Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Course Design > Attendance, Participation & Late Work Policies

Attendance, Participation & Late Work Policies

​​​​Beyond completing the BlueStar Attendance/Participation survey early in the quarter, as an instructor you have wide latitude on what kinds of attendance, participation and late work policies to set for your classes. In some cases, specific policies are set by your department or program, so check with your department chair or program manager if you are unsure.

One important thing to keep in mind is how your attendance policy corresponds with your course's teaching modality. For example, if your course is listed as "Flex," which allows students to join your class on campus or via Zoom throughout the quarter, you cannot adopt an on-campus-only attendance policy. 


In a whitepaper for Macmillan Learning, which provides attendance tracking services to institutions, Bergin and Ferrara argue that class attendance is an important early indicator of student success, particularly for non-traditional students. They cite a 2010 meta-analysis that found "class attendance is a better predictor of college grades than any other known predictor of academic performance."

However, some scholars have questioned the benefit of compulsory class attendance, arguing that the relationship between student attendance and performance is statistically significant, but with a weak effect size (Buechele 2020) and does not control for other variables such as motivation (St. Claire 1999). Buechele further argues that it is not attendance per se, but "in-class engagement" that explains the positive correlation. Indeed, active learning—which requires student engagement during class—has been extensively shown to positively impact student success (Freeman et al., 2014). 

The takeaway is that students engaging cognitively and behaviorally with course content increases the likelihood of their success. Providing an incentive for students to attend your class can increase the likelihood of engagement, but only to the extent your class sessions engage them.

No matter what policy you set, you should be explicit about your expectations in your syllabus and early communications with your students.

Example Attendance Policy

Your attendance will be measured by your presence in our synchronous class sessions. After one absence, your final attendance grade will be marked down by [insert grade deduction] for each additional absence.

Much of our learning happens while working with peers, discussion, and participation in a community. These are learning experiences that are almost impossible to make up individually. If you have concerns about your ability to attend synchronous class sessions this quarter, please reach out to me via email to discuss your concerns.

If you want to take attendance in Zoom or in a Zoom+/Trimodal Room, there a few ways you might consider doing so:

  • You can take attendance as you would in an on-campus class, by call-and-response.
  • You can pull a “usage” report from Zoom. A usage report provides a list of all participants who attended a specific Zoom session, including the name they used during the meeting and how long they attended.  
    • If you plan to rely on usage reports to take attendance, make sure students are using a name in Zoom that you'll be able to easily connect with their name in your class roster.
    • Although it's unlikely to be an issue in your course, it's possible for a student to log in with two devices and rename the other device as another student, thereby "cheating" this system. This may be more likely to occur if class attendance is worth a significant portion of students' grades.

  • You can use proxies for taking attendance, like having students complete a survey, poll, or quiz during the class session.
      These measures can also be "defeated" by students sharing links to surveys, polls, or quizzes, so this method is not foolproof, either.

When a student has missed or fallen behind in class for a documented medical, mental health or personal emergency, the Dean of Students Office may notify faculty. Students must submit an absence notification/request for flexibility form along with supporting documentation. Learn more about Absence Notifications from the Dean of Students.


Many instructors prefer to assign grades based on students' levels of participation in their class sessions. This strategy corresponds with research that indicates students' levels of engagement are greater predictors of success than just attendance in a physical or virtual room. Key questions to ask yourself are

  • What does active participation look like in your teaching context? 
  • How will you evaluate your students' participation? 
  • What kinds of opportunities for participation will you provide?

In order to increase the likelihood of students' participation, be sure to establish a welcoming and inclusive environment with your students and incorporate active learning techniques. Use icebreakers to get people talking, and continue engaging students personally throughout the quarter.

Example Participation Policy

This is a class in which participation (in a variety of forms) is key to developing your skills and knowledge. Your participation during the synchronous sessions will also help us to build our classroom community. Your participation grade will be determined by your engagement with synchronous class discussions and activities, asynchronous discussion forums, responses to short written assignments, and completion of knowledge-check quizzes.

Your participation in synchronous class sessions will be evaluated based on quality. I will ask you to participate in a variety of forms, including raising your hand and contributing via speaking, posting responses to the Zoom chat, and adding content to Google Docs that will be available via our D2L course site.

You'll earn 1 point for each class session if you

  • Contribute unique ideas and personal examples when prompted
  • Build on previous comments and contributions
  • Provide evidence and support for claims and ideas (especially evidence that is derived from our course texts and materials)
  • Ask relevant questions that advance the discussion

All other participation grading guidelines are available as part of the individual activity and assignment instructions.

Late Work

Like attendance, instructors can set their own policies for late work in the absence of specific criteria set by their college or program. And also like attendance, instructors have a wide range of opinions on late work. For some, deadlines are fixed and only an extreme circumstance such as health emergency, death in the family, etc. will satisfy the requirement for an extended deadline.

However, the ongoing public health emergency related to the novel coronavirus has highlighted how strict deadlines, no matter how well intentioned, can disproportionately impact the most at-risk students. Typically these are students who are working one or more jobs while attending school, raising children, caring for elders, or managing other obligations that limit their time for study and academic work.

Many instructors try to balance the need for establishing a course rhythm with weekly deadlines while also building in enough flexibility so that students are not unduly penalized for work that is late. Brenda Thomas, writing in Faculty Focus, notes how strict penalties for deadlines can inadvertently penalize strong work submitted late while rewarding mediocre work that is submitted on time. She has adopted a semi-flexible policy where late work can be submitted without penalty for five days, with the opportunity for revising and resubmitting, but beyond that late work is penalized at 5 percent each day it is late and precludes the possibility for revising/resubmitting.

Another option you may want to consider is simply reducing the severity of your late penalty based on the number of days an assignment is submitted after the deadline. For example, if you currently deduct one letter grade for each day an assignment is late, consider these alternatives:

  • a deduction of one third of a letter grade per day overdue
  • a very small deduction for the first day (e.g., the equivalent of one point out of 100) and a larger deduction (2 or 3 points for each day thereafter)

If you're concerned about potential grading bottlenecks due to many students submitting work long after the original deadline, you may want to set a limit on how long you'll accept late work. For instance, you might deduct a small number of points per day late but only accept work a maximum of five or seven days after the original due date.

Other Policies

Review The Syllabus page for more example policies and statements that you can use and adapt.


Crede, M., Roch, S., Kieszczynka, U. (2010). Class attendance in college: a meta-analytic review of the relationship of class attendance with grades and student characteristics. Review of Educational Research. American Educational Research Association. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654310362998

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(23), 8410–8415. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1319030111

St. Clair, K. (1999). A case against compulsory class attendance policies in higher education. Innovative Higher Education, 29(3), 171-180.

Buechele, Stefan (2020) : Evaluating the link between attendance and performance in higher education - the role of classroom engagement dimensions, MAGKS Joint Discussion Paper Series in Economics, No. 10-2020, Philipps-University Marburg, School of Business and Economics, Marburg.