The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Credit/no credit options help students drowning in busy work

3 min read

Students are feeling the pressure of additional assignments meant to make up for lost in-person class time. (@jeshoots |


Staff Writer

With COVID-19 causing disruption and confusion all across the world, UMW is not immune to the chaos. As students are now completing the rest of the semester remotely, classes have taken a big turn. With professors all using different strategies for remote learning, there is often more busy work and the idea that class grading can proceed as normal, even though nothing in our classes or our lives right now is normal. The recent move to the optional credit/no credit system of grading for the rest of the semester is important to maintain student success and health, but professors should cut back on the busy work so we can learn, too.

Making the traditional grading system optional this semester was a great idea to help students. As internet access is not a guarantee for all students and many students are now dealing with many other stressors and distractions, required letter grades are unfair during this time. Many students are back with families, which can mean more distractions and many are out of work which is a huge stressor.  

Allowing students to choose to take some or all classes pass/fail gives them more control over how the rest of the semester will go which helps ease stress during these extremely confusing and stressful times.  

Many universities across the country have decided to go adopt some pass/fail or credit/no credit system due to the coronavirus including University of Virginia, MIT, Smith College, Duke, Middlebury College, Grinnell College and Northwestern University.

The first week of remote classes started with Canvas posts and emails from professors of lists of assignments to complete, questions to answer, recorded lectures to watch and Zoom links. As recorded lectures and Zoom classes are some of the best ways to continue class instruction, there are other ways that are proving to just be busy work.  

Some professors are emailing and posting worksheet after worksheet to complete. There is no in-person instruction, and completing worksheets where we just have to regurgitate information we read is really the definition of busy work.  

You know the drill– skim the article to find the answers to the questions, type it up, submit it and never look back again. What did we learn? For me, absolutely nothing. That is not engaging. I understand this is a new environment for us all and we are all trying to figure things out, but this initial strategy is not working. It is hard to learn from worksheets when we are used to in-class discussions, being able to ask questions and work through ideas and problems.

Without busy work, there would be fewer assignments, but this gives students time to dedicate to those big research projects and papers. Class discussions, recorded lectures, and Zoom lessons are all good ways to keep with educating students in this time of online classes. Adding busy work that was not there for the first half of the semester is not doing anything to help students.

With less busy work and the new optional credit/no credit system, there will be more room for students to really engage with classes. There will be less worry over having to get little assignments done every day and more emphasis on the big, semester-long projects where students really learn. Credit/no credit will help to ease stress about tanking GPAs because of online learning.

In-person classes are crucial to my academic success and the busy work and letter grades are making this time even more stressful. The new optional credit/no credit grading system is a good move for the rest of the semester, but classes should also have less busy work so students have more time to actually learn.

Follow me on Twitter