Guidelines on returning assignments and posting grades
Universities are required to comply with the provisions of the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, so the University of Waterloo must collect, use, maintain, disclose and dispose of personal information in a manner consistent with the legislation. Care must be exercised to protect privacy when returning student assignments and posting grades.
Given the varied size of Waterloo's classes and the range of assessment techniques used, there is no single approach which will be appropriate in every course. The method used is at the discretion of the instructor, permitting him/her to implement practical procedures appropriate to the circumstance. The method used should strike a balance between practicality and a reasonable assurance of privacy protection.
Below are some suggestions for returning assignments and posting grades. We welcome alternative solutions; please send ideas to Kathy Winter so that other methods may be shared broadly.
- Material that contributes to a student’s grade should not be left in a public place (except as provided in the third bullet under "Alternatives").
- Comments and grades should be recorded on pages hidden from view of other students.
- Exams and assignments should be returned only to the students who wrote them and not to other individuals, unless written permission has been given by the author.
In some cases it may be impractical to return assignments individually. Consider the following:
- Return assignments outside of class, under supervision of administrative staff or Teaching Assistant (TA).
- Have students retrieve their own paper from alphabetical piles in class and under supervision.
- If these approaches are impractical too, instructors may return assignments in a public location, provided they include notification on the course outline and provide an alternative to those students who request it. Alternative options may include: a) pick up during the instructor's office hours; b) pick up from administrative staff or TA; c) student can supply self-addressed, stamped envelope.
- Use of an approach involving leaving assignments in a public place must be for a limited period of time, not exceeding two weeks.
- Sample text for use in course outlines when using a public option:
- Marked assignments will be left in boxes in (location) for no longer than two weeks. Students who prefer an alternative return method must so advise the (instructor/TA) by e-mail by (date) and may pick up their assignments during the (instructor’s/TA’s) office hours.
- Marked assignments will be left in boxes in (location) for no longer than two weeks. Students who prefer an alternative return method must so advise the (instructor/TA) by e-mail by (date) and may pick up their assignments from the department undergraduate office.
- Marked assignments will be left in boxes in (location) for no longer than two weeks. Students who prefer an alternative return method must so advise the (instructor/TA) by e-mail by (date) and provide the (instructor/TA) with (number) appropriately sized self-addressed, stamped envelopes so that they may be returned by mail. (or, ... and staple an appropriately sized stamped self-addressed envelope to each assignment submitted so that it may be returned by mail.)
- Assignments which are not picked up by students must be retained for one year after last use (i.e., after the end of the term in which the work was submitted or after the resolution of any grade revision request or appeal), unless students are notified that they will be retained for a shorter period of time. Instructors who do not wish to retain unclaimed assignments for one year may dispose of them sooner provided they include notification of this practice on the course outline.
- Sample text for use in course outlines:
- Unclaimed assignments will be retained for (period of time*; or: “until one month after term grades become official in quest”). After that time, they will be destroyed in compliance with Waterloo’s confidential shredding procedures.
*Instructors, please note: the minimum time to retain unclaimed assignments is one month after term grades become official in quest.
- Final grades are to be distributed to students through Quest.
- Policy 46 provides that if the identity of individual students is protected, an instructor may post grades in a public area such as an office door, bulletin board or course web site. (Please note, regarding final grades, per Policy 46, final examination and final course grades shall not be posted before the final examination period ends.)
- It is recommended that posting of grades be done only for classes with more than 25 students.
- Remove names and other identifiers.
- Remove the first two digits of the student numbers.
- Sort the numbers so they don't correspond to an alphabetical order of students' names.
- Post grades for a limited period of time, not exceeding two weeks.