Assignment Extensions

The Accommodated Learning Centre
Position on Assignments Deadline Extensions

Students registered with the ALC may have documentation that supports "extra time on assignments.  You will note that we do not typically add this extension accommodation on letters nor direct how much extension time is reasonable.  Rather, we leave this accommodation to be negotiated with the instructor.  The following provides an overview of this accommodation and some guidelines for navigating these requests.

Why would a student registered with the ALC require an assignment extension accommodation?
ALC registered student may ask for an extension to compensate for the extra time they lose due to managing the symptoms of their disability.  In some cases, this was specifically addressed in documented recommendations.  As an example, students may use various supports and technologies to support their learning. A student with a severe learning disability in reading may take longer to complete an assignment simply because they are navigating between using screen reading technology and voice to text for writing the assignment.  Granting extra time on assignments ensures that the student is not unfairly penalized.

In other cases, while not documented, this is an obvious effect of a condition; especially one that is difficult to manage or unstable.  It may have been an oversight or not a consideration at the time of the student’s medical appointment.   For example, a chronic systemic condition may initially be more stable but worsen with stress from the semester.  Unanticipated or more aggressive symptoms may affect day to day tasks including meeting deadlines. 

Why not just give every student with a disability the assignment accommodation?

We actually discourage students from regularly asking for assignment extensions!  Doing so can burden the student with competing deadlines later in the semester when also preparing for upcoming exams; creating a pressure cooker that can intensify symptoms of many conditions. Rather, we encourage time management and organizational skill development. Adding tools to their toolkit, helps students to learn skills that will benefit them in future academic and employment experiences. We can offer this training through work with in office staff or apply for funding to support other specialized strategists available through the ALC.  

Why negotiate with the instructor?

"Extra time on assignments" requires students to negotiate each and every deadline extension with their instructor.  Instructors are more able to determine factors like due dates and timelines that are tied directly to the academic standards and requirements of each course.  The instructor is responsible for conveying and protecting academic standards; and determining what and how much academic material needs to be covered and evaluated within stated course timelines.   The instructor communicates the requirements and details of the assignment.  The instructor is also most able to determine the complexity and work involved in completing an assignment. 

In some cases, instructors have already built in generous completion time in their deadlines.  The extension would not apply if the assignment is timed and the instructor gives more than double the expected completion time to the entire class.  Extensions exist to compensate for the extra time required to address the impact of the condition and the additional technologies or supports to be engaged.  They are to create equity.  

In summary, the instructor has all the information required to make the best decision for the student and the program.  Responding to each request for an assignment deadline extension, instructors are expected to consider the student's need for reasonable accommodation within the context of ensuring that academic expectations are being met.

How much extra time is fair and reasonable?
While there is no set formula, the amount of time granted for each extension needs to take into account the stated expectations of the assignments and the course. For example, in courses where assignments are due every second week, it might be reasonable (upon request) to permit students with disabilities an additional two days to submit their assignment.   This short extension takes into account the task expectations associated with the original deadline and the approximate amount of time the student needs to make up for time lost due to factors arising from their disability.  At the same time, the accommodation helps to ensure the student remains on track with the course content and receives the feedback they need to progress.   For larger projects like term papers, an additional week or even two might be a reasonable extension, again depending on the expectations associated with the task and the stated timelines of the course.

What is not reasonable as an accommodation?

  • Open-ended deadlines
  • A deadline at the student’s desire or convenience
  • A deadline request not related to the student’s accommodation (like employment commitments). In those cases where the disability is not a factor, extension determinations would be consistent with requests received from students who do not have a disability. 
  • An extension request well after the deadline has past.  We encourage students to negotiate extended deadlines in advance.  However, some students do encounter disability-related issues that makes this impossible. 
  • Modification to course requirements such as:
    • Reduced assignment requirements
    • Lowered evaluative criteria
    • Re-weighting of grades to allow for omission of assignments
  • Submission deadlines that give students an unfair advantage like:
    • submissions after answers are already posted
    • submissions after other students receive feedback and may share that feedback with peers
  • A request from a student stating a disability who has not registered with the Accommodated Learning Centre 
    • Students must confirm registration each semester.  You will receive accommodation letters for all registered students after each ADD/DROP)


What about duty to accommodate?

Instructors will have met the legislated “Duty to Accommodate” when they:

1.            Can demonstrate they received the student's request for an extension in good faith

2.            Have granted a reasonable response to initial requests

3.            Are able to demonstrate that the decision to grant or deny the request is appropriately linked to the protection and preservation of academic standards and course requirements.

When instructors have already granted a reasonable extension to the student, they are within their right to refuse additional extensions if doing so is in contradiction to the stated course requirements.   When granted reasonable accommodation, students with disabilities are expected to meet stated course requirements at the same standard as students without academic accommodations.

What are some things to consider?
Instructors should receive and respond to initial requests for extensions by students with disabilities in good faith.  This means assuming that the student is making an honest request for accommodation based on their disability unless the student has provided information that indicates otherwise.  (An example of this would be an employment conflict)

The Accommodation Letter is sufficient to recognize that the student indeed has a documented disability.  The Accommodated Learning Centre has rigorous documentation requirements.  Further disclosure, discussion or verification of the disability itself is not appropriate.  Some students will initiate a detailed conversation.  Other students are very uncomfortable.  Let the student lead the conversation but tread carefully.