Lehigh has opted for a credit/no-credit grading system. At the end of the semester, students will be able to choose between the traditional grading scale or the credit/no-credit grading scale. (Kate Morrell/B&W Staff)

Spring 2020 university grading option comparisons

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As universities have shifted to online learning due to coronavirus, many have decided to offer students non-traditional grading options as they adjust to the new reality of online learning. 

Lehigh has opted for a credit/no-credit grading system and has given students the ability to choose their grading method for each course. Students will have until May 25 to select if they would like to change to the credit/no-credit grading system, or if they will follow the traditional grading scale. 

Under the credit/no-credit system there will be three grade designations. CR will replace any grade above a C-, DCR will replace a grade of D+ to D-, and NCR will replace an F. Credit will be given for both CR and DCR but no credit will be given for NCR. 

The CR/NCR grading system will not affect a student’s GPA.

“For kids who are struggling in different classes, it would work in their benefit,” said Danyal Burhan, ‘23. 

The use of CR/NCR would not require exceptions or reprogramming the degree audit,” Steven Wilson, the assistant provost for Academic Affairs and Registrar, said in an email. “The appearance of CR/NCR on transcripts would be a clear exception marking exceptional times.”

Wilson said the university leadership thought about several different alternative grading options, including Pass/Fail. As they thought about the benefits or challenges of the different systems, they decided the CR/NCR model was the best fit for Lehigh.  

“Everything just got exponentially more difficult, and to say that somebody failed, under those circumstances, would be completely false,” said Holona Ochs, an associate professor in political science. “It is impossible to fail a class at this point. To say they did not get credit for it is slightly more accurate but professors should be as compassionate and understanding as possible.” 

Several other universities have taken similar action to Lehigh and have offered alternative grading systems for the spring 2020 semester. 

Lafayette College decided to give students the option to switch to a pass/fail system for the semester. Any passing grade will be recorded as a P, while a failing grade will count as an F. 

Cornell decided to do a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory system for this semester that is optional for students. Any grade that is C- or higher is considered satisfactory and earns credit. Cornell has given students the ability to drop a class without a W on their transcript until May 12. 

A “W” is a course withdrawal. Normally, a W would appear on a Lehigh student’s transcript if he or she withdrew from a course after the tenth day of classes.

Bucknell decided to give students t a pass/fail option with the ability to drop a class without a W until April 27, the last day of class. If a student opts-in for pass/fail, the pass is not calculated into the students’ GPA but a fail is. 

Bucknell student Sarah Rickards, ‘23, said she “prefers Bucknell’s system due to the ability to withdraw,” but does not plan to use it at this moment.

Burhan said giving the option to withdraw “could decentivize a lot of hard work because students have that safety net they can crutch onto.” 

“Empowering students to feel a sense of control over their educational opportunities is the most important thing right now,” Ochs said.

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