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The Daily Tar Heel

Reforms streamline grade change process

Talk about a paper trail.

Before UNC’s grade change process became electronic in Spring 2013, changing a student’s grade involved a complicated paper journey between different offices on campus. Now, the grade change process is more streamlined and less time consuming.

The reform provides a more efficient way to change grades for undergraduate students. The system now ensures only the course instructor can request a grade change.

“This one has been one of the most successful modifications to the system that we’ve done,” University Registrar Chris Derickson said.

If the grade change is temporary, like an incomplete or an absence from the final exam, it will go directly to the registrar’s office and be changed automatically. If the grade change is permanent, it must be approved by both the department chairperson and the dean of that student’s college.

“If we can provide the way that grade change is done as securely as possible but also as quickly as possible, then that benefits everyone,” Derickson said.

“So a student can have a grade change on their record quickly, which is a benefit to the students. Faculty can do it online instead of having to fill out a piece of paper and, as the registrar, I’m able to know with certainty that the grade change was submitted by this faculty member and approved by this dean and this chair.”

He said prompt grade changes are especially important on a campus like UNC’s where incompletes show up as a failing grade.

The reform is part of a series of new standards created in response to UNC’s academic-athletic scandal — emails show employees like former philosophy professor Jan Boxill exerted substantial control over the grades students needed to stay eligible — but Derickson said the registrar’s office was looking into changes even before the scandal was publicized.

“There’s no denying that there were problems. If you read the Wainstein report and even the Martin report, they’ve indicated there were grade changes that were not authorized appropriately, and that was the product of a paper-based system,” Derickson said.

“So, they are certainly related, but I was pushing for an electronic grade change as soon as I could get it implemented.”

Journalism professor Debashis Aikat said he also considers the reform a success.

“It’s a good policy because it prevents misuse. And I think any University system needs to make sure all the procedures are not being misused to the level where it causes embarrassment,” Aikat said.

Derickson said the reform provides him the security of knowing he can go back and track any changes. He said he is proud of the reform and proud to have his name associated with it.

“People don’t always love ConnectCarolina. I think they always wish there was more that we could do with it, and we keep trying to do more and more with it as we grow this system,” Derickson said.

“This grade change process has been one that I think has been really well received. It’s very intuitive. This is one that we put a lot of time and energy into to make sure it was done as well as possible.”

Maribel Carrion, Information Technology Services’ director of business applications, said the whole project took about three months to complete. Now that it’s running, she said there have been no problems associated with the program.

“I think the most important thing we do is make sure we understand how exactly the changes should work,” Carrion said. “And we design the code changes to make sure we don’t break something else that is already working, and then we test it, and we test it, and we test it.”

Aikat said these changes have improved the efficiency of the process.

“I think it’s a great policy, and I think our University is the better for it.”

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