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Faculty Guidance on S/U Grading Option for Spring 2020

Guidelines and Things to be Aware of with the Shift to S/U Option

  1. Undergraduate classes that now use letter grades will continue to use letter grades. Students may request that their grade in such a class be changed to S/U.
  2. There will be a period, Monday, March 30 – Sunday, April 12, during which students may request S/U in eligible classes. They will be informed of any impacts that choice may have upon financial aid, progress toward degree, etc.
  3. Students may not opt for S/U status after grades are submitted.
  4. Grade rosters will generate S/U and A/B+/etc. as typical. Instructors will only be able to pick grade values from the appropriate selection set. We are unable to hide a student’s choice for S/U from the instructor.
  5. Graduate courses will continue to be graded as is now in place, including for graduate courses that are taken by undergraduates in combined pathway programs.
  6. Professional programs may choose to alter their grading method for this semester but must communicate fully with the Registrar and my office to make sure no one is inadvertently disadvantaged as a result and disciplinary accreditation standards are met.
  7. The Registrar will oversee the collection of courses that should be considered ineligible for S/U, typically because of accreditation standards or specific letter grade requirements to serve as prerequisites. Note: This determination will be made at the course level.  Differences by section will not apply.

What you need to know

Under this broad policy, students will be given the option to “opt-in” for S/U grades in their undergraduate classes. This is the student’s decision and cannot be overturned by the instructor, the department, or the college. They will be given two weeks to make this decision (Monday, March 30 – Sunday, April 12).  Students will be able to select the S/U option through an online process that will be communicated to them.  Your class rosters in Campus Solutions will reflect the grade basis of the student (GRD= graded, or SOU= S/U).  The University has committed to allow grades earned under this policy to satisfy overall university degree requirements, and major or minor requirements wherever possible, even if students are not typically allowed to elect S/U grading.  Your academic deans will be communicating with the Registrar’s Office to identify a list of undergraduate classes that should be exempted from this broad policy because of external accrediting standards.

Faculty control the grading for their course. This will not change. However, in accord with the need to assure transferability of credits across the SUS and State College systems, there is a uniform policy regarding what letter grades will equate to an “S” grade: for all departments and colleges students must earn a “C-“ or better to receive an “S” grade.  This means that a student who earns a “D” in your course and has opted for an S/U grade will receive a “U” in the course and will not receive credit.  Students are being informed of this outcome.

Faculty continue to have discretion in awarding “I” grades when deemed appropriate. Moreover, the amount of time given to a student to complete the course requirements can be anywhere from 1 to 3 semesters at the discretion of the instructor (which should be based on discussion with the student).

S/U-vs-letter grade and what it means for a student

  • An “S” grade earns credit, a “U” grade does not. Grades in the D range (D-, D, D+) earn credit if students have opted for letter grades (but not if they opted for S/U grades) and can satisfy certain degree requirements such as total hours to a degree, elective credit, etc.  Students who may not earn a “S” grade with a C- or better will want to remain with the letter-grade option if they think they will earn a grade in the D range (D-, D, D+).  The benefit of this choice is they will earn credit, even if it might not satisfy a specific major requirement.
  • “S” or “U” grades do not positively or negatively affect a student’s GPA. The S/U grade only determines if the student gets credit.
  • An “S” grade equates to a C- or better.

Additional considerations for faculty

  • Some programs have external licensure requirements that require specific grades, e.g., nursing, accounting, medicine, etc. Check with your department chair or dean’s office for guidance about your specific course if you think it might be subject to such a requirement.  Accrediting bodies around the country are all facing these challenges as well.  Some have reported out that they are ok with S/U grades under the circumstances.  Others are still discussing.
  • If you teach a general education, liberal studies, or other course that attracts a lot of non-majors, then keep in mind that you can have only one grading policy for your course and it must apply to all students. What is the minimum amount of knowledge that reflects competency of the content in the course, given the situation we are in?  What is general knowledge of the course content?  Have students already completed some key assignments that would constitute satisfactory general knowledge of your course? These will be important considerations for faculty when determining what constitutes an “S” (which translates to letter grades of C- or better).

Syllabus requirements 

  • All grading information must be clearly updated and communicated in your course syllabus. Students must be able to make an informed decision about whether to opt for an S/U grade. Faculty must post their revised syllabus in Canvas and make an announcement to their class no later than Friday, March 27. You should expect to have a mix of students in your class with some electing the S/U option but others retaining the normal letter grading option.  When revising your syllabus, please clearly outline that letter grades of C- or better constitute an “S” grade in your course.  Make sure you communicate this to your students so they can make informed decisions.

FAQs

  • Will this change how I currently use the Canvas Grade Upload Tool? No, but please keep in mind that there may be more students in your graded class than usual who are to receive an S/U grade. And so, when reviewing/validating the grades in the ‘upload grade’ column, you will see an ‘Invalid Grade Type’ error if a student is supposed to receive an S/U grade, but you have entered A, B, C, etc. This can be resolved by ignoring this error and manually inputting the student’s grade in the Faculty Center grade roster after you have uploaded the rest of your students’ grades. For this and additional instructions, please refer to: https://support.canvas.fsu.edu/kb/article/1065-fsu-canvas-grade-upload-tool/.
    NOTE: ODL is currently working to see if this can be changed. Look for future communications on this as we get closer to the end of the term.
  • Will this lower academic standards? No, that is not the intent. Maintain the academic standards for your course and evaluate all students according to your syllabus. Do not hold separate expectations (either more or less strict) for students who elect S/U grading. Students should earn a letter grade according to the grading statement in the syllabus, which instructors will simply convert to S/U for those students who opt into that grading scheme. The syllabus should be revised with an outline of what grades constitute a “S” (C- or better) vs a “U” (D+, D, D-, F) grade. Faculty continue to have discretion in awarding “I” grades when deemed appropriate.
  • Does my syllabus need to change or will it be understood that this policy applies to all undergraduates? Please update your syllabus’ grading statement to clearly reflect the policy as noted above. Check with your department chair or dean on whether there may be standard syllabus language developed within your unit that all instructors can use.
  • Can I decide which students get letter grades? The student decides whether to remain under the letter grading scheme in the syllabus currently or whether to take an S/U grading scheme. The student will have a specific window of time to decide and cannot revert back to letter grading if they elect the S/U option. Likewise, the instructor cannot assign a letter grade if the student has elected the S/U option.
  • What constitutes an “S” grade? Students who opted for S/U grades and earn at least a “C-“ in your course should receive an “S” grade.  Students who opted for S/U grades and earned less than a grade of “C-“ in your course should receive a “U” grade.
  • Are graduate students not allowed to change to S/U? Graduate courses will remain under the current grading scheme in each course.