In light of the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, a few college policies have been adjusted in an effort to provide students with flexibility without compromising the integrity of the academic program. Changes for the impacted semesters are detailed below.
Fall 2020 & Spring 2021
Changes to Class Instruction
In creating the schedule for the Spring 2021 semester, faculty were given the freedom to choose whatever format works best for them and their curriculum. All faculty were asked to consider the following questions when deciding how to deliver their courses:
Can the class fully meet its learning objectives with remote delivery?
Is the course required for a certain group of students (e.g., graduating seniors in your major; students needing an essential prerequisite to stay on track)? If so, the course must be offered in a way that is accessible to all students, wherever they may be located (e.g., remote or hybrid).
What level of face-to-face interaction would the faculty member be comfortable with (assuming health conditions permit any or all of these options): In-person office hours? Small outdoor group meetings or 1:1 meetings? Outdoor in-person instruction? Indoor in-person instruction?
In-person instruction: Even if some level of in-person instruction is permitted, classes will need to be prepared for the possibility of a shift to remote instruction if conditions necessitate, or with alternative assignments planned for students forced to isolate or quarantine. Therefore, deciding whether to offer a course that must be held in-person should depend on whether the course can pivot to, and meet (at least some of) its learning objectives with, a remote back-up plan. If there is no mechanism for the class to be completed remotely, we strongly advise that it not be offered. For courses planned as (at least partial) in-person experiences, it would be up to the instructor/department’s discretion to allow remote students to complete a “remote backup” version of the course without any expectation of in-person activity. Faculty should give appropriate consideration to students needing a graduation requirement.
How can I see the mode of instruction for my courses?
The three category designations (“remote”, “hybrid”, “in-person”) will be viewable in Course Counts. More detailed information about course delivery will also be available in the supplemental information pages that we will prepare for the Spring (available to students by Advising Week). This information can be found here.
What does it mean to be in a “remote” course?
Remote courses will be conducted exactly like Fall 2020, designed to meet all learning goals for students through remote means, whether students are studying remotely from home, from campus residence halls, or from local off-campus housing. Since we assume that we will still be striving to minimize campus density in the Spring semester, we imagine that most of our courses will be delivered remotely, even if more students are in residence in Spring, compared to Fall.
These courses may include opportunities for in-person interactions should conditions (and county guidance) allow for that over the course of the semester.
What does it mean to be in a “hybrid” course?
Here we are using a definition of hybrid courses as those that are designed to be fully and equally accessible by both in-person and remote participants, for example, with some students in the classroom and others on Zoom. Such courses would be fully open to both local and remote students, and remote students can expect to be able to meet all learning goals of the course.
What does it mean to be in an “In-Person” course?
These courses will be offered mostly in-person but will require adjustments to adhere to county guidance. These courses will primarily exist where it is difficult to achieve learning goals remotely (for example, laboratory work or studio/performing arts).
It may be the case that In-person components are “back-loaded”, such that the course starts remotely, but adds in-person instruction as the semester progresses should county guidance change throughout the semester. If allowable, the course can require students to attend in-person classes/labs/studios in “shifts” throughout the semester so that fewer students attend each class period to accommodate distancing guidelines.
Is it possible for the mode of instruction to change mid-semester?
Courses that are offered “in-person” may be changed to fully remote if county guidance does not change before the beginning of the Spring semester. Therefore it may not be possible to offer the in-person component. Faculty teaching courses designated as “in-person” have all prepared a remote backup plan if the college must switch to remote learning mid-semester.
“Hybrid” courses will similarly switch to remote learning if county guidance remains as is.
Please note that all faculty have been notified that all courses need to have mechanisms for students to complete course goals if they are isolated or quarantined, or if public health guidance changes.
In all courses offered for a letter grade (unless already approved for CR/NC grading), students will have the option to change to Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) grading for any number of their courses. Courses changed to CR/NC will not affect a student's cumulative or term GPA. To receive a grade of CR in a course the student must earn the equivalent of a grade of C or higher. A grade of equivalent of C- or lower will receive NC (and no units will be earned toward degree completion). Courses in which a student earns a grade of CR will be allowed to meet a major, minor, or Core requirement.
The deadline to make this change is now the last day of finals. The deadlines can be reviewed in the Academic Calendar and are listed below. No changes will be accepted after the deadline without a Petition for Special Consideration.
Fall 2020: Monday, December 7th at 11:59 PM (PST)
Spring 2021: Friday, May 7th at 11:59 PM (PDT)
In order to change a course from a letter grade to CR/NC students will log-in to MyOxy and follow this path: Academics > Registrar Online Forms > Fall 2020 Credit/No Credit Request. All courses being taken for a letter grade for the current semester will be displayed. Students will then select the course(s) that they would like to convert to CR/NC and click the "Submit" button.
- You may only make one course selection per submission. If you are changing multiple courses to CR/NC you will need to submit the form multiple times.
- Should a student need to make any changes to their selection(s), they will need to contact email@example.com.
- Students may change their Spring 2021 courses to CR/NC beginning on the first day of classes of the spring semester.
How does CR/NC affect my overall, semester, major, and minor GPAs?
A course for which you receive CR will earn you units toward your degree, and if listed as satisfying a major, minor, or Core requirement in the catalog, will meet that requirement. The grade in a course for which you receive CR will not factor into your major, minor, cumulative, or semester GPA.
A course for which you receive NC will not earn any units toward your degree and will not meet a major, minor, or Core requirement, but the grade in a course for which you receive NC will not factor into your major, minor, cumulative, or semester GPA.
To calculate how your GPA might be impacted, please review the GPA calculation instructions, here.
How does this affect my academic standing?
