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Strategies for Managing Late Writers

One of the challenges of peer learning is on-pace effort. When he is explaining peer learning activities to students, Bill Hart-Davidson reminds students that “learning is not a spectator sport.”

To receive feedback, writers must have a draft for reviewers to review. Late writers can’t get feedback on writing that doesn’t exist, so they hurt themselves, but with online feedback activities, late writers cause delays for people who have been assigned to give them feedback. If Elizabeth has been tasked with giving feedback to Carolyn, but Carolyn hasn’t turned in her writing, Elizabeth is stuck in limbo until she has something from Carolyn for her to review.

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Online platforms like Eli Review give instructors much greater visibility into student engagement (or lack thereof), but there are also tools to make it easier for instructors to coordinate this process. When it comes to managing groups, Eli Review’s group manager tools make it relatively easy to create groups and rearrange students as needed.

At Eli Review, our metaphor for this challenge is driving the review bus. As instructors, we pick up writers who are at the bus stop with draft in hand and put them in a group so that they give (and thus get) feedback. We then swing back by to pick up those who are running late. This is a normal and expected part of managing groups, and the strategies below explain how to reduce that coordination workload.

Here are four strategies we’ve found work particularly well for instructors who need to manage late writers.


Strategy 1: assign a review AFTER writing tasks are due.

We generally recommend that writing tasks be due the day before reviews are assigned. By waiting to assign review until after the writing task due date has passed, you keep late writers from affecting on-pace writers, which limits your coordination effort.

As an example, if review begins on Tuesday, follow these steps:


Strategy 2: explain to students how you will approach late writers.

We work with instructors who have strict deadlines with no exceptions. These instructors make sure that late writers feel the loss of feedback. Students whose writing tasks are submitted too late for review usually lose points. More importantly, late writers aren’t given an alternative path to peer or instructor feedback. They missed it. These instructors debrief with the class and give individualized feedback only to those individuals who submitted writing in time for review.

We also work with instructors who have standardized pick-up times for late writers. Students whose online access is limited and/or whose lives are complex often need more flexibility. We’ve even worked with teachers who have online students who live in multiple time zones! These instructors set reviews groups at 9 AM, then again at noon, and maybe once more at 3 PM. Early birds work with early birds, and more writers get a chance for feedback even if they missed the deadline.

Explain your stance to students, and take one of these actions:

Important Considerations


Strategy 3: Be aware of how your choice affects students’ dashboards.

Students see every task on their course dashboard, which is similar to your instructor dashboard, but focused primarily on their work and not the progress of the entire course. Tasks are named and each one has a binary “progress” indicator to remind the student which tasks must still be completed.

student-dashboard

When you are editing groups, students experience your choices this way:

The following cheat sheet explains how the student dashboard reports review tasks:

Situation Review Task on Dashboard? Task Status after Submitting Feedback? Student Included in Engagement Analytics?
Ungrouped No N/A No
Grouped with all prepared writers Yes Complete Yes
Grouped with late writers Yes Incomplete Yes

Strategy 4: try not to move reviewers once they’ve begun work.

Students who are in groups with late writers (or late reviewers) might ask to be switched to a group that is on-pace. Eli allows you to move students between groups at any point, including after they’ve begun giving feedback. It’s easy for you to intervene to address engagement issues.

Remember, however, that moving a student between groups creates new work for everyone in the group. Eli requires students to give feedback before they receive it. Moving students between groups requires them and their new group members to give feedback before they can get it. Here’s how that works:

Moving students around to address engagement after work on the review task has started is possible, but every decision to move a student between groups affects both groups’ work load and analytics.

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