As online instruction gets underway this week, the Dean’s Office is aware that many faculty members have sought guidance on how to evaluate student performance in this unprecedented semester. Today, we write to share updates that we hope will inform your approach to evaluation as you re-engage with your students and their work:
- Spring 2020 Withdrawal Deadline Pushed Back to April 30
- A Reimagined Class Progress Report System
- How SAIC Will Address Grading in Spring 2020
- Recommendations for Evaluating Student Performance
- An Extension of the Spring 2020 Grading Period for Faculty to May 24
- A Reminder Regarding Incomplete (INC) Grades
The Dean’s Office, your department chairs, administrative directors, and staff across the School will support you fully in helping students emerge from this difficult semester with new knowledge, increased confidence in their capabilities, and fresh momentum to propel their studies forward in the semesters and years to come. On behalf of the entire SAIC community, we thank you again for your continued flexibility and empathetic engagement with your students. Do not hesitate to reach out to any of us as needed.
Jefferson Pinder, Interim Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs
Arnold J. Kemp, Dean of Graduate Studies
Dwayne Moser, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies
Dawn Gavin, Dean of Undergraduate Studies
Paul Jackson, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies
Spring 2020 Withdrawal Deadline Pushed Back to April 30
Because of the extended Spring Break, the withdrawal deadline was moved to Thursday, April 30, giving all students ample time to return to their now-online studies and fully assess their ability to succeed in them.
As usual, when a student withdraws from a course or multiple courses, a system-generated message will be sent to each faculty member, and until you receive such a message, do not assume a student has formally withdrawn.
You can find more general information about withdrawal grades here.
As a reminder, if a student in your class has not been participating and has not responded to your outreach, please contact SAIC’s dean on call at email@example.com. Include in your email the name of the student, course, and issue you are experiencing. Staff from the Office of Student Affairs will respond as soon as possible.
If you have reason to believe that there is an emergency involving a student, as always, the dean on call is available via phone 24/7 at 312.768.8485.
A Reimagined Class Progress Report System
The Class Progress Report early alert system has been significantly reworked over the extended break. Now called “Instructor Check-Ins,” this PeopleSoft-generated communication has additional flexibility in terms of the messages it can convey. Notably, we have added two checkbox options that provide students with positive feedback and throughout emphasized the message’s function as an initiation of further dialogue between the student, faculty, and academic advising support. We encourage all faculty to make use of the tool’s expanded ability to formally provide affirming feedback for students who are either doing well or in the process of improving their class performance.
Your comments in any given situation remain the most important information an Instructor Check-In message will contain, and we continue to encourage all faculty who submit one to include comments that provide students with detailed guidance or instruction.
Instructor Check-In messages are primarily a communication between the faculty and student, but academic advising/advisors will continue to review these messages, and advisors will reach out appropriately to undergraduate advisees when a message or combination of messages indicates concern.
The process for submitting an Instructor Check-In via PeopleSoft Faculty Center has not changed. Academic Advising has updated the Guide for Submitting an Instructor Check-In. This guide can be found on the faculty dashboard in the “Policies: Student Interactions” section on the left hand side.
How SAIC Will Address Grading in Spring 2020
First, let us affirm what will be the same: As usual, students will earn Credit (CR) based on satisfactory completion of course requirements. Individual faculty must determine who should earn Credit in the course(s) they teach, based on the merits of each individual’s performance, and only faculty will be able to award students Credit.
What will be different this semester: When students are not able to successfully complete a course or courses, SAIC will not issue No Credit (NCR) grades, or subject students to the typical consequences that accompany NCR grades.
The reason we will set aside NCRs this semester: truly extenuating circumstances surround every one of our students. As such, when a student is not able to successfully complete a course, SAIC will highlight the circumstances, not their individual performance. To do this, we will apply a one-time special notation in lieu of placing an NCR grade.
The technical particulars of what exact notation to use are still being worked out, but the final product will be functionally different from a No Credit in both nomenclature and in that as a result of receiving this notation:
- Students’ academic standing will not change one way or the other.
- There will be no impact on a student’s eligibility to receive institutional merit aid.
Note: SAIC is required to include non-completed courses in determining a students’ ongoing eligibility to receive federal, state, and institutional financial aid. SAIC will take all necessary steps to assist any student whose financial aid is impacted by their spring 2020 performance.
However, students receiving this spring 2020 notation for a course will not receive the benefits associated with earning Credit. Specifically, such courses will not:
- Provide any credit hours toward degree requirements or satisfy any prerequisite requirements for future courses.
- Satisfy any specific degree requirement. If received in a degree-required course, the student must retake the course in a future semester and earn Credit.