At the end of each semester the Student Progress Committee (SPC) reviews the grades of each student and determines whether a student should be placed on a Semester of Academic Concern or a Required Academic Leave. Since both GPA and units earned toward the degree play a role in the committee’s deliberation, students who are on a semester of academic concern should be aiming for a semester GPA of 2.0, and should try to earn credit for as many units as they can. Students who are concerned about how these decisions will affect their academic standing should reach out to Caro Brighouse, Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ed Johnson, Director of Academic Advising (Edmondjohnson@oxy.edu), or Jim Herr, Registrar (email@example.com).
How does this affect my progress toward my degree?
You must earn 128 units and attain a GPA of at least a 2.0 overall and in your major in order to graduate.
- If you believe you will receive a grade below a C in a course this semester, you must think carefully about how this will affect your cumulative, semester, and major GPAs. If you receive financial aid please check the financial aid FAQs to determine if receiving a grade of NC will impact your financial aid.
- If you elect to take a CR grade, your GPA will not be affected.
- If you are concerned that your grades will prevent you from achieving a major or cumulative GPA of 2.0 or above, you may want to take the NC option and retake courses at a later date or take them elsewhere and transfer them in to meet degree requirements.
Please reach out to your academic adviser or the chair of your major program or department if you have any questions about your situation. You may also reach out to Caro Brighouse, Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ed Johnson, Director of Advising (email@example.com), Jim Herr, Registrar (firstname.lastname@example.org), Vannessa Alvarado, Assistant Registrar (email@example.com) if you have questions or concerns about your situation.
How will graduate schools interpret a CR or NC on my transcript for Fall 2020?
Some version of a grading policy change of this kind is common among many undergraduate schools at this time, and all graduate school admissions are well aware of the trend. As such, we encourage you to stay motivated, persevere with hard work, and strive for letter grades. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your adaptability and resilience. If you are concerned about the grades you may receive in a course and you have intentions to apply to graduate school you should contact your academic adviser or the chair of your major department or program for advice.
What should I do if I want to go to medical school?
CR/NC for prerequisite courses: Some version of a grading policy change of this kind is universal among many undergraduate schools at this time, and medical and dental school admissions are well aware of the trend. As such, we encourage you to stay motivated, persevere with hard work, and strive for letter grades. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your adaptability and resiliency as aspiring healthcare providers, clinicians, and scientists. Meanwhile, online laboratory classes taken in 2020 are accepted. You should reach out to Kat Wang, Director of the Office of Pre-Health Advising, if you have concerns about the grade you are expecting to receive, and would like advice on whether to take CR/NC.
What should I do if I want to go to Law School?
Law schools are fully aware of and understand that virtually all students enrolled during the spring 2020 COVID-19 pandemic experienced significant disruption in their living and learning arrangements. Law schools are also aware that many undergraduate and graduate schools changed their grading systems to allow or require Pass/Fail (CR/NC) grades in lieu of their traditional grading systems and will not penalize any applicant for presenting Pass/Fail (CR/NC) grades. LSAC will place a letter in the CAS report of every applicant enrolled during spring 2020, reminding law schools of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the population and on higher education.
Students can also review the information on the LSAC webpage for more information.
How does electing to take a course or several courses CR/NC affect my Oxy Aid, Oxy scholarships, or my Federal Financial Aid?
Occidental College has been given flexibility by the US Department of Education in how it assesses satisfactory academic progress. Due to the Covid-19 crisis students have been given the option to receive letter grades or grades of Credit (CR) / No Credit (NC) for the fall 2020 semester.
Typically, there are three components that students must achieve in order to maintain satisfactory academic progress.
- Students must successfully complete a minimum of 67% of the cumulative credits they attempt. For instance, if you have attempted 21 credits you must have completed at least 14 credits to maintain progress.
- Students must complete their degree program within 150% of the length of the program. Occidental College undergraduate programs are typically 128 credits. For institutional purposes we only provide financial aid to students for eight semesters in which they must complete their degree program. This assumes 16 credits per semester. Under federal guidelines students can receive federal financial aid up to 192 credits, or 12 semesters.
- Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.00.
Due to students having the option of choosing to receive letter grades (A, B, C, D, etc.) or Credit (CR) / No Credit (NC) grades, this decision may have an impact on some student’s eligibility.
Students who have a cumulative GPA above 2.00 that choose to receive all grades as Credit (CR)/ No Credit (NC) will not see a change to their cumulative GPA at the end of the semester, however any credits that receive a grade of No Credit (NC) will count against their completion rate as discussed above.
Students that have a cumulative GPA below 2.00 and/or are on financial aid warning or financial aid probation for the fall 2020 semester that have chosen to take Credit (CR) / No Credit (NC) grades for all of their courses will be reviewed individually since their GPA will not change. Notices will be sent to students if they need to appeal again to maintain their financial aid for the spring 2021 semester.
Students will need to be in touch with the Financial Aid Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) in order to discuss their individual circumstances.
How will receiving CR/NC rather than a letter grade affect my off-campus scholarship?
If you receive a scholarship from an off-campus entity, check with the organization you receive a scholarship from to see if there are particular requirements around letter grades for the support you are receiving.
Full-time first-year students who complete at least eight units for a letter grade and have a semester GPA of 3.5 or better are eligible for the Dean’s List. All other students registered full-time students who complete at least twelve units for a letter grade and have a semester GPA of 3.5 or better are eligible for the Dean’s List. This honor will appear on the student’s transcript.
Courses taken online during the 2020-2021 academic year may be used to satisfy major, minor, or Core requirements. All courses must be otherwise transferrable and approved in advance by the appropriate Occidental College department or program chair. Students may refer to the Transfer Credit section of the college catalog for more information.