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October 24, 2002 Students' grade sheets go online





by Anne-Marie Curatolo, Communications, IITS

This semester marks a first in Concordia history, as grade sheets will no longer be issued. The Office of the Registrar, which previously received a hard copy of all grades, will access this information online, as do faculty and students.

The development of online grading at the university began in the summer of 2001 under Tuan Mai, project leader, Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS).

As chief developer of this project, Mai began working with the Department of Political Science in the fall of 2001, testing the new Faculty Course Management System (FCMS). By January of the following year, several other departments were involved in the process. Currently, each faculty is on board the new system, submitting all grades electronically.

“This system is much quicker and more functions are available to the professor,” Mai said. Teachers can send a single e-mail to their entire class through the FCMS, announcing that grades are ready and can be viewed in the system via the student portal. “It allows professors to get more contact with their students.”

Mai noted the system can be used to e-mail assignments, send comments about a presentation, or to forward important notices. Teachers can even send former students information about a new course they’re teaching if they think it would be of interest to them.

Not only can professors submit grades using the FCMS, they can also download class lists, access the e-mail addresses of their students, as well as add comments to a grade sheet.

Simple step-by-step instructions prepared by the IITS Training and Development Group are posted on the Faculty and Staff Services link on Concordia’s home page (http://www.concordia.ca). Frequently asked questions are also posted on the site.

According to Loni Cornax, assistant director, user services, professors have not had any major difficulties using the new system.

“The main benefit is that students are able to obtain their grades much sooner. Individuals who are waiting to find out if they have a certain prerequisite will know as soon as their professors post the grade and it has been approved,” Cornax said. Time spent anxiously awaiting a grade sheet by snail mail is eliminated.

Andrew McAusland, executive director, IITS, said the new online system is saving the university about $250,000 per year in paper and processing fees. The real savings he added, is in the speed of reporting. Hours and hours of manual grade-checking have been eliminated.

Before the system was launched, there was a significant amount of proofreading involved for secretaries, professors and the office of the registrar, as each grade had to be verified manually. “The problem with the paper system is that there were many opportunities for human error,” said Cornax. The current system, however, flags any incomplete information to be entered.

Cornax also noted the system allows departmental administrators to view the steps which need to be taken as due dates arise. One click of the mouse lets them know when grades need to be submitted, whether they have been approved by the departmental chairs and whether they have been sent to the SIS.

Along with a list of student names, identification numbers, e-mail addresses and grades, the FCMS provides the average, maximum, and minimum GPA for the class, as well as the percentage of failure. Bar graphs display the number of students who obtained each grade. These statistics can then be used for comparative purposes (i.e., comparing the class average of a course this term to the same course last term). Class records go back as far as 1990.

For more information, call the IITS helpline at 848-7613 or email to help@concordia.ca.