Pass/Fail Grading Option Expanded, Students React to Online Learning


DePauw University has expanded pass/fail options for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester, due to difficulties presented by the coronavirus. 

The expanded pass/fail option will now allow courses taken pass/fail to count toward all major, minor and general education requirements. Courses taken pass/fail during the Spring 2020 semester will also not count toward the permitted limit of pass/fail courses that students can take during their time at DePauw. 

An email sent to students on Mar. 27 said that the pass/fail option is now applicable to any class, so long as the student requests the pass/fail option by May 1, 2020. 

The email also extended the withdrawal period to April 10 and said there will be more flexibility in allowing incomplete grades.

According to Dave Berque, Vice President of Academic Affairs, there have been 85 pass/fail requests from 59 students since the announcement had been made. 

Berque wrote the original proposal for the expansion of the pass/fail option, as he recognized the possible challenges that could come with online learning. 

“We knew that there would be cases where students might be nervous and we wanted to see if we could do something to alleviate some of that anxiety,” Berque said during a phone interview. “Especially because some of our students are nervous about life in general right now.”

Students have had positive reactions to the expansion of the pass/fail option for the remainder of the semester. 

“I think it's very important that you give the students the [pass/fail] option,” senior Serena Jones said. “Because there are classes that, since they're all online now, are almost impossible to teach.”

Senior Anna Martin said, “I'm super happy with how the situation is going since they've made the announcement. It seems like they really thought through everything before they sent it which is something that I think that they really needed to do and it's encouraging to me.”

Some students believe the option was necessary under the complicated circumstances that have resulted from the pandemic. 

“I think that it [pass/fail option] should be implemented in a time like this, especially because you know all of our routines have been just completely messed up,” said senior David Young. “And you know nobody's exactly in a mindset to be doing good cohesive work from their homes.”

Young also said the quality of students’ work is likely to decline due to the lower quality of online classes in comparison to face-to-face.

Other students have shared the difficulties they have had adjusting to online coursework as well as working in a new environment.

"I lack motivation due to a lack of a set schedule forcing me to complete and attend classes,” said sophomore Autum Cavander. “Also, most of my classes require participation and I find this not really beneficial anymore because the interactions on forums are often singular and bland." 

Students have also recognized the emotional and academic difficulties that online learning has posed. 

“This transition is more than just switching to online; it's a big emotional burden as well,” said senior Anna Martin. “And it's a complete readjustment to a new learning style that a lot of us are just not acclimated to and would need more than a week of transition time.”

Martin also recognized that with the pandemic affecting our nation, it is a stressful time for everyone. “Because this is also a really stressful time as our nation is really struggling to deal with the coronavirus,” Martin said. “I feel like we have to factor in the emotional burden as well to the whole grading scale.”