COVID-19—Planning for Completing Courses This Term (PDAD&C #50)

From: Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President & Provost
Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research & Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives
Date: March 11, 2020
Re: COVID-19—Planning for Completing Courses This Term (PDAD&C #50)

Note – The University has academic and business continuity plans that will be enacted as needed. Our plans focus on the need to ensure the health of our community, and the continuity of our courses and programs. At this time, Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for the general population in Canada.


Every instructor needs to have one plan for how to complete their course if people are unable to come together in person.

We will ask instructors to walk toward that plan as slowly as we can and as fast as we need to.

Overarching principles

Academic Freedom

Instructors of courses have primary responsibility and authority to make changes to their courses. As we continue to work to maintain our academic programs, faculty members’ academic freedom will be fully respected and neither the Provost nor other administrators will require faculty members to take any action that is inconsistent with the academic freedom provisions in Article 5 of the MOA between UTFA and the University.

Integrity of Academic Programs

The University is committed to maintaining the integrity of all academic programs. This must be a fundamental consideration when making any change to academic courses and programs. The integrity of programs involves both maintaining the key learning outcomes of courses within program and maintaining academic integrity under the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters.

Academic Disruption

The declaration of an academic disruption under the Policy on Academic Continuity does not in itself cause any particular thing to happen. It is best understood as facilitative. It provides the framework which allows divisions to provide instructors and departments with a broader menu of remedies to achieve their goals in courses and programs. (See table below.)

Marking Scheme

Students have the right to expect transparency in how a grade is calculated. Thus, any deviation from the course marking scheme can establish a basis for a petition. The University Assessment and Grading Practices Policy (UAGPP) establishes a process for how changes to the marking scheme can be effected when instructors judge this to be necessary.

Overarching Goals

  • Ensure continuity of courses and programs
  • Ensure graduating students can graduate in a timely fashion
  • Ensure continuing students can progress appropriately in their degrees



  • Is the course a pre-requisite or program requirement?
  • Is more than one option required?
  • Will there be any need to adjust the content of courses next year (e.g., for course sequences)?
  • How will programs treat CR in courses normally accepted as part of program requirements?
  • How will programs determine admissions to grade-restricted programs if relevant courses have not been graded normally

INSTRUCTOR OPTIONS: Choices to be made by the instructor, subject to their academic judgment

Options Normal course of business UAGPP Vote Academic Disruption Comment
Adjust delivery format of remaining classes/labs/tutorials x     E.g., Moving to online discussions or lectures. Assumes adjustment is only to content and not to assignments/assessments.
Adjust submission mechanisms of remaining assignments x     E.g., Moving to online assignment submission. Assumes adjustment is only to content and not to assignments/assessments.
Adjust content of remaining classes/labs/tutorials to cover key concepts within the remaining time x     Assumes adjustment is only to content and not to assignments/assessments.
Assign all students 100% for an assignment that has not been completed x     This has the effect of inflating the final grade somewhat for all students (compared to adjusting the marking scheme to remove the assessment). Consider the proportion of the final grade that would be treated in this fashion.
Change exam: e.g., Shorten (e.g., 2 hours instead of 3); Change to an open book exam x     Depends on the specificity of the published marking scheme, If this change alters the method of evaluation from what has been published, this requires a vote under the GPP.
Presentations in lieu of an essay   x   This changes the marking scheme and therefore requires the GPP.
Written paper in lieu of in-class coursework, etc.   x   This adds an assignment, which changes the marking scheme and therefore requires the GPP.
Cancel or make an exam optional where possible under divisional rules   x *   *Waiving of divisional rules requiring exams for some courses should be considered on a divisional basis.
Changing weighting of assignments/assessments including participation marks   x   This could include changing the scheme to account for missed tutorials or labs that cannot be made up.
Remove an assignment/assessment from the marking scheme   x   May be done where an assignment has been missed, or to reduce burden on returning students.
Design remedial assignments to replace missed tutorials, labs or assignments/work that are in the marking scheme.   x   Note that although this may be well-intentioned, any additional assessments of students that increase their workload is not advisable at this time.
Including in the calculation of the final grades only those elements completed by all students   x   This effectively changes the weighting.
Assign course grade based on work completed and graded where it is less than 100% of the work in the marking scheme   x   This effectively changes the weighting.

OTHER OPTIONS: Choices to be made in close consultation with the Dean’s Office, requiring a declaration of disruption by the Provost or Academic Board

Options Normal course of business UAGPP Vote Academic Disruption Comment
Any change to a marking scheme deemed necessary to ensure students are fairly assessed that is not achievable through application of the UAGPP     x E.g., this may be necessary where insufficient time remains to give notice under the UAGPP.
Change course structure substantially, including giving credit under a different course number and title. E.g., establish as an independent study/special topics course x (individual)   x (class) If done on an individual basis, this is normal practice. If done for all students in a class, this requires declaration of academic disruption.
Changing the delivery format of an entire course (not just a few meetings of the course) once students have already registered     x (class) E.g., if students are about to begin a course module that was meant to be offered in person and has now been moved entirely online.
Assign a coarse grade (A,B,C,D) vs refined grade (A+, A, A-, etc.) and no numeric grade.       x The UAGPP states “the following grade scales are to be used” (refined letter grades or integers from 0-100). This can affect application to subject POSts
Change course to CR/NCR for all students     x Normally, the grading scale is intrinsic to course and approved with the course. In this situation, CR would be the assigned grade except where assessed grades make it   clear that the student has already failed the course.   Divisions will define the limits of the grounds for petitions.


If consent has been achieved, the instructor must deposit the revised marking scheme with the department/unit sponsoring the course. (If a simple majority does not agree to change the marking scheme, the course must operate under the marking scheme that had been in place.)

A change proposed for a vote can be conditional: that is, the new marking scheme or weighting will be used if, and only if, the class is no longer able to meet in person.

If faculty are concerned about the best format for a vote, please ask them to consult first with their Chair or Director with any questions about how to proceed with such a vote. If Chairs or Directors have any questions, they make contact the appropriate Vice Dean or the Dean.

Key Resources

Course resiliency best practices | CTSI continuity planning | Policy on Academic Continuity | UAGPP