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SFU students want return to pass/fail grades as online classes set to continue

Simon Fraser University is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., Tuesday, Apr 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.
Simon Fraser University is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., Tuesday, Apr 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.

A group of Simon Fraser University students is calling on the B.C. university to bring back the pass/fail grading system in the fall, with online learning set to continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

An online petition organized by “concerned students” says the crisis has been stressful and overwhelming, and expectations remain as high as if they were still getting in-person instruction.

“Many students agree that the quality of education at Simon Fraser University has decreased but expectations have stayed the same,” says the petition, which had more than 3,000 names as of Wednesday afternoon.

Read more: COMMENTARY: How do we grade students with schools closed for the coronavirus crisis?

The university moved to a pass/fail system rather than traditional letter grades last spring as the number of COVID-19 cases took off worldwide and classes moved online.

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The school told Global News that it was because the mode of instruction changed partway through the term, and students had no way of knowing that happen when they enrolled in their courses.

SFU moved back to the traditional grading system at the start of the summer term in May, and said it made clear that all instruction would still occur remotely, including exams.

The withdrawal period for courses was also extended to give students more time to assess their comfort with remote learning.

Click to play video 'Tutor network created to teach kids during COVID-19 pandemic' Tutor network created to teach kids during COVID-19 pandemic
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The school will continue to provide remote leaning into the fall.

According to the petition, many students feel helpless because they are not able to get the help they need and feel like they have to teach themselves.

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“It’s harder to engage with the class and the professor, and office hours tend not to be as effective when done online,” the document says.

“SFU prides itself as being one of the most engaged universities in the world yet many students feel alone and have no support from the university during this difficult time.”