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Science update: Strategies for completing winter 2020 courses amidst COVID-19: Addendum 7

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

This message was originally sent to instructors in the Faculty of Science by Marlee Spafford, associate dean, undergraduate studies.


This message splits its attention between the Winter 2020 term and the Spring 2020 term.

Winter 2020 Completion:

  • May 3rd deadline: Submitting final course grades by the Registrar’s deadline is always important but it is even more important this term because there is an extra step with students being able to convert their numeric grades to CR/NCR before academic progression runs.
  • Limited DNW and NMR grade use: Senate voted to allow students to convert numeric grades to CR/NCR. If that right does not apply to non-numeric grades such as DNW and NMR, this may create an equity issue because only students with earned grades will be able to minimize the impact of a poor grades.  While DNW and NMR grades are non-numeric, they count as 32 in academic averages.  Because we don’t yet have clarity on whether these non-numeric grades are eligible for conversion, it may be more equitable to assign an earned grade to students (assuming INC is not appropriate).
  • Self-Declaration illnesses: Instructors can determine if students have submitted a self-declared illness in Quest by following the instructions at: https://uwaterloo.ca/quest/faculty-and-staff/how-do-i-view-self-declared-illnesses
  • Success stories: Instructors proud of how they innovated the last three weeks of the term and designed a workable alternative to a final exam are encouraged to contact me and I will connect them with the ‘Keep Learning’ team, who are hoping to share encouraging survival tales to give hope for other instructors (P.S.  You should all be proud of surviving this term but apparently a particular kind of pride is being sought here).

Spring 2020 Course Development:

The Keep Learning site and the Science Remote Teaching Task Force will be excellent resources and facilitators for instructors teaching remotely but I did want to plant some important seeds now:

  • Courses should be designed in small chunks, with low-stake assessments, asynchronous delivery and no penultimate final exam
  • Assessments/tests should be offered for students to complete in a 48 hour window or longer; synchronous tests are not permitted (due to time zones, situational barriers, personal circumstances)
  • Instructors must include all test/assessment details in the course outline
  • Instructors are encouraged to find alternatives to final exams, where ever possible; however, there will be a one-week ‘final assessment period’ at the end of the Spring term for courses where no alternative can be developed; this short period means instructors need to limit the tests to 1 hour in duration
  • Testing in the ‘final assessment period’ will either be organized by the instructor using a flexible completion window or proctored online by considering these additional points:
    • All requests for proctored exams will be requested via Odyssey and managed by CEL
    • Proctored exam requests are subject to review and approval will be limited due to budget and Provincial restrictions on individual exam spaces
  • Instructors will be responsible for accommodating students with conflicts, as well as those who cannot or are not willing to be proctored online due to technology restrictions, etc.

I hope you find this information helpful.

Stay well.