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Spring 2019 Update

Northwestern University Provost Jonathan Holloway charged a faculty-led workgroup with advising the Registrar on the implementation of winter/spring calendar changes and final exam administration flexibility, and considering fall quarter calendar opportunities, including its structure, timing, and educational offerings. The group met throughout the 2018-19 academic year.

The group was chaired by Robert Gundlach, Director of the Cook Family Writing Program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Linguistics, and Karen Smilowitz, the James N. and Margie M. Krebs Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences within the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. The full list of members is available HERE.

Exam Administration Survey

The Academic Calendar Advisory Group worked with the University Registrar to explore how the university can offer greater flexibility for final exam administration. The purpose was to address the challenges that students experience in regard to start dates for summer internships, study abroad, and other programs, due to the relatively late-ending academic year at Northwestern.

To that end, the group invited instructors for undergraduate courses to participate in a survey regarding their current practices, including the types and formats of graded work produced by students at the end of the term, and flexibility in timing or format of final exams. Analysis of data on current practices for final assessment, as well as on interest in flexible final exam options will help shape proposed changes.

Possible changes include the optional use—by faculty—of early or remote exams, and the establishment of a single, central protocol for those seeking to use these options, including the implementation of software to support this process. The University will pilot various flexibility initiatives in the 2019-2020 Academic year, in order to assess their effectiveness before fully implementing these options across the university. Implementation will work within school-based governance and policies.

Faculty will not be required to offer exam flexibility. Offering early or remote exams will occur only at the faculty member’s discretion within the context of the school in which they teach.

Fall Quarter Opportunities

The Academic Calendar Advisory Group advised the Provost on the opportunities and challenges regarding possible adjustments to the fall quarter calendar including adjustments required to accommodate an intersession. No major changes are recommended at this time, given constraints including federal regulations and accreditation requirements for time in session, current structure of nine-month faculty appointments, course requirements across all schools, and research grant requirements for a three month summer break.