When faculty submit their spring 2020 semester grades, they should follow the usual process, issuing either a grade of CR, NCR, or INC (Incomplete, see below) to each student on their roster. This semester, faculty should understand that issuing a NCR grade on the grading roster will automatically result in the placement of the spring 2020 special notation in its place.
Recommendations for Evaluating Student Performance
The Dean’s Office has previously offered some observations on the challenges many of our students face right now, and these need not be repeated here, particularly as many are challenges all of us, faculty, students, and staff, confront both individually and collectively. We understand, however, how important these considerations are for faculty as you evaluate student performance in the midst of so many concerns.
When determining if a student should receive Credit, SAIC will continue to rely on faculty to apply their professional judgement and consider a student’s performance against both the course requirements (online and remote) and the circumstances surrounding their performance. As always, SAIC will support faculty judgement in making these determinations, and in this unique semester we will utilize the new, one-time spring 2020 notation (see above) to specifically mitigate some of the negative consequences in the event that students simply cannot earn Credit.
With that said, we offer some additional recommendations for faculty to consider in making the most challenging decisions—how to proceed when students are almost, but not quite, performing up to course standards:
- Expect all students to participate (to the best of their ability) through the duration of the course as a minimum expectation for issuing Credit. We have asked all faculty to redevelop curriculum which they will share throughout the remainder of the spring semester, and students should be expected to continue to regularly engage with the class curriculum as it deploys. However, if a student has been doing well and then shares that they are no longer able to participate, consider whether independent assignments are a suitable alternative, and offer these where appropriate.
- Do not be reluctant to adjust your expectations from when you began the semester. As all students’ ability to attend to their studies has become greatly challenged by external circumstances, the successes they do achieve in courses should be recognized as more significant accomplishments.
- If you are willing to exercise flexibility, make this clear as soon as possible, and let students know exactly how to secure flexibility (if it will not automatically be granted).
- Consider both the on-campus and online components of the course as parts of a whole, but if a student is stronger in one component of the course, give that performance greater weight.
- Emphasize what it will take to earn Credit in your discussions with students, so they have clear markers to aim for, but be prepared to adjust these in students’ favor when you feel circumstances warrant.
- Consider a student’s engagement with the course and their relative growth or improvement since the course began as factors which complement objective performance markers (assignment grades, test scores, etc.), and do not hesitate to let these considerations be determinative if they favor the student.
- Reach out proactively if a student is not on track to earn Credit, and be willing to suggest options without being asked.
- Suggest students take the time they need after the semester ends to complete viable work-in-progress (see below).
- Do not hesitate to propose an Incomplete when even more time is needed, without waiting for the student to do so (see below).
If you would like to consult on a specific case or situation, please do not hesitate to contact your department chair, or the deans or associate deans in the Undergraduate or Graduate Divisions, respectively.
An Extension of the Spring 2020 Grading Period for Faculty
To support faculty in their ability to be flexible with students this semester, SAIC will push back the deadline for submitting spring 2020 grades. Typically, this deadline is set a week after the last day of the semester, which would have been Sunday, May 17. With this change, faculty will have until Sunday, May 24 to submit spring 2020 grades. We encourage all faculty to use this extended grading period to offer students greater flexibility in submitting any final assignments or work that puts them in a better position to ultimately earn Credit for a course.
Please note: An extension of the grading period is not an extension of the teaching period. As planned, the semester will conclude on Sunday, May 10. Faculty should not build curriculum which requires students to engage in new course activity beyond this date, and in practice, the last round of class activities/assignments should be shared with students by Sunday, May 3, giving them up to three weeks of additional time to complete all outstanding work.
A Reminder Regarding Incomplete (INC) Grades
Faculty should continue to enter placeholder grades of Incomplete (INC) for students who require additional time (beyond May 24) to complete outstanding coursework, when (in the judgement of the faculty) the student has presented a viable plan to do so.
INC grades have always represented a way for faculty to provide flexibility to students who can successfully complete course requirements but need more time than is left in the course. Incomplete grades should always represent an active agreement between the faculty and student on a plan of action. They are ideally student-requested but if a faculty feels an Incomplete arrangement is the most feasible way for a student to finish the course successfully, we encourage faculty to broach this subject and propose a suitable plan.
As usual, faculty must notify the Registrar's Office at firstname.lastname@example.org to have an INC grade changed to Credit (once the student has completed the required work). Also as usual, any INC grades remaining at the end of the fall 2020 semester add/drop period will automatically be changed, but this semester they will be changed to the unique spring notation, rather than being changed to No Credit.