MyCourses Policy Change
by Kristin Grant | published Sep. 17th, 2018
Starting this semester, there is a new policy change that will ensure students receive grade feedback in a timely and efficient manner. Titled D.05, the policy now requires that all faculty post grades to myCourses within two weeks of submission. A syllabus that provides a comprehensive grade breakdown is now a mandatory upload as well.
Student Government President Bobby Moakley, a fourth year Environmental Science and International and Global Studies double major, is optimistic that this policy change will help bridge the gap that can exist between faculty and students.
“We felt that utilizing a centralized system for everyone was only going to open up more channels of communication between students and faculty,” he said.
"We felt that utilizing a centralized system for everyone was only going to open up more channels of communication."
A policy nearly three years in the making, D05 met its fair share of resistance. However, Academic Affairs Committee Chair and chemistry professor Dr. Joseph Lanzafame never felt that the majority of the faculty opposed these changes. A policy nearly three years in the making, D05 met its fair share of resistance. However, Academic Affairs Committee Chair and chemistry professor Dr. Joseph Lanzafame never felt that the majority of the faculty opposed these changes.
“I feel like there is a vocal minority that are making the rest of us look bad. It’s that group that is the challenge from the student perspective,” he recalled. “They were very effective in delaying any kind of implementation of this policy for three years by yelling the loudest and filibustering the vote.”
Much like Moakley, Lanzafame felt that this policy change was not only in the best interests of the students, but also the university as a whole. For one, it helps with the continuity of a class if something were to happen in the middle of the semester.
“Twice since I’ve been here, I’ve been asked to step in for a colleague who in one case died in the middle of a semester and in the other case had a heart attack and had to be on medical leave. We didn’t miss a day only because those two people had everything on myCourses,” he said.
Another issue can arise when students transfer in or out of the university. Occasionally, other schools will inquire to see a syllabus for a previous class. If those syllabi aren’t readily available on myCourses, it can be challenging to obtain them.
“If I don’t work here anymore, and the syllabus is on my computer or paper copy, it’s hard for the university to track me down,” Lanzafame said.
Lanzafame also said that having past grade information readily available on myCourses can help students who stay at RIT as well.
“It’s not unheard of for a student to come back a year or two later to contest a grade. If you don’t have all of those pieces to calculate the grade, it’s hard to have a meaningful discussion,” he explained.
Despite the positives, both Lanzafame and Moakley recognized that myCourses can be a little unwieldy to use.
“There’s some courses like General Chemistry where there are 200 students and they [faculty] complained that they would have to sit there and implement all of these manual grades — and that was a very reasonable argument,” Moakley said.
In order to mitigate that issue, Moakley worked extensively with the Innovative Learning Institute to figure out a plan.
“I met with Neil Hair, who oversees all the backend technical stuff for myCourses. We were actually able to gather some resources for faculty so they were actually better able to use myCourses,” Moakley said.
The primary resource the institute plans to implement is a series of educational programs that will help faculty better understand how to use myCourses. These programs will cover a variety of topics, including details on algorithms for weighted breakdowns and spreadsheet integration.
Moakley also recognized that implementation of this policy might be a challenge.
“Yes, we now have this policy, but we have to make sure professors are following,” he said. “So I’m going to work with the deans so they can work with their department heads and respective faculty to make sure they’re staying on top of this.”
Moakley emphasized that there are also steps students can take if their professors aren’t following through.
“There is a procedure that is after the policy that says what to do if your professor isn’t returning your grades or posting them on myCourses,” he said.
While bringing up this issue with faculty can be intimidating, Lanzafame said that in most cases professors are more than receptive to constructive feedback.
“Most faculty want to know if there is something wrong — if there’s something simple they can do to make everyone’s life easier. They don’t always necessarily ask it because they just assume the student will raise it," he said. "That’s why I always encourage more communication across the podium."
Moakley was in agreement. “The underlying thing behind all of this is that faculty and advisors all want to help students succeed, and it’s just as much on us as it is for them because we all need to communicate with each other,” he said.
That being said, Moakley implored students to take their own initiative as well.
“If you’re having issues with your grades because the policy isn’t being followed, speak up about it," Moakley said. "It’s up to every student to stand up for their grade and utilize the resources we have so they can have the best academic career they can.”
"If you’re having issues with your grades because the policy isn’t being followed, speak up about it."
Edited Sept. 19, 2018 at 5:52pm.: The article originally stated that advisors are able to see grades on MyCourses; however, they actually cannot see grades on MyCourses.