In response to pandemic, higher ed institutions move to online instruction

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Date: April 2, 2020

Contact: Michael Reilly
Executive Director, AACRAO

In response to pandemic, higher ed institutions move to online instruction
Grading and graduation ceremonies also impacted


WASHINGTON, D.C.—The vast majority of higher education institutions are moving classes online for the remainder of the current term, according to a Snapshot Impact Survey published by the American Association for Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).

Results of the “Impact Survey 1: Impact of COVID-19 on Grading, Transcript and Commencement Practices” demonstrate the wide-ranging and dramatic impacts the pandemic is having on higher education institutions across the country. This survey, focused primarily on grading and transcript practices, is the first in a series of snapshot impact surveys to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

The survey, open for only 2.5 business days, received over 600 responses. The data highlighted in this report explores changes made or under consideration in response to COVID-19.

According to the results, 81 percent of responding institutions have moved to entirely online or remote classes for the remainder of the current term, 23 percent have moved to entirely online or remote classes for summer, and an additional 38 percent are considering doing so.

Most institutions (79 percent) anticipate that degrees will be posted to students’ records in the normal timeframe, although almost half (47 percent) have cancelled graduation ceremonies with no alternative. Other institutions have rescheduled graduation for another date or moved to a virtual ceremony.

Regarding grading, about two-thirds of institutions have already or are considering giving students the option to change one or more courses to pass/fail (or institutional equivalent), 27 percent are not making any changes to grading or transcript practices in response to COVID-19, 44 percent are adhering to current policy on academic standing for the term; and 6 percent are suspending academic standing calculations for this term.

“These surveys are critical to helping us understand how institutions are responding to COVID-19,” said AACRAO Executive Director Michael Reilly. “The responses will help us develop guidance on a range of topics to support institutions as they review and adjust practices in light of the impact of this unprecedented situation.”

This type of rapid survey and report has its limitations, noted AACRAO Research Director Wendy Kilgore.

“While we focused primarily on what is changing, we likely missed some opportunities to gain an explicit understanding of what is staying the same,” Kilgore said.

Upcoming rapid response Snapshot Practice Surveys will explore issues related to college admissions, transfer, international students, and other topics as the COVID-19 pandemic develops.

AACRAO is a non-profit, voluntary, professional association of more than 11,000 higher education professionals representing approximately 2,600 institutions in more than 40 countries. Its commitment to the professional development of its members includes best practice guidance on admissions strategies to meet institutional diversity objectives, delivery of academic programs in innovative ways to meet the needs of a changing student body, and exemplary approaches to student retention and completion.