative expectations and arrangements that consider the individualized needs of the student. Examples include:
    • Extend deadlines until the end of the semester.
    • Flexibility and accountability: send reminders of deadlines but understand that they may require an extension.
    • Provide personalized arrangements such as individual assignments instead of team assignments.
  • Discuss with the student registrar official options such as the last day to drop and incomplete grade options.
  • Evaluate if you need to provide students with student resources (g., 7C Mental Health) and ‘Share a Concern’ with the Dean of Students using the iCare Form.

More Resources and Inspiration

Veletsianos, G., Houlden, S. Radical Flexibility and Relationality as Responses to Education in Times of Crisis. Postdigit Sci Educ 2, 849–862 (2020).

Hills, Melissa, and Kim Peacock. 2022. “Replacing Power with Flexible Structure: Implementing Flexible Deadlines to Improve Student Learning Experiences”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 10 (July).

Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, Emily T Cripe, Brooke Foucault Welles, Shannon C McGregor, Katy E Pearce, Nikki Usher, Jessica Vitak, Academic Caregivers on Organizational and Community Resilience in Academia,  Communication, Culture and Critique, Volume 14, Issue 2, June 2021, Pages 301–305,

A Guide for Decision-Making and Professional Development Planning During Times Of Crisis from the Open Learning & Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University at