FAQ for Faculty and Instructors on Academic Changes

Posted: March 23, 7:00 p.m.

On March 20, 2020, in light of the global pandemic, changes were made to grades, final assessments, course outlines, academic standing, and course withdrawal deadline. Please read the decision document here.

Below, you will find the answers to questions that you may have regarding these changes. More information will be added as it is made available.


Why did the University make these changes?

The global pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on students, faculty, and staff who support program delivery. University leadership and academic representatives announced academic measures on March 19 for the Winter 2020 term. This was a significant decision responding to complex and challenging circumstances, but important to protecting the integrity of our academic programs and accommodating those students whose academic performance will be impacted by circumstances we cannot control or even predict. The revised CR/NC grading regulations this semester helps ensure equity among all our students, and ensure instructors and students can complete the Winter 2020 term.

We know that in the coming weeks, our human and technical resources will be stretched even further than they are now as our faculty and staff are impacted. Without those resources and without change, we will not be able to deliver the remainder of this term, or provide fair and equitable assessment for students. We must take decisive action in the service of the health and safety of our campus community and our academic mission. We made these decisions knowing there is a future ahead and with a view to long term sustainability for our students and our university. 

There are still many uncertainties to be resolved but we are confident we are making the best possible decisions for our students, faculty, and staff. 

Why did the University choose the CR/NC grading option?

Many post-secondary institutions across the world will be adjusting their grading systems for the Winter 2020 semester in response to the circumstances created by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to go to the revised grading regulations is meant to ensure equity among all our students, preserve academic integrity in these challenging circumstances, and manage the issues presented by an uncertain future, including the impact on our students and human resources.

Post-secondary grading approaches vary between institutions and jurisdictions. As always, we will work with other institutions when issuing and evaluating transcripts to ensure the accomplishments that students achieve are accurately reflected in their official academic documents.

How will this semester’s CR/NCR grading affect students’ GPA?

We understand how hard students work each semester to learn and achieve results. For many, concerns about GPA are top of mind. We are working to minimize negative impacts from these changes, and to protect academic futures as much as possible. CR/NC do not factor into a student’s GPA calculation.

Academic standing is used to determine the eligibility of students to continue or graduate from their programs or return to a program from Fresh Start. Academic Standing Regulations may be modified by the Dean of each Faculty to minimize any negative impact on students as a result of the changes to grading, exams, and final assessments for the Winter 2020 term. Students will be notified by their Faculty Dean no later than April 1, 2020 of the changes to their Academic Standing Regulations.

How will this impact applications to non-direct entry programs, graduate school, or professional programs?

We will work with students and with our partner institutions to ensure that admission to non-direct entry programs, graduate school, and professional programs takes the current challenges into account. All UofA programs will develop measures to accommodate affected students. While we can’t control all of the external factors, we are working with our partner institutions and key stakeholders to communicate these decisions and to identify solutions that minimize potential negative impacts on scholarships, funding applications, and admissions to other institutions.

We understand concerns about GPA are top of mind. We are working to minimize any possible negative impacts from the grading regulations changes, and to protect academic futures. 

We are working on a templated letter that will be distributed to instructors that can speak to a student’s relative performance in a course, should the student require this information for application to another program. More information will be available soon. 

Added April 15, 12:00 p.m.:  The performance letter templates will be presented and discussed at General Faculties Council on April 20. The templates should be ready for you to use by the end of the month.

How will this impact students’ ability to apply for and receive scholarships?

For U of A internal scholarships and awards, we are actively adjusting our practices to ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged by the change in grading. We will ensure this is done fairly and equitably. While we can’t control all of the external factors, we are engaging with key stakeholders and funding agencies to communicate these decisions and to identify solutions that help minimize negative impacts on scholarships and funding applications. We are in exceptional circumstances, and the processes for scholarship evaluation and awards will need to be evaluated under these circumstances. More information will be communicated as it becomes available.

