Today, for my 9x9x25 challenge post for Ontario Extend I am questioning how much I should be holding my students’ hands. My students are taking a fourth year research course with me in which I am negotiating grades with them. Due dates are flexible, classes are online and recorded, attendance is optional, the rubrics were co-created and they can do pretty much whatever they want for a final project as long as they meet the course outcomes. They can even choose how they communicate their learning – no one is being forced to write an essay (quite a novel concept). This course is, in my opinion, the most flexible and customizable course that I have ever taught. It feels good, but tracking all of the moving parts in the course is quite a task. Today, as I prepare to send yet another email to the seemingly absent students in my course I am questioning if I should be chasing them.

geralt / Pixabay

I am trying to make sure that each student has the opportunity to be successful. I don’t mind talking them through their projects or helping via comments on emails or postings. This course can be difficult for them to get through without that discourse.

StockSnap / Pixabay

In the first few weeks of the course I sent emails inviting everyone to meet with me, and many students responded. I have had an open door policy and made myself available a lot. Many of them came in confused and left feeling a little better. Still, some students have not responded to my extended hand. Why? Should I keep pushing?

They are adult learners, responsible for their own learning. One of my peers told me that

“student have the right to fail.”

They do. However, at what point does my outreach become bothersome to these students who have a lot going on in their academic and personal lives? The 40% grade negotiation meetings are in October. Part of that grade (10 to 15% based on student preference) is based on weekly postings. Now in week three of the course I am getting concerned about some students. It is quite possible that I have not yet found where these students have posted their work. Maybe after class today I will be less concerned. However, I did email each individual student whose work I could not find late last week asking where to find it. One responded with a link to a blog inside Moodle – a feature I did not know existed.

When do I draw the line?

geralt / Pixabay


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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