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Information about finals and final grades

Warren BurggrenDec. 11, 2013

Dear faculty and staff,

This is an unprecedented event during finals week, and it requires unprecedented flexibility, service and additional work on your part — the “UNT way” as President Rawlins puts it. So much of the power for a smooth resolution to sorting out this week’s major issues resides squarely in your hands. We hope — indeed, expect — that you will be maximally accommodating while holding the line on the rigor of your courses. Please understand that it is not “someone else’s problem” — it is your problem to create a fair and equitable outcome under these extraordinary circumstances. This is a difficult, but not impossible, challenge. Knowing well our faculty and staff members, I believe you all will rise to the challenge.

Here are some of many possibilities you may explore in getting through the process of assigning grades for THIS FALL 2013 SEMESTER ONLY: 

1)     Online options. You may consider offering makeups, or the final exam itself online, as long as you are experienced with this process and aware of the limitations (e.g. identity verification). On such short notice this may be far more feasible for essay exams than multiple-choice exams.

2)     Makeup options. Whatever you said in your syllabus back in late August — forget about it! Some of you will necessarily have to create makeup finals for students who could not attend your exam because they were double-booked for exams and had to attend a different one, or had verifiable pre-arranged flights.

3)     Final Grade Options. For some faculty, particularly those with smaller courses, a resolution may be to give the student the option of receiving a final grade based on work completed to date, rather than including a final exam grade. Again, this should be an option offered to the student, but not mandated, as some may be looking to a final exam to improve their grade.

4)     Incompletes. You can assign incompletes at your discretion this semester. Students who have verified travel plans, double-booked exams, etc., are eligible for incompletes.

5)     Other Creative Solutions. We’ve hired all of our faculty because you are creative people. So, please be creative with respect to how you resolve your own particular exam issues.

6)     Communicate. Please be in clear contact with your students, on the whole and as individuals, NOW. Both faculty and staff can be of assistance in this regard.

7)     Grade Deadlines. Our Registrar has graciously pushed the deadline for final grade submission back as far as absolutely possible without impacting the creation of transcripts, conferring of degrees in this calendar year, etc. This is another area with virtually no remaining flexibility to be had.

Ultimately, this is your challenge — and your opportunity — to show our students that we care about them during this weather event. At the same time, we must hold to ever-increasing rigor in our academic standards — the sweet spot is small, but it does exist. I recognize also the much greater burden that this places on our faculty who are teaching larger courses. And, of course, you have all had your own plans for this week, and beyond, seriously disrupted. All I can offer you is my sincere appreciation.

Finally, looking forward, we have experienced two of these multi-day closures in three years. Each time our plan has primarily been to wait for Mother Nature to melt the ice. I can assure you that, in everything from facilities to UNT parking lot conditions to online options, we will be dissecting this experience and learning from it as we go forward.

My UNT email is burggren@unt.edu. Please don’t hesitate to use it. I want to hear from you as issues arise.

Best,

Warren Burggren

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

This letter below was sent to students and is being sent to faculty and staff members for awareness.

Dec. 11, 2013

Dear UNT students,

As we work through this unprecedented cancellation of exams due to weather conditions, there are many final exam related problems, and many options for solving these problems, at hand. This message is to indicate some plans and options for both students and faculty.

Foremost, I want to assure our students that our goal — in fact our First Bold Goal — is to provide the best undergraduate experience in the state, and that includes UNT’s best possible responses to adversity. I anticipate that the following points will help you understand your options.

1)     Online. The big question is “Why not online exams now”? Our deeply experienced experts in this area indicate that while good in theory, in practice it isn’t feasible on such very short notice. Some instructors are not experienced with the complexities of online exams. To promote its use now would create a far bigger mess than the one we are currently facing with repeated on-campus exam rescheduling. For those faculty who ARE experienced operating in this format, we are encouraging them to provide online options for makeups (see below).  It is important to note that BlackBoard is not owned by UNT, and it is possible that we would experience outages from unprecedented levels of highly concentrated use. BlackBoard was never designed for this level of use, and now may not be the best time to test that limitation.

2)     Exams Next Week? January? The (bad) options to squeezing everything in this week are to have everyone take exams next week, or to have exams in January. After much analysis, we conclude that for UNT either of these options creates many more problems than they fix. 

3)     Double-Booking of Exams. Inevitably, there has been some double-booking of exams for the few to accommodate the many. If you have two exams booked concurrently, attend one of the exams. Notify by email the instructor of the exam you must miss. Keep a copy of the email for your records. You will not be penalized for the impossibility of being in two places at the same time.

4)     Multiple Exams. Some of you will have to take three exams in one day, which is not in alignment with our normal guidelines. UNT Policy 15.2.6, Pre Finals Week and Final Exams, http://policy.unt.edu/policy/15-2-16, stipulates that “Students who have as many as three final examinations scheduled on one day may appeal to their academic dean to reschedule one of those examinations on another day during the final examination period.”  We will continue to follow the spirit of our policy, rescheduling “during the final examination period” is no longer an option. Again, you will not be penalized if you appeal, but you may have to take a make-up at a later date. Your instructor will provide options. Keep a copy of your email interactions with your instructor.

5)     Travel Plans. Some of you may have pre-arranged travel plans (e.g. a booked flight), or a car pool ride to your home outside of the DFW metroplex. Notify your instructor by email, providing a copy of your flight itinerary to your instructor. Your instructor will make available options to you for making up the exam or otherwise assigning your final grade. Again, you will not be penalized for having to take pre-arranged flights. Keep a copy of your email interactions with your instructor.

6)     Communicate. The key is to be in contact with your faculty members. Be clear about what you’re facing and if possible, help offer solutions. I have communicated separately to the faculty outlining options for them, and they will have a copy of my email to you.

Finally, looking forward, we have experienced two of these multi-day closures in three years, and our plan has primarily been to wait for Mother Nature to melt the ice. I can assure you that, in everything from facilities to UNT parking lot conditions to online options, we will be dissecting this experience and learning from it as we go forward. 

My UNT email is burggren@unt.edu. Please don’t hesitate to use it. I can’t promise answers to all of your emails, but I want to hear from you.

Best,

Warren Burggren

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Posted on: Wed 11 December 2013

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