Having a pass-fail option for the Spring semester is good for students?

Due to the pandemic, most in-person classes are shifted to online and it seems obvious that students are struggling with such shifted circumstances over the Fall 2020 semester. To help students in trouble, many universities adopted pass-fail grading policies. However, it looks like the issue is quite controversial. The article that was written by Colleen Flaherty on November 30th, 2020 from Inside Higher Ed discusses the current grading policy issue (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/11/30/students-seek-pass-fail-options-again-fall-light-covid-19).

While this option can relieve the students’ stresses from taking classes, some people believe that a pass-fail grading system could harm students in the long-term perspectives because it may have negative effects on students’ post-education such as internships, scholarships, and graduate program admission.

I think this period requires so many exceptions in higher education. For grading policy, there is a certain need for the exception as well. We should be listening to students’ complaints and difficulties in taking classes amid the pandemic. Not only learning efficiency but also the types of assignments and exams this semester are quite different from the normal ones. It would not be fair if the students are asked to perform similarly on every evaluation process. Thus, to give the students more breathing room, having more flexibility in grading could be one way to support the students. However, as mentioned above, we should also think about the potential negative effect when the students are given the pass-fail grading option. In that point, I like the idea of the University of Michigan on the recent grading policy for the following semester. In the article, they announced that undergraduates may choose the keep their A-F grades for each course or select “pass” for A-C grades and “no record COVID” for D’s or below. Also, students may drop a class until the end of term, without it appearing on their transcript. By doing so, it is expected that students would keep the A-F grading system and have an option to void their poor evaluation from pandemic difficulties. In my country, some universities provide an option to re-take the classes in the later semester if they got a grade of C or below. I believe that such an option also could help students amid the pandemic.

In conclusion, the grading policy in higher education may need to be revised accordingly to support the students in trouble during the pandemic. Just giving a pass-fail option may not be the perfect solution. Many possible ways with more flexibility should be discussed to provide the best exception to students.