As a fully online university (temporarily), Penn State talks about grades, refunds, and beginning

Penn State students will be able to choose whether their Spring 2020 transcript shows letter grades or more of a pass/fail designation, under plans currently being worked on by university administrators.

The student option is being developed in response to the university’s decision earlier this month to move all courses to an online learning platform in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Online classes began March 16, at the end of Penn State’s previously scheduled spring break, and on March 18 administrators decided to end the semester that way.

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“We were concerned…with the quick adaptation our students had to endure, that maybe their performance might not be quite what they would have liked if things had continued as usual,” said Provost Nick Jones, the school’s top academic official. , said Tuesday when explaining the new ranking policy.

Under the still-emerging plan, which was announced during a virtual town hall with students and parents, faculty will continue to assign regular grades to all undergraduate courses.

At the end of the semester, each student will have approximately one week after receiving their grades to decide if they want to incorporate them into their GPA or if they want the credits to be awarded without impacting GPA.

“If I got an ‘A’ all semester, I probably want to keep that ‘A’,” said Yvonne Gaudelius, associate dean for undergraduate education. “While for others whose learning may have been disrupted, or who may not have the same access to Wi-Fi, that sort of thing, we want to give those students more flexibility. “

Students choosing the latter option could accept credits with a “passing” grade (for Cs or better), a “passing” grade for a D, or a no-grade designation if they failed the course. More details will be announced later this week.

Several other colleges in Pennsylvania have adopted similar grading policies for the spring semester.

Other topics covered in Tuesday’s session include:

Beginning exercises – President Eric Barron said degrees will be awarded at the usual time, although the usual exercises in early May will be postponed due to the high likelihood that the university will not be allowed to hold a gathering of 45,000 people. anywhere on campus at that time.

Barron said he and his staff will likely try to hold a form or virtual beginning in May “with the typical pageantry of a beginning but with names popping up on screen” instead.

It was coupled on Tuesday, however, with the promise of some sort of wider community celebration later in the year as coronavirus restrictions ease. “You want to be together…to have that moment of sharing, to have that moment where you look around your Penn State campus and feel those feelings about what it means to be here for a degree,” Barron said.

The public celebration, Barron said, is not yet set, but will be planned as the pandemic passes.

Refunds – The university plans to offer parents and other housing and food service customers a pro-rated refund for the balance of the semester that takes place remotely.

“We know that you are not using the end of your housing contract and you are not using these elements of the food plan, and so the university has made the decision to refund these dollars on a pro-rata basis to students and their families. “, Barron said. .

There will be no tuition reimbursement, however, as this covers the academic side of the student experience and Barron said everyone at Penn State is working hard to ensure these opportunities education have not been compromised.

Recovery of personal effects – Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims said Penn State is still putting a plan in place for students to return to campus to collect their belongings from residence halls at a later date, per state guidelines. in terms of social distancing, etc.

If a student is in urgent need of obtaining personal property beforehand, Sims said, they are encouraged to contact the university’s housing or residence life offices to make specific arrangements, Sims said.

The academic year 2020-21 – Barron and other administrators said there are plans to return to normal operations for the 2020-21 academic year, but as this will ultimately depend on the state of the current pandemic, rigorous work is also underway on a “plan B” if needed.

“It’s really something that changes very, very quickly and so some of it is just one step at a time,” Barron said.

The parent/student town hall was preceded earlier Tuesday by a separate session for Penn State staff and faculty, where Barron announced that the university is guaranteeing full payment of wages and benefits to all existing employees until to April 30.

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