The University of Alberta approved “extraordinary measures” to help students finish their Winter 2020 semester during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both undergraduate and graduate students will receive either a “CR,” “IN,” or “NC” on their transcript of classes for this semester denoting “credit,” “incomplete,” or “non-credit,” respectively. The designation will bear no weight in calculating a student’s grade point average. Each dean was also given authority to amend standing requirements where a final exam was a requirement for a class. Professors will be “strongly encouraged” to consider alternate forms of assessment other than traditional final exams.
Whatever changes to the format of final evaluation for a class will be required to be communicated to students no later than March 27.
Additionally, the withdrawal deadline will be extended until April 8.
If a student achieves the credit standard, they will receive the credit that the class is worth and be permitted to move further along in their studies. Instructors will be basing their decision on whether to grant a student credit or non-credit based on if the student has met the objectives of the respective course.
Exemptions to this grading scheme may be established by deans for reasons related to accreditation or licensure requirements.
The proposal was first introduced at a General Faculties Council executive meeting on March 16 by the Public Health Response Team academic impact team. It then proceeded to Deans Council and the Academic Standards Committee. Both recommended approving the measures to the executive of General Faculties Council executive, who unanimously passed the measures during a special meeting on March 19.
All in-person final exams were cancelled by a directive from the provincial government on March 13.
The committee also approved a motion amending all university transcripts being issued this semester to include an explanation of what the new grading codes mean and why no letter grade was issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
David Turpin, U of A president, said the measures will ensure students can progress despite the challenging circumstances presented during the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘These are extraordinary times,” Turpin said. “In these challenging times it is our job to model empathy, understanding, and compassion… We will get through this.”
“These changes will help alleviate concerns students are facing and give clarity on what to expect moving forward,” Turpin said.
Melissa Padfield, vice-provost and university registrar, said the changes will ensure students will be able to continue their academic careers even if the pandemic worsens or a student falls ill.
“What we are trying to do is really risk management,” she said. “We are trying to support the continuation of the progression of all of our students, recognizing the unique circumstances we are in.”
Padfield added that other universities across the globe, including Stanford, University of Toronto, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have already implemented similar measures.
“This is around trying to manage equity issues, academic integrity issues, issues of academic appeal, and realities of the events unfolding related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added. “What we have come to is an incredibly innovative solution.”
Joel Agarwal, current vice-president (academic) and president-elect of the Students’ Union, said he was in favour of the changes based on the extraordinary circumstances.
“These are difficult times for students,” he said. “We need to make sure changes are communicated clearly and on time to students.”
He added that he “hoped” the U of A communicates the changes to grading to other post-secondaries across the province and Canada to ensure similar measures are put in place. That way all students would be on a level playing field for scholarships, academic progression, and graduate studies.
“This is just the start of this conversation,” Agarwal said.
UPDATE: On March 20 at 11:30 a.m. The Gateway updated the article to reflect the withdrawal deadline being changed from April 1 to April 8.