As the 2020 spring semester continues, college students are doing all they can to achieve satisfactory grades.
Students continue to hand-in assignments and projects and take exams for grades.
Until students receive their updated grades at the end of the semester, professors have the power to grade assignments based upon the different grading systems that they believe best fit their course material.
One of the most common ways to evaluate a student is the traditional letter grade. This system assigns letter symbols to represent a range of grades.
However, given the recent change in students’ educational environments, one should ask if this traditional grading system is still the right choice.
Afterall, the spring 2020 semester is proving to be anything but traditional. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), students will spend the rest of their spring semester online.
The pass-fail system is a contrasting option to the traditional letter grade.This grading system only gives students two options: Pass or fail. There is no percentage or letter grade assigned at the close of the semester.
Instituting pass-fail grading systems could relieve added stress on students who attended in-person classes on campus.
Students who were living in residence halls and off-campus apartments with a couple of roommates in February now find themselves at home experiencing cabin fever with parents, siblings and a less than high-speed wifi connection.
Some of these students worked as computer lab attendants or register attendants in the dining halls, who now find themselves as “essential workers” at grocery stores. The learning environment has drastically changed for many. This change and lack of stability can negatively impact one’s grades.
All students do not learn the same. Those who prefer hands-on learning may find it harder to communicate with professors. In addition, while students will be able to get in contact with learning specialists and tutors regularly, they may not be able to fully understand the material being taught to them over Zoom sessions with spotty internet connections.
Former on-campus students may experience a lack of resources including access to tutoring, the library and classmates. While Shippensburg University officials and faculty are working to provide resources, nothing compares to being on campus.
Furthermore, living on campus allows students to create a scholarly routine. However, suddenly having to move back home while administering self-quarantine can disrupt that routine. It can be very difficult to remain motivated in these times. To add, learning to manage college work and home life at such a fast pace makes it harder for the students with a challenging home environment.
Changing all online classes to pass-fail for the rest of the semester will help each student get acclimated to the sudden change of their surroundings.
But it does not come without its costs.
Instituting a pass-fail system instead of keeping traditional letter grades will affect students' transcripts.
Pass-fail courses do not affect grade point averages (GPA). Students who qualify for financial aid, are transferring credits, applying to grad school or simply just want to make the dean's list will be affected.
The pass-fail grading system could also pull morale down for those who have been working hard for the first half of the semester. It may change their attitude from wanting to to exceed their own expectations to just doing enough to pass.
The debate of switching classes to pass-fail has sparked many petitions from different universities, including Shippensburg University. However, according to The Daily Orange, many schools like Syracuse University allow their students to opt-in for a pass-fail grading option for the spring semester.
Are you prompted to sign the petition, keep the current grading systems or do you believe that students should pick what eligible classes should be pass-fail? Tweet @ShipUSlate with your take on this week’s Slate Speaks.