When does an incomplete (IN) apply to students’ learning and what does that mean for course completion?
  • Incomplete (IN) is a status that can be assigned to students if they are not able to complete the course for various reasons.
  • When and how to assign an IN - Incomplete? 
    • An incomplete status can be indicated for multiple reasons. The main reason is typically that  the course or student was disrupted in a manner that made it impossible to determine whether students have met learning objectives or outcomes sufficient to assign a CR/NC grade at the point at which grades need to be assigned. 
    • Instructors will indicate which students are to receive the status of Incomplete in the course, and specify for the student what they must do to resolve the IN and over what timeframe (as indicated in the University Calendar). For example what components and objectives need to be assessed and completed to assign a CR grade. 
    • The timelines for students to resolve their IN and receive a grade of CR/NC may need to be extended should circumstances beyond the control of the student or the institution prevent the completion of the remaining key course components. This is acceptable and should be communicated clearly if it becomes necessary.
    • After adequate and specified opportunity for the student to resolve the IN based on the requirements communicated by the instructor , a grade of CR or NC grade will be assigned by the instructor. 

In the event that the University must cease all activities, all grades which have not yet been submitted and approved will be considered to be Incomplete (IN) temporarily. 

  • When activities resume, Credit (CR) and Non-credit (NC) grades will be determined based on whether or not the student has demonstrated achievement of the majority of the course learning objectives and learning outcomes as outlined in the revised course outline (syllabus) in effect on March 27, 2020.
If a student believes they will achieve a CR in a course, why should they continue to participate in the remainder of remote course activities and final assessments for the Winter 2020 term?
  • Students should not assume they have already hit a threshold in the course that would award them a credit status.
  • Students need to ensure they achieve the learning outcomes from each course so that subsequent courses can build on this learning, and so they are prepared to use their learning within a work or other educational setting.
  • Many of the courses students are engaged in right now are prerequisites for other courses or provide content needed in future professions. The University is committed to ensuring that students still have access to the material in the courses and an opportunity to become proficient in the learning outcomes set out for the course  and to support their future academic success.     
  • Instructors should not be awarding a credit grade if a student has not successfully completed key components of a course. 
Will students have a final exam?
  • There will be no in-person final exams or assessments for Winter 2020 courses.
  • All final exams and assessments will be delivered remotely and will be held according to the schedule previously published by the Registrar.
  • There will be no proctored remote exams for any Winter 2020 courses unless approved by the Dean of the Faculty offering the course. These will be in exceptional circumstances. Students will be contacted directly if this exemption applies to them and their final exams will be delivered by remote proctored delivery.
  • Students will be informed by the instructor of the format choice of their final exam or assessment and receive a modified course outline that communicates this information to you clearly no later than March 27, 2020 to allow you to make an informed decision before the withdrawal deadline.
If students require alterations in their approved accommodations, they should contact arrec@ualberta.ca.
What does this mean for instructors?

All Winter 2020 course outlines must be updated to outline all changes to exams, assessments, and grading and shared with students no later than March 27, 2020. In order to facilitate this work in a consistent and expedient manner, the COVID-19 Subcommittee on Academic Impacts will distribute a template with the rrequired new regulations which can be attached to your current syllabus and be an official record of the changes. 

All instructors must find an alternative to in-person final assessments for each Winter 2020 course that they teach. Faculties strongly encourage instructors to pursue forms of assessment other than traditional final examinations delivered in a remote format. The alternative assessment must not require a remote proctoring service unless approved and signed off by the Dean (or delegate) of the Faculty offering the course. 

All University of Alberta courses for Winter 2020 will award one of the following grades: CR (credit) or NC (no credit),or the temporary grade of IN (incomplete) as indicated in the University Calendar. Exemptions to these grading regulations may be established by the Deans of programs whose students have accreditation or licensure requirements.  For cases where an instructor is asked by a student to provide a relative assessment of performance the university will be providing a template to facilitate these requests in the next few weeks.
Can I change my course weightings?

Yes, instructors can change weightings for the course. This will need to be identified in the syllabus template for each course.

What does this mean for grading for the Spring/Summer 2020 semester?

Registration for Spring/Summer 2020 is still active, although the delivery format for these courses is under consideration. Courses that have travel associated with them are likely to change based on the travel restrictions. At this time, we do not anticipate a change to the traditional grading scheme for Spring/Summer delivery.

How were these decisions made?

These decisions were made following considerable thought, discussions, and consultations. The recommendations were developed by the Public Health Response Team Sub-Committee on Academic Impacts, which includes strong faculty representation. The motions received unanimous support of General Faculties Council Executive, endorsement of Deans' Council, and the General Faculties Council Academic Standards Committee. Both the Students’ Union and Graduate Students Association are represented on the General Faculties Council committees. Support has also been received from the Students’ Union.