New Updates Regarding UCO New Grading Policy

University of Central Oklahoma students will be receiving more updates regarding the new grading policy’s grade change requests in place as a result of novel coronavirus.

More details will be sent out by the end of next week.

The new policy for the remainder of the spring semester, which was emailed to students on March 27, was created “in the best interest of students.” Students are advised to conduct their own research about it to ensure they make the right decision for themselves.

Gary Steward, co-interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at UCO said there is a team of 12 individuals working out the details of the new grading options. The team consists of financial aid, registrar, college deans and the head adviser for UCO.

“It’s got all kinds of complications,” Steward said. “It’s like pulling a thread from a sweater, you pull one thread and it seems to be connected to everything else and the sweater tends to unravel at the seams.”

Steward said the system is not as simple as when Chancellor Glen D. Johnson of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education first brought forth the guidelines. The alternative instructional format, which will remain through the summer semester, was designed in the best interest of the students and faculty, he said.

Regarding the pass/no pass options listed in the policy, Steward said these have always been available for some courses, like physical education. The satisfactory/unsatisfactory options have also been part of UCO’s grading schema for “remedial or developmental courses” that are zero level classes.

“What is new for UCO and all the other institutions across the state, is to apply the P/NP to what would typically be a standard letter grade assigned to a course,” Steward said.

Due to the unprecedented switch to the alternative instructional format, Steward said the state regents and the chancellor wanted to keep in mind the concern some students may have with how their GPA may suffer. Thus, they created the P/NP options that will not affect students’ GPA if chosen upon request.

Instructors will assign a standard letter grade to each student after finals. Students then have until 11:59 p.m. on May 19 to determine if they want to change their letter grade to a P/NP.

Before the deadline, all students must go through a request process to change their grade. As of now, to begin the P/NP grade change process, students will send a form to their dean’s office in which their major resides.

“We need some kind of evidence that this is what the student wants to do,” Steward said.

Steward and his team are also deciding if there will be an online form for the requests. They are working on automating the request system to prevent mistakes from occurring. However, the details are continuing to be worked out.

The team thinks students will want to keep an A or B on their transcript, according to Steward, but they can’t calculate how many will change their grade to a P/NP.

“If you get an A or a B in a class, you probably want those to stand,” Steward said. “You don’t want to change that to a P because that’s going to help your GPA.”

On April 3, it was decided that the registrar would automatically turn any student with a failing grade to an NP without the students having to make a request. This is to protect the students’ GPA.

“If they’re insistent and they want that F, that’s fine, but they’ll have to request to have [the NP] turned back to an F,” Steward said.

This grade reversal will go through the same paperwork process as above.

In addition to requests, there are other complications with the new grade proceedings, like specialized accreditation. Half of UCO’s degree programs have certain courses that require students to make a C or better.

Therefore, if an undergraduate student receives a D in one of these courses and requests to change to a P, they will not meet the program’s satisfactory grade requirements. Even though a P is considered passing for A through D for undergraduates, it does not mean the student met the requirements for courses that require a C or better.

“They would have to repeat it,” Steward said.

These complications mean that students need to check in the academic catalog for their major to see if there are any courses that require a C or better to pass, Steward said.

Another concern was how professors would quickly convert their in-class instruction to completely online.  

Dr. Ed Cunliff, UCO Adult and Higher Education professor works primarily with graduate students. Cunliff said many faculty and staff members have been utilizing Zoom to virtually communicate face-to-face with each other and with their students.

“Hopefully it serves students well in terms of managing grade concerns brought on by the crisis and also supports maintenance of quality, which matters to all of us,” Cunliff said regarding the new grading system.

As of now, Cunliff said none of his students have notified him of any concerns about possibly changing their grade.

Meanwhile, others like undergraduate student Kareema Kulwartin have voiced their concerns with the P/NP options.

With an overwhelming amount of emails and D2L updates, Kulwartin said it has been hard to keep everything together.

“I don’t understand what the difference is between pass or fail and our regular grades, especially if they said it wouldn’t have any negative impact on our GPAs,” Kulwartin said.

Something that is being changed from the initial email sent out to students is the irreversible requests. Students will now be able to reverse their grade change of a P/NP.

“If a student happens to change majors, there could be some kind of reversion back to a letter grade,” Steward said. “So, it’s not necessarily a one-way trip.”

At the graduate level, a P could be assigned to an A, B or C and an NP would be assigned to a D and F. The grading options are different because master’s work is held at a higher level of competency and performance, Steward said.

For many master’s programs, graduates are only allowed a certain amount of credit hours of Ds or Fs. Some graduates are required to have a higher GPA to get into programs.

Regarding attempted hours for retention work, Steward said this concerns students who are taking internships and practicums right now. Some students have not been able to complete their work for certain businesses because the establishments have closed their doors to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We’ve got a document that is being vetted through the group with all the procedures and we will continue to refine that document,” Steward said.

Since health officials have predicted COVID-19 will peak in Oklahoma in mid to late April, UCO announced on April 3 an extension of alternative delivery through summer courses. UCO administrators said they believe “lingering effects of the virus” will be around until June.

In the summer semester, students will have the option of the alternative instructional format and online courses, with the exception of assigning P/NP unless a student is taking a class that previously gave a P/NP before COVID-19.

When determining if a student should change their standard letter grade to a P/NP, Steward said the best thing would be reaching out to one’s adviser, the dean’s office in which the course resides and potentially financial aid.

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