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A forgiving grading system is the solution students at the University of Manitoba want to address the challenges of learning on a virtual campus this year.

Student senators, backed by the undergraduate and graduate students unions at the U of M, have penned a proposal to school administration to temporarily introduce an alternative grading process, similar to the one put in place in the spring amidst initial COVID-19 disruptions.

The group wants pupils to have the option to either choose a pass-or-fail or accept a letter grade that is excluded from their grade point average calculation for a maximum of one course per term in 2020-21.

Students would still be able to accept all their grades, as usual.

The intent is to "add a little bit of flexibility in this inflexible time," said Rubel Talukder of the Student Senate Caucus.

Students are feeling the stresses of online learning, a fast-approaching finals season, and the possibility of scholarships being affected by grades, in addition to the lockdown measures, which have affected many part-time jobs, said Talukder, also vice-president academic at the U of M graduate students association.

Last week, 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.

"Professors are really doing their best, I find. (Online learning) is just new to everybody and students are being disadvantaged in the present moment," said Kristin Smith, who heads the caucus with Talukder, and serves as vice-president advocacy at the undergraduate students union at U of M.

Students have reported concerns about course delivery, online assessment and monitoring practices, and an increase in workloads throughout the fall term, she said.

Of particular bother is the use of proctoring software that blocks a student’s ability to flip through exam questions and answer them in whatever order they choose during a test.

Also on the Student Senate Caucus proposal: a request to encourage instructors to be compassionate amid the pandemic, and allow students who feel unsafe doing in-person coursework to temporarily halt those activities and claim an incomplete grade until the work can be finished.

A spokesperson for the University of Manitoba said in a statement Tuesday the proposal is under review.

The U of M’s COVID-19 recovery academic team met Tuesday to discuss the matter. It is expected to report back to the school's pandemic steering committee for further discussion.

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

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.

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