We often think of policies and institutional structures as stable and context-independent. Because they seek fairness and universality, they are often designed as blankets that do not shift according either to the needs of individuals to whom they apply or to the circumstances in which they are applied. Achieving adaptability through policy means thinking about policy and institutional structures in ways that allow them to be sensitive to individual learner need and responsive to changes in the landscapes that surround learning during times of crisis.
As you adjust any policy or structure on a permanent or temporary basis, ask: “What is the key learning-related goal of this policy or structure?” Try as possible to make decisions about revisions that align with that key goal.
- What current policies or structures are increasingly stressed during this particular crisis, and how could those policies be permanently or temporarily revised in order to encourage student success?
- When you ask students what they find most challenging about learning during the crisis, how do those answers map to particular university policies and structures, and how could policy and structural revision reduce barriers to learning?
- What university governance protocols should be followed during this time of crisis as the institution seeks to revise certain policies or structures? Do these protocols involve all affected stakeholders?
Examples & Resources
- Policy that allows students to elect to take any selected course Pass/No Pass instead of for a letter grade; (Middlebury College)
- Policy that decouples attendance from grades; (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
- Waiving admissions requirements that are fee-dependent (such as application fees or standardized test requirements);
- Transfer policies that relax existing requirements or guarantee institutional and program credit for students who need to study elsewhere due to crisis circumstances;
- Extending housing to homeless students during dorm closures;
- No Credit (NC) option that allows for students to retake the course at no cost within the next 3 semesters (City Colleges of Chicago)
- COVID Incomplete allowing students to pick up where they left off, once they can access buildings, for lab or hands-on experience; (City Colleges of Chicago)
- Extend withdrawal deadlines (Cal State Monterey Bay) (California Community Colleges);
- Canceling of exam periods or opt-in exams or relaxed exam policy (Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering) (UCLA)
- Excused withdraw, included a refund of enrollment fees. EW from all courses included additional campus based health and student fees. No penalties toward progress, repeatability, or financial aid. (California Community Colleges)
- This European report includes many policy examples and recommendations.
- Send links with additional policy examples to firstname.lastname@example.org.