After complications with the new automatic grade pull process from Northwest Online to CatPaws last school year, the University is switching to a blend of the old system and the new system. This fall, the University announced that mid-semester grades will be automatically pulled, but final grades will be submitted by faculty to CatPaws.
Social sciences assistant professor Robert Voss said last fall that a major selling point for the University to use Canvas (Northwest Online) for grades was it had the capability for grades to be pulled rather than submitted.
Provost Jamie Hooyman said an automatic grade pull appealed because it would be — in theory — faster, more convenient and accurate.
In fall 2018, the University tested automatic grade pulling for four-week and eight-week grades, which produced few errors.
Hooyman said she thought they were ready to implement final grade pulls, but final grades are more complicated and require more steps before they’re ready.
“Everybody worked really hard, and they trouble-shot as much as physically possible, but we still ended up coming out with more errors than what we think is acceptable,” Hooyman said.
English associate professor Jenny Rytting said she was not in favor of automatic grade pulls because it sounded like it would be less work for faculty and the Registrar, but it ended up being more labor intensive and time consuming.
“I think also the reaction from faculty — at least the faculty that I talked to — thought that this was something that would make things easier for the Registrar’s office, and that the Registrar’s office had wanted, and we were going along with it because we didn’t have a lot of choice,” Rytting said.
Rytting said when faculty asked the Registrar’s office about it, they found out that the process was more work for the Registrar as well, and that the Registrar’s office had thought faculty has requested automatic grade pulls.
In the automatic grade pull process, if a field in Canvas is left empty — as with extra credit assignments or incomplete work — or if there is a numerical inconsistency in the process, it registers as an error and it has to be addressed by the faculty or the Registrar’s office.
“I had one student who with the first grade pull had ended up with an incomplete accidentally because there was a box that didn’t get filled in,” Rytting said. “I had to do a grade change for that, and I had to make sure that when I processed the incomplete, they took it all the way off his transcript.”
Hooyman said the errors were unacceptable because every error could potentially affect students’ transcripts, scholarships and overall academic standing.
After testing grade pulls for a full grading cycle, the provost’s office conducted an after-action review to determine its success and decided the best plan moving forward is to pull four and eight-week grades and go back to faculty submitting final grades.
“That actually does make things easier, because (mid-semester grade pulls is) something that I don’t have to worry about and I don’t have to remember to do,” Rytting said.
Comparing the fall semester to the spring semester, Hooyman said they were able to bring the number of errors in the process down significantly, but there were still too many errors in the spring semester for comfort.
“Until we can come up with a more foolproof method, we want to give it more time to make sure,” Hooyman said. “I think we’ll end up going back to it, because there’s a lot of positives, but when you’re dealing with students’ final grades, you don’t take any chances.”