The University of Manitoba is introducing an alternative grading scheme for 2020-21 to allow students some flexibility when it comes to calculating academic averages during a school year unlike any other.
On Wednesday, the Winnipeg-based university’s senate approved a motion to temporarily alter how grade point averages (GPAs) — which typically take into account all of a student’s final course grades — are calculated.
If a student chooses to do so, they can now exclude up to one grade from their fall term marks, as well as a single final grade from winter courses, from their GPA this year.
Alternatively, a student can choose to omit one grade from a year-long course in order to calculate a new average.
These options are not applicable to grades that have a disciplinary notice attached to them, U of M spokesman Sean Moore said in a statement.
The approval of the compassionate grading scheme comes after months of pressure from both the university’s undergraduate and graduate students’ associations, which have repeatedly raised concerns about the stresses students are under amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also among the disruptions on the virtual campus this year: online learning and salary negotiations between the university and faculty association — with a strike on the table, at one point.
Students have also reported worries about privacy, technical glitches, and test-taking inequities related to the exam-monitoring software being used at the U of M.
"Students needed this. They needed their university to make a nod to the fact that online learning in the fall has not been all it was promised to be — and for many, that it’s caused irregular educational and mental health outcomes," Kristin Smith, co-chairwoman of the student senate caucus and vice-president advocacy of UMSU, said in a prepared release Thursday.
While excluded grades will remain on a student’s transcript, they will not be factored into the calculation of a cumulative GPA.
A GPA is used for performance-based requirements, including program progression, probation, suspension, and requirements to withdraw. It is also used to determine eligibility for bursaries and scholarships, and often required on applications for grad schools and other post-secondary education programs.
Last month, Brandon University announced the extension of its pass-or-fail grading option for students in both upcoming fall and winter examination seasons, citing continued COVID-19 challenges.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.