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For Homewood Instructors: Undergraduate Grading FAQs

Last updated: April 3, 2020 at 1:58 p.m.

Below we answer some of the more frequently asked questions posed by instructors regarding the undergraduate grading policy for Spring 2020 that was adopted by the university at the recommendation of the Homewood Academic Council in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The grading policy is described here and an FAQ for undergraduate students may be found here.



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Am I permitted to grade papers, exams and other assessments as usual, or must I only report S* or U* grades on all assessments?

You are encouraged to grade all assessments as usual. While KSAS and WSE undergraduates may only have a final course grade of S* or U* recorded on their transcript, there are no restrictions on grading of individual assignments or the manner in which you provide feedback as to how the student performed in your class. In fact, retaining such information about student performance is likely to be important in crafting future recommendation letters for your students.

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Does this decision mean that I will only award grades of S* and U* in my undergraduate class?

Possibly. If your class has an enrollment that is restricted to KSAS and WSE undergraduates, undergraduate international exchange students, Peabody double-degree students, and undergraduates participating in the Baltimore Schools Exchange Program (BSEP), your grading roster will only have S*/U* grading options. There may, however, be some students in your undergraduate classes who can request to receive a letter grade. These include WSE and KSAS graduate and post-baccalaureate students, and graduate and undergraduate students from other divisions (for example, Peabody students who are not part of the double-degree program). The grading scheme used for these students will follow the policy of their division, graduate program, or post-baccalaureate program. Most of these divisions have permitted their students to elect S/U or P/F grading. For example, WSE graduate students in undergraduate courses will receive letter grades unless they opt for P/F grading. We are currently analyzing all KSAS and WSE undergraduate class rosters, and we will seek to inform you if you have such students in your undergraduate course and who they are by April 6. If you have enrolled students in your class who are not KSAS or WSE undergraduates and grading these students (and only these students) on a letter scale is not possible due to the conditions of remote instruction, you may petition to change your course to provide S/U grading only. To effect this change, you must consult with your school’s vice dean for undergraduate education before April 10.

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What is an S* or U* grade?

An S*, or satisfactory grade, will be awarded in the Spring 2020 semester for performance in a class that is considered worthy of credit and will satisfy all requirements, regardless of the minimum grade or “letter grade only” rule that applies during a typically-graded semester.

Neither S* nor U* grades affect a student’s GPA. All S* and U* grades earned in Spring 2020 will be denoted S* or U* rather than with the standard S and U with an annotation on the transcript that explains that no letter grades were provided to undergraduates during this semester due to the COVID-19 crisis and an explanation will be added to the transcript key that accompanies all official transcripts.

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Am I required to implement the assessments and grading that I included in my syllabus?

No. You may make reasonable adaptations to your assessments to accommodate the limitations of remote instruction and in light of the new grading policy. The Center for Educational Resources has created a resource to guide faculty as they redesign their assessments. That resource can be found here:

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When should I hold my final exam?

All faculty giving timed exams must hold their exam at the time designated in the published final exam schedule ( Faculty may provide an exam administration at one or more additional times, but may not cancel the assigned administration date and time. Instructors should be aware, however, that extending the time of an exam beyond the scheduled period may create conflicts with other scheduled final exams and create new and different problems for students.  Any additional final exam times scheduled to accommodate student conflicts should be scheduled by the instructor in consultation with the students affected to avoid conflicting with their other final exams.

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How can I proctor my final exam?

Timed exams may be administered through Blackboard or with on-line proctoring such as Respondus Monitor. See the CER website for recommendations for how to administer final exams. (

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Can I give a take home final exam?

Faculty may give take home final exams, but the deadline for the exam may not be before the time of the scheduled final exam (

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How can I accommodate students who are unable to take the regularly scheduled administration?

Faculty should expect that they may need to administer more than one final to accommodate students for a number of reasons, including:

  • Due to COVID-19 we expect that more students will be requesting incomplete grades for exam extensions due to illness or illness in their families.
  • Faculty will be expected to reasonably accommodate students in distant time zones.
  • Final exams this year fall entirely within the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (April 23- May 23). As such, some of our Muslim students will be fasting during the day, typically from sunrise to sunset for more than 13 hours. Students may request religious accommodations to take exams earlier in the day.

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How can I reward performance in my course that is well beyond “satisfactory”?

While the highest grade WSE and KSAS undergraduates can earn in spring is an S*, students will need letters of recommendation regardless of where they intend to go. Writing an end-of-year email to students who have performed above expectations relating the aspects of their work that your found commendable is one possible way to acknowledge exemplary achievement. Offers of recommendation letters, words of encouragement, and suggestions to pursue honors or mentored projects all can have powerful influence on a student’s future.

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What if I notice that a student is failing to attend class or turn in work?

Instructors can reach out directly to students to check in, or may raise a flag in Starfish.

Students who are experiencing technical issues can be referred to our WSE instructional support team at the email address However, if you find that one or more students are not engaging regularly during this period please contact us immediately. For undergraduates you should either raise a “Remote Class Attendance/Participation Concerns” flag on Starfish, which can be accessed through Blackboard, or send an email to the Engineering Advising Office at For graduate students please email Christine Kavanagh.


Instructions for raising a flag in Starfish:

  1. Log into and click the Starfish tab (do NOT click on the “Courses” tab);
  2. In the upper right hand search box, type the preferred name of the student you wish to report;
  3. Once that student’s information has appeared, click on the “flag” button on the upper left hand portion of the screen.
  4. Scroll through the options and choose “Remote Class Attendance/Participation Concerns,” enter any relevant notes, then click “save” at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Your flag is submitted and the assigned academic advisor will be notified and reach out to the student.


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