As we approach the third semester impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has decided to extend the pass/fail grading system for undergraduate students through May 14, 2021. This allows students to change standard letter grades (A through D-) to a “pass” grade at the end of the semester without affecting their GPA. Students can only use a “pass” grade for four credits this semester.
This grading system was introduced in the spring 2020 semester, when classes were shifted to online instruction following spring break.
As The Outlook reported in fall 2020, according to Monmouth’s Registrar Lynn Reynolds, the majority of the grades that were requested to be switched to a “pass” in the spring 2020 semester were in the C range with 775 pass requests, followed by B grades with 471 pass requests, D grades with 323 pass requests, and A grades with 26 pass requests.
“The decision to allow pass/fail grading takes into consideration the disruption to academics that COVID-19 and subsequent societal impacts have had, and it’s designed to provide options that we hope will relieve some stress,” the University outlined in its official reopening plan for 2020-2021. “We recognize that the learning environments in which students may find themselves during the continued pandemic may lead to students not working at their normal performance level.”
The Outlook editors weighed in on their thoughts about this grading system.
This option may help students’ GPA during the challenges of untraditional online classes. However, some editors believe that enough time has passed for students to have gotten used to online classes, and therefore the pass/fail option would not be necessary. “I think the pass/fail option should only pertain to first-year students since they haven’t been exposed to enough online schooling in a university setting,” one editor said.
First-year students have had to face multiple obstacles regarding online learning, as they may also be struggling with the general transition into college that includes making friends, getting connected on campus, and keeping up with academics.
Some editors said that they will consider utilizing the pass/fail grading system this semester depending on their performance in a certain class. “I have used it in the past to boost my GPA, but I do not foresee using it in the future,” one editor said. However, another editor said that they would not utilize this grading system, but recognizes that it may be beneficial for others.
Some students might not be able to fully utilize this option, however, such as those who will be applying to certain graduate schools that require letter grades or those who need to meet prerequisite requirements for their major.
One editor disagrees with the policy that the pass/fail grade can only be used for four credits this semester. “I find that only being able to use it for four credits is wrong, as most classes are three credits and someone may need it for more than one class,” the editor said. “It should be able to be used for as many classes as needed.”
Many editors agree that the pass/fail option should be eliminated once the University returns to full in-person instruction. For now, however, most editors agree that it is a necessary safety net for students who are struggling during the pandemic. The University made the right choice by extending this grading system for the spring 2021 semester.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University