Office of the Provost
Assessments and Grading
As we move toward launch of online classes Monday, you no doubt have many questions about recent events as well as assessment and grading. Below you will find important information on all of these topics.
Stay Home Order by the City of Atlanta
Many of you have asked whether the new “Stay Home” order issued by the City of Atlanta affects our operations. It does not. We are identified as an essential business under the order and can continue operating, albeit on the significantly reduced staffing model that we already have in place. For those of you still working on campus, I strongly encourage you to consider your own risk level and your ability to work remotely. Safety is the priority.
As we move closer to launching online classes, a key question is how we will conduct assessment in this atypical environment. Some assignments are no longer possible, and some are no longer reasonable in light of what we are collectively facing. We must be flexible not only in developing assessments but also in how we grade them.
Alternate Testing Strategies
In light of the limitations we are experiencing this semester, it is important that you consider whether your assessment strategy is realistic and still aligns with your course objectives. CETL has created numerous resources to help you rethink your exam strategies. I strongly encourage you to read about them on our new Testing section of the Keep Teaching site. CETL has also provided extensive details on how to set up your exams in iCollege. Because online learning is new for many of your students, it will be important to provide early assessment opportunities that are low risk for students. These will help you identify quickly which students are engaged and comfortable interacting in the new class environment, allowing you to intervene as necessary.
Talk to your colleagues to find out what assessments they have successfully used online or are willing to share. As I have said before, this is an excellent time to work together so that no one must recreate the wheel. You can connect with your colleagues virtually to share teaching ideas and strategies, and provide support in Virtual Faculty Teaching and Learning Communities.
There are very limited options for proctored exams this semester. In person proctoring will not be an option. All testing will be done remotely, and testing will need to be conducted asynchronously except in rare exceptions. Live proctoring through vendors such as ProctorU will not be available because of the increased demand from universities around the country.
We have two online proctoring tools that are available within iCollege that you can use in your classes. Respondus Lock Down Browser blocks the student from using any other browser windows or applications on their computer during testing. Respondus Monitor records a video of the student using the student’s webcam that can be reviewed by an instructor if cheating is suspected.
Just as you are encouraged to consider which assessments you administer this semester, I urge you to consider how you will grade student performance. This is not business as usual, and our expectations as instructors must shift accordingly. Many of you are teaching in an online setting for the first time and will be learning along with your students. We all know that the road is likely to be bumpy and imperfect – these are not ideal conditions. Your students have experienced serious disruption in their lives and may encounter inadequate technology, financial exigencies, and other barriers to effective learning. We need to be thoughtful, flexible, and above all, compassionate toward our students and ourselves as we navigate these uncharted waters together.
Each instructor has a great deal of discretion in how he or she grades each individual course. As you consider what typically would be an “A” to “F” performance, you should take into account the context in which we are operating. What may seem like below average performance in normal times may reflect real achievement under the circumstances. You have the discretion to grade accordingly.
We do ask that you do your very best to assign a final grade in the normal grading period for the Spring term. To help you, we have extended the grade submission deadline to Monday, May 11 at noon. This will give faculty longer to assess new possible examination styles and provide final grades. We will also delay Degree Conferral to ensure colleges have enough time to complete graduation verification processes.
As is always the case, when grading, a good rubric helps. CETL has created rubric recommendations that align with the 10 assessment strategies identified above. Popular rubrics such as the AAC&U Value rubrics can be easily adapted for any type of instruction. Also, you may consider a more holistic rubric that focuses on basic expectations (exceeds, meets, or does not meet).
Use of Incomplete
While there may be a temptation simply to assign final grades of “Incomplete” for some students, the University Registrar has extended the length of the grading period in part to discourage this practice. Incompletes can have substantial negative impacts on students. They can postpone graduation/degree conferral for graduating students, impact eligibility for HOPE scholarships and federal financial aid, and stop students’ progression in their academic programs when courses serve as prerequisites to other degree requirements. Incompletes should only been assigned in extenuating circumstances as outlined in the policy: Incomplete Grade Policy and Form.
We will not hold any in-person final exams this semester. Because of challenging logistical issues, nearly all online final exams must be administered asynchronously. In rare cases, classes that must hold synchronous examinations because of accreditation or transfer requirements can do so with the permission of the dean of their college or school. The revised final examination schedule and instructions on format is available in the Keep Teaching website.
Expanded Period to Withdraw Without Penalty
Because students did not elect to take online courses and may experience serious learning challenges, we are expanding the deadline to withdraw and receive a “W” rather than “WF” for up to two classes until April 17. Students will be required to consult with advisors to ensure that their path to graduation stays on track and there are no financial aid implications. Details on the application of this process for students will be forthcoming. Please note that due to these unforeseen circumstances, all W grades for the Spring 2020 semester will be exempt from the institutional W limit of six in a student’s academic career.
Resources for Our Students
Although I brought this to your attention before, it is worth doing so again. We have assembled many resources for your students, including online readiness checklists, links to academic support services and help for technology challenges on www.gsu.edu/keeplearning . Please refer your students to this website. If your students still do not have access to adequate technology for remote learning, we may be able to help. There is a link under “internet and devices” to request assistance.
As always, thanks for your work on all of these issues. I will keep you posted as new information develops.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs