SINGAPORE - The National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU) are letting students write off their grades for modules this semester, to ease anxieties about disruptions to learning amid the coronavirus outbreak.
NUS is allowing undergraduates to exercise the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) option for up to 10 modular credits for any module taken this semester.
This translates to about two typical modules, and excludes final-year projects, honours theses and equivalent modules.
The S/U option allows a student to take a course and attain the modular credits for graduation, without receiving a letter grade.
NTU and SMU will also let undergraduates use the S/U option, but for all courses this semester.
In an e-mail to students on Thursday (March 26), SMU provost Timothy Clark said that all classes and examinations will also be moved online. Alternative assessments may replace some exams, he added.
Professor Clark said that students will be able to see their results before having to decide if they would like to turn some, or all, of their courses into Pass/Fail.
But “this is subject to a minimum of 21 graded credits required for graduation, as per current policy”, he added.
SMU students typically take 4 to 4.5 credits each semester.
Said Professor Clark: “We are mindful that the measures should not dilute the professional standing of our students as this would have knock-on effects in employability... With these changes, we hope to alleviate your concerns and that you will be able to focus better on your studies and make the best of your learning opportunities.”
In the light of the Covid-19 situation, NUS and NTU had moved large lectures and some assessments online.
The three universities had also recalled students on overseas placements, such as exchange programmes and internships.
The Education Ministry had said the institutions would address students' concerns about the loss of credits earned during their exchanges or placements.
In an e-mail to students on Wednesday (March 25), Professor Ling San, NTU's deputy president and provost, said: "We acknowledge and understand the concerns and anxieties you are feeling about your education and learning at NTU due to the uncertainties posed by the Covid-19 situation.
"Your faculty and I have been listening to your feedback and comments made to us directly and through various platforms."
In the circular seen by The Straits Times, he said that only content taught up to week 10 of the semester will be tested in exams and continual assessments.
Deadlines will be spaced out, he said, adding that students will be seated 2m apart during examinations.
For in-class assessments such as quizzes and tests, students will be placed in alternate seats and in alternate rows.
NUS provost Ho Teck Hua told students in an e-mail on Wednesday: "The Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact Singapore and the NUS community. We understand the additional stress this has caused you over the course of this semester."
The 10 S/U modular credits are on top of the grade-free first year that NUS students already have.
"We hope that this change in the university's S/U policy, made in close consultation with NUS Students' Union, will help you get more out of your learning experience during this difficult time," said Professor Ho.
Yale-NUS College, which sits within NUS, has also allowed students to exercise the S/U option for any module taken this semester.
Professor Joanne Roberts, the college's executive vice-president (academic affairs), said: "However, students have been cautioned to seek advice from their academic adviser that choosing such an option may impact how a future professional or graduate school views their transcript."
The college has been closely monitoring the situation and communicating with students to understand their challenges, she said.
"As a community of learning, this means helping our students focus on learning while setting aside, as far as we can, their worries about achievement metrics," she added.
NUS second-year social work student Jazreel Tay, 21, said most students are glad that the university is providing the S/U option this semester.
“It’s a good move that NUS is allowing us to S/U certain modules, but not all. There is some leeway for students to cope with the disruptions, but also be motivated to continue studying and not totally give up,” she said.
Her lectures this semester had gone online, and so will her final exams starting at the end of April.
She added: “For online assessment based on memory work, you can’t stop people from referring to notes at home or cheating.
“Maybe with this S/U option, students will be less likely to do that, because they are not as pressured to do well knowing there is a safety net to fall back on.”