Registrar Digitalizes Midterm Grade Submission System

The College has overhauled the system used by faculty members to report their students’ midterm progress grades.

A new online portal was launched earlier this month to allow professors to submit progress reports for struggling students to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ registrar’s office at any point during the term. Registrar Michael P. Burke said the progress reports, which include space for faculty members to write a message and choose from a list of options to indicate why the student is falling behind in a course, are directly viewable by the student’s resident dean.

“The purpose of this and the real benefit is more timely notification for resident deans to work with students who may have some concerns,” Burke said.

The new tool has been long in the making. When former FAS registrar Barry S. Kane left Harvard in 2010, he said that his biggest regret of his seven-year tenure was not digitalizing the midterm grade submission system.

Previously, under the old paper-based system, faculty members were required to submit progress grades for all students on their rosters to the registrar’s office by a single deadline midway through the semester. The unsatisfactory progress grades would then be scanned and sent to resident deans.

Faculty and administrators say that on the whole, the new tool is a marked improvement.

Organismic and Evolutionary Biology lecturer Andrew Berry said that in the past, he has communicated directly with resident deans because he thought the old paper system was too slow to get help on time for struggling students in his courses.

Now, he said, he is pleased with the “massively streamlined” process.

Government professor Steven R. Levitsky said that under the old system, his grade reports would often be due before his students had even turned in their first essays, making it impossible for him to evaluate which students were falling behind. While he would often informally contact his students’ resident deans throughout past semesters, he said he appreciates the “centralized reminder” of the new tool.

“It taps us on the shoulder and makes sure that we’re doing it,” Levitsky said. “It doesn’t guarantee, but it’s sort of one additional check to make sure that we’re looking out early enough for students who are slipping through the cracks.”

Adams Resident Dean Sharon L. Howell praised the new tool’s efficiency, but added that she hopes to see the system further streamlined.

“From the point of view of the resident dean, I think we would love to figure out a way to go even a step further and to connect the faculty even more directly with the student,” Howell said.

Undergraduate Council President Danny P. Bicknell ’13 agreed. He said he would like students, in addition to resident deans, to be able to view the online progress reports to encourage conversations between struggling students and the faculty members who can help them.

Burke said that another ongoing digitalization project—a portal that would allow students to access their unofficial transcripts online—is still underway. He said he hopes to implement the new records, which would include full course titles rather than the abbreviated listings currently viewable online, by the end of this academic year.

“It’s definitely still a priority of the registrar’s office, and we’re working with every relevant team to get that done,” Burke said.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@college.harvard.edu.

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