NUS, NTU and SMU allow students to write off grades for modules

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 modules taken this semester. This is equivalent to about two typical modules, and excludes final-year projects and honours theses.

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, SMU provost Timothy Clark said all classes and exams will move online, while alternative assessments may replace some exams.

He said: "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."

NUS and NTU had moved large lectures and some assessments online. They had also recalled students on overseas placements.

Professor Ling San, NTU's deputy president and provost, 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, and students will be seated 2m apart during exams. For in-class quizzes and tests, they will be seated in alternate seats and in alternate rows.

Similarly, NUS provost Ho Teck Hua told students: "We understand the additional stress (the pandemic) has caused you over the course of this semester.

"We hope that this change... made in close consultation with NUS Students' Union, will help you get more out of your learning experience during this difficult time."

The 10 S/U modular credits are on top of the grade-free first year that NUS students already have.

Yale-NUS College 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."

POSSIBLE FUTURE IMPLICATIONS

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.

PROFESSOR JOANNE ROBERTS, Yale-NUS College executive vice-president (academic affairs), on taking up the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) option.

NUS second-year social work student Jazreel Tay, 21, said: "It is good that NUS is allowing us to S/U certain modules. There is some leeway for us to cope with the disruptions, but also be motivated to continue studying and not totally give up.

"For online assessment based on memory work, you can't stop people from referring to notes at home or cheating."

She added: "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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2020, with the headline 'NUS, NTU and SMU allow students to write off grades for modules'. Subscribe