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10-18-21-fall-campus-avi-singh

The Dean's Advisory Board created the course issue report because of problems students had with virtual classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided to keep it open since students have found it useful.

Credit: Avi Singh

Students in the College of Arts and Sciences can anonymously report any issues with their courses this semester to the Dean’s Advisory Board course issue report, which will remain open through the rest of the semester.

DAB created the course issue report because of problems students had with virtual classes during the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to keep it open since students have found it useful. The advisory board has received about 20 to 30 reports per week since opening the form on Oct. 5. One of the most commonly reported issues is professors who aren’t accommodating students who must miss in-person classes due to health reasons.  

College sophomore Ellie McKeown filled out the course issue report because she felt that one of her teachers was “actively encouraging sick students to come to class and punishing students who had to quarantine.” 

She filled out two separate course issue reports in the hopes that her professor’s behavior would change. Shortly after submitting the course issue reports, McKeown said the professor sent out a survey to gauge students’ satisfaction with the course, although she is not sure if it is a direct result of action from DAB. After reviewing the form, the professor said he will add more words to the slides and work with Penn's IT department to help him record class sessions. 

The course issue report form asks students to input the full course ID, professor’s name, and issue with the course. Students also have the option to include their name and email address if they want DAB to respond to them, as well as any additional details and files relating to the issue. DAB will work to resolve all students' issues, regardless of whether they are anonymous or not.

Some of the categories for course issue reports include limited accommodations during extenuating circumstances, no replacement or support for students who cannot attend in-person classes, lack of access to required technology, and excessive work requirements.

Once students fill out the course issue report, DAB’s academic committee screens the reports and then sends them to College Dean Paul Sniegowski. DAB Co-chair and College senior Ryan Bush said DAB sends a weekly briefing to Sniegowski with information from the course issue reports that they believe he can help solve. The dean then takes the reports to his team and uses his discretion to respond to each report, Co-chair and College senior Sabhya Raju said. Members of DAB are not permitted to discuss specific course issue reports to preserve confidentiality, Bush said. 

Although the initial focus of the course issue report was to help with the adjustment to online learning, the course issue reports have also shifted to include general issues with classes. Bush said DAB has received reports about professors administering exams during non-academic periods, excessive work quantities, and a lack of office hours.

“We noticed that we were getting a lot of really good feedback on classes and issues students were having that pointed to some more systemic issues or patterns in certain courses or certain types of classes,” Bush said. 

He added that the course issue report helps DAB hold faculty and administration accountable, and ensures that Sniegowski is aware of any issues.

The most important thing students should know about the course issue report is that it is confidential, Raju said.

“Students feel like it’s a good resource,” Bush said. “They are being heard and their opinions are being validated.”

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