Frequently Asked Questions for Academic Changes

Posted March 20, 10:40 a.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.


FAQs Added: March 23, 7:00 p.m.

What does the new grading system mean?

Credit: You have successfully completed the course requirements. 

No Credit: You have not completed the course requirements.

Your instructors will provide a revised course outline that will give the requirements for completing your courses. After the end of the term one of three grades may appear on your transcript: CR (credit) if you have completed the requirements of the course and demonstrated sufficient mastery of the learning objectives, NC (no credit) if you haven't met the requirements, or the temporary grade of  IN (incomplete) if you haven't been able to complete the work, but could at a later date. In cases where you receive an IN the instructor will communicate what is required to earn CR within a timeframe that follows the academic calendar (Item 6 - Grades of Incomplete). 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 IN (temporarily). 

 

With CR/NCR, what happens to Honours Program grading?

If a course was to be graded for the Winter 2020 semester it will follow the Cr/NCr model. This includes full-year (six credit) courses. If a grade for Winter 2020 is already part of the official record, the grading stands as submitted.

How will my GPA be calculated?

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 as much as possible. Grades of CR, NC or IN will not impact your GPA. Information about how GPA will be calculated for the purposes of graduation and academic standing will be communicated by April 1, 2020 as part of communications associated with  revisions on Academic Standing. Instructors will also have access to a templated letter to indicate how a student performed relative to their peers within a course. This won't replace or replicate our regular grading scheme, but it will be a useful addition to applications.

What about my Academic Standing?

Academic standing is used to determine the eligibility of students to continue or graduate from their programs, or return to a program after Fresh Start. Deans have the ability to modify academic standing regulations to respond to this unprecedented situation. Faculties are evaluating their practices to minimize negative impacts on students. This information will be communicated to you by April 1, 2020.

How do I know if my course is an exception and will require a proctored final exam? Who can I contact for more information?

You will be contacted directly if this exemption applies to you and the final exam will be delivered by remote proctored format. You will be informed of the format of your final exam or assessment and receive a modified course outline that clearly communicates this information to you no later than March 27, 2020.


Section below Posted March 20, 10:40 a.m.

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 decided that the measures announced today were the best approach to ensure instructors and students can successfully complete the Winter 2020 term. It balances the various challenges many are facing in the transition to remote delivery, including lack of access due to illness or isolation, with the ability to successfully complete the 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 my 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 this week’s changes, and to protect academic futures as much as possible.

Deans will have the ability to modify academic standing. This means faculties will be evaluating their practices to ensure we minimize impacts on students. This information will be communicated to students by April 1, 2020.

Academic standing is used to determine the eligibility of students to continue or graduate from their programs. 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 my application to non-direct entry programs, graduate school, or professional programs?

We will work with you 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 that students applying to very competitive programs need to document their performance relative to others. We are working to develop a template letter instructors can use to indicate how a student performed relative to their peers within a course. While this won't replace traditional grading, it will be a useful addition to applications. It is important to remember that this challenge is global. Post-secondary institutions around the world recognize this and will be working to adjust admission practices where they can.

How will this impact my 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 will be 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.
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 required new regulations which can be attached to your current syllabus and be an official record of the changes. This template will be released Monday, March 23, 2020.

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) 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.
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.

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