At the conclusion of the fall semester, faculty uploaded final grades in a different way.
Before, faculty manually submitted midterm and final grades to CatPAWS. Beginning last semester, the system switched: five-week, eight-week and final grades are now forwarded directly to CatPAWS from Canvas on a specific date.
According to an email sent to faculty by the Learning and Teaching Center Director Darla Runyon, faculty will no longer be clicking on a grade pass-through link or adding grades to CatPAWS, but having grades ready by the Registrar’s deadlines in the Northwest Online (Canvas) grade book.
Although the email was accompanied by a two-page document including two instructional videos detailing the new process, some faculty had trouble adjusting to the change.
Social sciences assistant professor Robert Voss said the change has been coming, but many faculty members were unaware and unprepared.
“I was on the original committee deciding to switch over to Canvas, and one of the major selling points of Canvas was they supported automatic grade pulling,” Voss said. “I knew that this was something they had been thinking about for a long time. Actually implementing it, we didn’t know exactly when that was going to happen.”
Health science and wellness professor Sue Myllykangas said as of last school year, all faculty was required to use the Canvas, and the administration tested automatically pulling grades with a small group of faculty before implementing the change.
“This fall, everyone knew five-week, eight-week and final grades were automatically pulled,” Myllykangas said. “What was new is you cannot have any open spaces in the grade book or they’re recorded as incomplete when grades are pulled."
While faculty members are still able to round grades up according to their personal policies, Voss said faculty has to enter extra points in the grade book in order to bump up a grade.
Voss and Myllykangas said this change is part of a shift away from professors giving students grades and more toward grades being based solely on points students earn through assignments, projects and tests. Voss said he is sure this will affect the way faculty grade in the future.
“While grade pulling was most important at the trimester, automatic grade pulls happened for all grades throughout the semester, and so it really changes the workflow for professors,” Voss said. “It pushes a standard on us, which I’m sure from an administrative point of view is just fine. From the perspective of a professor wanting some more academic freedom on determining grades, it’s a little more restrictive in a minor way.”
Myllykangas said some faculty was not ready for grades to be pulled because they either did not read the email sent to faculty from the Learning and Teaching Center or they did not read it thoroughly.
“This semester, I don’t think there was much communication outside of the initial faculty meeting this year, which is not necessarily too bad; it gives us a couple weeks,” Voss said.
Besides preparedness and communication, Voss said challenges with adapting to the change will be smoothed over with time.
“Any time there’s a new tool that is created to ‘make your life easier,’ it takes time to understand the tool and fully implement it,” Voss said. “While it may feel like a shortcut to some, that doesn’t mean it’s always a shortcut for everybody.”
Although a few errors were made when last semester’s final grades were pulled, overall, Voss said most professors handled the transition well.
“I think that the overall process is going to be just fine,” Voss said. “I was pleasantly surprised with the end result. We had very few errors considering the number of grades that were pulled, and faculty as a whole did the best they could. I think in the long run, it will be just fine. Any time there’s a change in the process, we react to it.”