University of Calgary offers students choice when it comes to final grades during pandemic

University of Calgary students will have a choice this year when it comes to their final marks: accept their final course grade or opt for a designation of Credit Received (CR) or Fail (F).

Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president academic at the University of Calgary, said the university made this decision after in-person classes were cancelled and courses moved online because of the COVID-19 crisis.

"We've heard from both professors and students who were experiencing a high degree of anxiety and mental health challenges, not only with what was happening at the university but with what was happening with the world in general," she said.

"We wanted to create a system that allowed us to ensure that students could maintain their mental health while they were going through a very difficult circumstance."

'Huge win for students'

Jessica Revington, president of the the Students' Union, said the university's choice to move to a credit-style system is considered "a huge win for students."

She said students are facing a variety of challenges with the move to online course delivery and the union wanted to ensure that in an unprecedented situation students could still have control over their academic success. 

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"The feedback that we've received from students has been overwhelmingly positive," said Revington. "Students have been highly appreciative of the flexibility that the school system provides them with and we understand that this is not the case at other schools."

At the University of Alberta, for example, students are not being given a choice. Instead, all students will get a credit (CR) or no credit (NC), and no letter grades will be assigned.

Importance of choice

Marshall said it was important for the U of C to allow students to make the choice because she knows how much they invest financially and otherwise into their education. 

"We recognize there were students that were performing very well and wanted to have marks and grades that, for example, would allow them for advanced placement in professional programs or for any awards that they might be applying for where marks and grades are really, really important," she said. 

Marshall said that at the end of the term, U of C students will have the opportunity to find out what their final grade is before deciding if they would like to keep it on record, or receive a CR/F.

She said the university wanted to ensure that if a student was coming into a final exam that was worth 20 per cent of their final grade, that they would be able to make a decision about if they felt their mark was enough to pass the course.

"And [they] might not be so stressed about the final exam," she said. "For those students that are doing very well, want to do well, want to ensure that their grades are high — they have a chance to get good grades and have those grades reflected on their transcript."

Revington said students are relieved to know this option exists for them.

"So much is happening externally, so much is happening to students in their personal lives, and there's not a lot that we can control when it comes to COVID-19," she said.

"We can control our own actions, and within that our academics as students is incredibly important to us."