Faculty Resources for Online Programs

Accommodations in the Online Environment


Extended Time on Examinations:

The purpose of testing accommodations is to make tests or testing conditions such that allow students with physical disabilities or learning disabilities, to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a testing situation. The most common modification includes extending the amount of time students are given to complete a test. Additional time should be given to complete any “in-class” assignment, such as a quiz, test or exam. For most students, the standard extension is time and one half. This means that for a testing that normally takes 60 minutes, a student may be allowed 90 minutes. Double time may also be allowed.  Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, keeping in mind the type of accommodations being provided, the disability involved and the type of exam. Please keep in mind that students who often request extended time end up not needing it because just the reduction in anxiety knowing that they have plenty of time allows them to focus and perform.

Extended Time on Assignments (Appropriate Accommodations):

The purpose of this accommodation is to suggest that extended time on course assignments may be a reasonable accommodation in certain situations because one’s medical or clinical situation poses challenges with completing assignments by deadlines when unexpected situations arise. If the student has a disability with random or cyclical acute episodes, the accommodation allows for flexibility in assignment deadlines and make up work.

This accommodation is recommended when:

  1. An assignment was not listed on the syllabus initially and is given to students one week or less to complete
  2. The assignment deadline is listed on the syllabus but the student did not get the necessary information to complete it until there is one week or less to the deadline
  3. An unexpected medical or physical episode interferes with the student’s ability to complete the work in the expected timeframe

The number of days given for each assignment extension depends on the interactive or participatory nature of a course, or is based on department, college or accrediting rules. If special consideration in meeting deadlines is needed, students need to work with the instructor to determine the maximum extension that can be given before compromising the integrity of the course/program.

In general, assignments with more than one week to complete can be done successfully with proper management and planning and only warrant an accommodation when an unexpected disability related episode occurs that prevents the student from following through, regardless of how much the student got done prior to that time.

Unexpected illness or injury, recent diagnosis, onset or change in condition may warrant a withdrawal or incomplete from a course. In those cases, the appropriate school process should be followed.

Students must factor in the reality of their own personal situation and use time effectively to complete assignments. Taking a heavy course load, having a job outside of school or other family commitments do not justify allowing an accommodation even if they have a diagnosed disability that may otherwise support this accommodation.

Some instructors allow all students in their class more time than they believe is needed for students to complete assignments and/or exams. For example, an instructor gives an assignment they believe should only take two days to complete but allows students three days.  If all students in the class are provided “extended time,” legal guidance suggests that it would be discriminatory not to provide the extended time in addition to the time given to all students in the course.

Considerations when determining reasonable extensions of assignment deadlines:

  1. What is the purpose of the assignment? Is it necessary to have it completed before an exam? Before a discussion?
  2. What does the syllabus say about deadlines?
  3. Are students required to actively participate in class discussions/activities?
  4. How is participation figured into the final grade?
  5. How are students expected to interact with each other (online venue)?
  6. Is the material being learned in the class sequentially?
  7. What general policies exist for making up missed exams, pop quizzes, assignments? Turning in late work?
  8. Could missed assignments be turned in via discussion board/e-mail?
  9. Are tests to be taken at a specific time, or is there a window when the test can be taken?
  10. Is it possible for students to “work ahead” in this class?

When listed on the accommodation letter, course instructors are asked to consider whether or not such an accommodation would be reasonable for the class and the assignment(s) in question. It is recommended that the student receive 1-2 additional days at most as an accommodation when reasonable.  Points to consider in making a final decision include:

  1. Assess the average time all students are expected to spend on the project relative to the deadline and if the disability situation necessitates an extension beyond this deadline.
  2. Is it feasible to assign the project to the student with the disability in advance of other students while keeping the deadline consistent?
  3. The accommodation does not have to be implemented if it becomes a fundamental alteration to the course- highly recommended to consult with OALA before making final decision.


Instructors who have questions about how to best incorporate this accommodation into a class or who do not believe an assignment extension is reasonable should consult with OALA before making a final decision.