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Updated: March 31, 2020

Guidance on Grading and Transcript Notations from Novel Coronavirus COVID-1

Institutions are moving quickly to establish policies around their actions to move courses off-campus to online or other remote options for at least the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. One of the implications is whether or not to implement alternative grading policies and practices that protect academic integrity while allowing flexibility and compassion during a time of unprecedented disruption. While short-term solutions may be advisable, it is prudent to also consider long-term implications of any changes to the current grading and transcript practices. What may help students and faculty today may complicate situations in the future.

The guidance below provides you with some general parameters to follow when implementing changes to grading and transcript practices at your institution. Please refer to any existing accrediting body, state, system or district policy or guidance in addition to the recommendations below before incorporating any changes into your policy or practice. Following these guidelines are a set of key questions to consider when making these changes, so that your students and faculty are in the best possible situation, today and in the future.
  1. IF your instruction moves online or remote to complete the term - transcript as you would have normally done; there should be no difference in grading, course designations or transcripts for online courses than those offered via live instruction.
  2. IF instruction is terminated BUT the instructor/faculty member can confirm all student learning outcomes have been met (for courses near the end of instruction time) assign the grade earned by that point in time.
  3. IF the student learning outcomes have not all been met and the course must terminate with no possibility for completion, issue a pass/fail (or similar S/U, non-qualitative, binary) grade.
  4. Use existing non-qualitative binary grades, if available. Creating new grades could have unintended consequences for course registration pre and corequisites, automated degree audit rules and other areas (see Key Concepts to Consider).
  5. Update the transcript key defining the grade to which a P is equivalent at both the undergraduate and graduate level, if this is not already present in the key.
    • No other transcript notes needed or should be added regarding the grades earned in this manner.
  6. Develop a written policy or practice to define what has been done and what could be done under similar circumstances moving forward.
  7. Unless your institution introduces new grade designations or changes policies such as requiring P/F grades for all courses, no transcript notations should be required. If new grades or policy changes are made, update the transcript key to reflect these changes
Key Questions to Consider:
  1. How will you communicate any changes you will make or have made to all students as well as to advisors and instructors? The transparent and consistent application of any changes in practice is important.
  2. How will the imposition of pass/fail or other non-qualitative, binary marks impact the following?
    • Use of the course to satisfy prerequisites for other courses.
    • Ability to transfer to another institution. Many institutions require a C/C- or better for transfer at the undergraduate level and a B/B- at the graduate level.
    • Completion of degree requirements where the attainment of a certain letter grade is required?
      • Upper division requirements
      • General education requirements
      • Courses in the major
    • Honors or other academic distinctions?
    • Academic standing?
  3. Consider the wider impact of implementing a brand new grade(s) for this purpose. Any or all of the following may also need to be changed:
    • Transcript key modifications
    • Degree audit coding to accept the new grade as meeting the course requirement
    • All prerequisite and corequisite coding built into the registration rules
    • All prerequisite and corequisite coding built into an electronic catalog
    • Any copies of degree requirement check-sheets not generated by a degree audit system
    • Academic standing calculations
    • Academic honors calculations
  4. Consider how other institutional grading and course-related deadlines might need to be addressed for the terms impacted by COVID-19. For example,
    • The deadline to complete Incomplete grades earned in the previous term.
    • The deadline for completing an incomplete grade earned during spring 2020 or any other term impacted by COVID-19.
    • Drop and withdrawal deadlines for spring 2020.
    • Grade forgiveness and/or academic renewal deadlines for spring 2020.
    • Deadlines to change a grading basis, if an option.
    • Degree/graduation application deadlines.
  5. Consider carefully any implications for optional extensions or mandates to binary, non-qualitative marks (pass/fail, satisfactory/unsatisfactory, credit/no credit,etc.). Such marks (except ‘fail’) are not counted in GPA calculations but count toward the calculation of hours attempted and completed. For some students who may have been marginally passing courses, this may be an advantage. For others who are doing very well, this will disadvantage them. How will your institution address policies and practices regarding the following issues?
    • Satisfactory academic progress, especially for those who may have been on academic probation?
    • Scholarship retention
    • Admission to a major field of study
    • Student-athlete academic eligibility
    • Veterans benefits eligibility
  6. These decisions will also impact admission policies. How will you adapt your policies to consider students who are coming to your institution and may have earned binary, non-qualitative marks from this term?
    • Undergraduate transfer policies for minimum GPA
    • Graduate admissions:
      • Overall GPA
      • Last 60 hours earned
      • Other requirements for course-specific grades
    • Professional programs