I know we hear it every day, but this really is one of the most challenging semesters students have ever had.
On top of social isolation, increased stress and the ever-raging global pandemic, it is completely unrealistic to expect students to adjust to online learning quickly enough to maintain their GPAs.
As long as the majority of classes are online, UT must revert to its lenient pass/fail policies enacted last spring.
Currently, students have until Oct. 29 to change their course credit from a letter grade to a pass/fail basis, but this policy only applies to electives or courses that don’t fulfill specific degree requirements.
Last spring, this policy looked drastically different. Students could switch their classes to pass/fail at any time, and those switched could count towards any degree requirements.
In August, these policies went back to “normal,” but our reality is far from it. This semester is even more challenging, and students need even more grace.
“A lot of my classes are pretty difficult, and in terms of transition, I feel like a lot of my professors didn’t really adjust the course material accordingly,” computational engineering junior Rohan Wariyar said. “They kind of just assumed that we can all handle it the same way it would be in person.”
Last semester, Wariyar had to switch two of his classes to pass/fail.
“I had a hard time adjusting to the online transition, so being able to use pass/fail really helped save my GPA,” Wariyar said.
In an emailed statement, Kathleen Harrison, communications manager in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, stated that UT has allocated substantial resources into developing online instruction.
However, this implies that students no longer need the reformed policies because they have access to more resources that help them adjust to online learning. No matter how many advancements have been made in the delivery of online course material, the University should not assume that students can easily adapt to the new format in just one semester.
Jeff Handy, director of the Vick Center for Strategic Advising, noted that many students still haven’t fully adapted to online learning.
“(They’re having) a lot of difficulty handling asynchronous courses, managing time … maintaining motivation and just feeling a level of engagement,” Handy said.
In her email, Harrison also attributed last semester’s lenient policies to the unexpected disruption of the pandemic — a disruption we anticipated this semester.
“Students were able to make their fall course and attendance decisions with advance knowledge of the mode of delivery, which was not the case last semester,” Harrison wrote.
This is not necessarily true.
When I registered for my classes during my June orientation session, three out of my five classes were scheduled to be in person. By the time classes started, however, all of them had moved online.
Not only was I unable to prepare properly for my online courses, but I began the semester on the wrong foot since I spent all summer anticipating that the majority of my classes would be taught traditionally.
Regardless of how much we prepared for this semester and how ready we thought we were, nobody could have predicted how difficult it would end up being. Online instruction is not what we know — it’s not what we expected when we applied to UT. Our performance through it is in no way a reflection of our academic potential.
Give us the grace and flexibility we deserve. Give us a better pass/fail policy.
Hosek is a psychology freshman from Austin, Texas.