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March 23, 2020
Kahlil Gibran, author of the book, The Prophet, once said “Your
living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as
by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens
to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” If
ever there was a time our attitudes and perspectives matter, now
is that time.
I feel and appreciate the stress and disappointment many of you
are experiencing with so many unknowns and unexpected events
occurring at such an important time in your lives. My job as
your Chief Academic Officer is to ensure that you are provided
the best quality educational experience possible. I am committed
to making this happen as are your course instructors, who have
been working diligently to transition course materials to a
remote instructional format.
There have been many questions raised in higher education and on
our own campus about the most appropriate ways to evaluate
students’ classroom performance when there has been disruption
midway through the semester. These are difficult and complex
questions, and I am committed to creating a response that
considers the implications for your future.
My number one priority is ensuring the integrity of the academic
content faculty are delivering while balancing the impact of so
much unexpected change for you as learners. Honoring my
commitment to your academic experience means grading you fairly
and appropriately in the context of what is occurring; it is my
firm belief that maintaining our current grading structure is
the best choice for you and for the institution. With this is
mind, I hope you can understand the principles below that have
guided my thinking:
For me, a better option
is for the institution to think creatively and effectively about
how we can ensure your learning success and fairly evaluate you
during this period of remote instruction. With this goal in
mind, we have instituted the following:
- While a
completely remote environment is new territory for many
students and faculty, I am confident that you will find rich
and valuable learning taking place during this time.
bodies require grades for those students in professional
- Students in some
programs need letter grades for their major courses to
progress in their program.
- Graduate programs
across the country often require letter grades for courses
relevant to the discipline, as do law and medical schools.
- Many students
have worked hard in the first half of the semester and
continue to do well in their courses; these students deserve
to have their effort reflected in a letter grade.
- Some students are
counting on a letter grade in their courses to boost their
GPA which helps to ensure they retain scholarships and
progress in their programs.
We are dedicated to
developing mechanisms to accurately assess your knowledge and
skills as well as supporting your success. I know you will bring
your ‘can-do’ attitude to your experience, remembering the words
- To ensure
students have enough graded work to make informed decisions
prior to the deadline to withdraw from courses, the
University is moving the Spring 2020 withdraw deadline
to April 3.
- Faculty have been
given suggestions for alternatives to high-stakes exams
where appropriate and feasible, such as: more frequent,
shorter quizzes; open-book take-home exams; and, alternative
assignments that require application of knowledge across the
semester. Faculty are making adjustments, recognizing that
these options may not be a fit in all classes.
- Faculty have been
asked to consider adjusting the weighting of assignments or
evaluation measures prior to remote instruction, or
adjusting their scale for assignments and tests given since
remote instruction began.
- For some students
with health or internet connectivity challenges, faculty
have been encouraged to grant an incomplete so
these students can complete their work at a later date.
- We are increasing
our online offerings in the summer so students who wish to
lighten their load can do so, and enroll in a summer course.
- We have created
supports for remote learning for both faculty (CTL
Teaching Continuity Website) and students (central
page with information for students).
As I used remote instruction to teach my Autism class last
Wednesday evening, I was so impressed with my students’
engagement in their learning as their peers made a presentation
to the entire class, we commented on video clips using a chat
box, and we discussed a case study. I have every confidence our
students at UVM will rise to the challenge we are facing and
your faculty will be right there beside you to support your
Patricia A. Prelock
Provost and Senior Vice President