UMSU Advocacy Prompts University to Improve Online Learning Beyond Compassionate Grading Scheme

Press Release Graphic

 

On January 5, Dr. Janice Ristock, Provost and Vice President (Academic) at the University of Manitoba, sent a memo to all deans and directors outlining best practices for the delivery of remote learning in the Winter term – a direct result of advocacy led by the Student Senate Caucus, co-chaired by UMSU and the University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association (UMGSA). The Provost’s memo concludes by asking that this information be conveyed to all instructional staff in their units. 

In the Fall of 2020, the Caucus presented a combination of online learning proposals to the University’s COVID-19 Steering Committee and Senate Executive Committee, aimed at improving the delivery of remote classes. Alongside prompting the University to approve a compassionate grading scheme, these efforts are now leading to other concrete improvements to the online learning environment for U of M students. 

To enhance student learning and success, Ristock notes in her memo, best practices include: the posting of learning materials on UM Learn; the recording of lectures to facilitate access for students with slower internet speeds; maintaining student workloads at a level similar to what would be expected during an in-person class; and finally, ensuring that unless there is very sound pedagogical rationale, students be able to move back and forth though assessment questions during online exams.

While the Provost noted that preventing students from going back and forth may be required for a limited number of specific assessment techniques, this prevention should not be employed mainly to prevent online cheating, a key reason why many students experienced this restriction in the fall. 

In their proposal, student senators had asked the university to require instructors to post lectures online for later viewing, ensure student workloads are consistent with pre-COVID expectations, and prohibit online examination features which prevent test-takers from going back-and-forth between questions during exams. 

These items were developed in collaboration with the Student Senate Caucus through identifying the most common themes among the slew of student complaints received by the UMSU Executive in the fall, as well as UMSU surveys of its members in both June and September last year. For months, students were indicating that practices employed by many professors were skewing their academic outcomes and heightening anxiety levels.

Said Student Senate Caucus Co-Chair and UMSU VP Advocacy, Kristin Smith: “Such a student-centric communication, especially one as so far reaching as this one, is something to celebrate. I want to extend my sincere thanks to the University for this thorough and thoughtful memo.” 

Added UMSU President and Student Senator, Jelynn Dela Cruz: “We are pleased to see a number of our discussion points amplified in this communication. For us, knowing that these best practices are recognized by the University – and communicated openly – makes all the difference. We are hopeful for the term ahead.” 

For media inquiries:

Kristin Smith, Student Senate Caucus Co-Chair & UMSU VP Advocacy – vpa@umsu.ca

Jelynn Dela Cruz, UMSU President & Student Senator – pres@umsu.ca 

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