Registrar Plans To Move Midterm Grade Submission Online

As part of a push to make greater use of technology, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ registrar’s office is in the initial phase of creating an online portal for teachers to enter midterm grades and another web page for students to access their unofficial transcripts.

FAS Registrar Michael P. Burke said he hopes to see both systems online as early as next fall.

Burke said the transition from paper to an online platform for submitting midterm grades will help struggling students obtain help earlier in the semester.

“I think the overriding vision for it is to make it easier for faculty to notify students and advisers or resident deans about students’ progress,” Burke said.

The project comes a year and a half after Burke’s predecessor Barry S. Kane told The Crimson in July 2010 when he left to work at Wellesley that his biggest regret was not introducing an electronic method for midterm grade submission during his time as registrar.

Currently, the registrar is the middleman who connects faculty concerned about students’ poor performance with those students’ resident deans.

“The current paper system is slow, so [advisers] often don’t get information in time to be helpful,” Ryan M. Spoering, a chemistry and chemical biology lecturer, wrote in an email. “An online system would be a clear improvement in speed and would also be easier for course staff to complete and submit.”

The system has not been designed yet, and Burke said that his office has not determined whether students will be able to view their own midterm grades or overall course progress through the online system.

Under the current paper-based process, the registrar sends out what Burke called a “mass mailing” of class rosters and grading forms, asking faculty members to report back on students’ progress mid-semester. The registrar then scans the grade sheets and notifies the resident deans of struggling students in their Houses and dorms.

With the new system in place, faculty would be able to more efficiently point out students who scored poorly on a midterm examination or were not completing coursework, Burke said.

Daniel E. Lieberman ’86, a professor of human evolutionary biology, wrote in an email, “I often find midterm grades to be important for helping identify students that need some help or support, so if we can improve the system that would be good for everyone.”

Samuel F. Himel ’12, chair of the Undergraduate Council’s Education Committee, said that the proposed system “doesn’t fix the whole issue, but it’s a great step.”

Himel said he thinks the College can better serve struggling students by moving back the add/drop and withdrawal deadlines as well as giving students more graded feedback early in the term while they still have the option of adding and dropping classes.

The registrar’s office is also working to give students online access to unofficial versions of their transcripts. The new unofficial transcripts will include full course titles rather than the abbreviated listings found on the student records which are now viewable online.

“We’re focused on providing the resources for students that make it easier for them to get on with learning,” Burke said.

Himel praised that planned upgrade, saying, “I’ve always thought how silly it is that the only thing you can get at 11 at night when you pop in a job application is this transcript that has letters and symbols and numbers [the Student Record] that don’t mean anything to anyone outside of Harvard.”

Himel added, “It would be a great idea to have a more complete and informative document available.”

—Staff writer Nathalie R. Miraval can be reached a nmiraval@college.harvard.edu.

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

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