Arts & Science marks posted on ACORN after delay for some courses

Students expressed concern when fall marks weren’t back by January 15

Arts & Science marks posted on ACORN after delay for some courses

As of January 17, all submitted marks from the Faculty of Arts & Science have been posted on ACORN after some students expressed concern that their grades were not yet posted. The only remaining exceptions are some students in Individual Studies courses or those who deferred an exam.

The faculty’s submission timeline requires that all marks be submitted by January 11 to be reviewed by their corresponding department. Professors have seven days to grade and submit the marks, not counting winter break or weekends. This allows exams taken on the last day of the exam period to have the same seven-day timeline.

Deborah Robinson, Faculty Registrar and Director of Undergraduate Academic Services, told The Varsity that by January 11, 98.1 per cent of courses had their marks posted on ACORN. According to Robinson, the remaining 1.9 per cent had grades posted by January 17. “Not very many courses were late.”

Some students voiced concern about the time they received their grades largely due to the fact that certain fall semester courses were prerequisites for winter semester courses.

Marking delay in some courses leaves students without first-semester grades

Arts & Science registrar says marks should be posted by mid-January

Marking delay in some courses leaves students without first-semester grades

Students in at least six undergraduate courses have yet to receive their marks from the first semester, a delay that has not been explained by the university as of yet.

The Faculty of Arts & Science registrar has tweeted that grades should be available on ACORN by mid-January and has thanked students for their patience.

Students took to online forums over the past week to voice their concerns regarding the missing grades, largely among Computer Science classes.

“So, I’m over a week into the winter semester, and I don’t know whether I should be re-attempting the course (in order to get into the POSt), or continuing my studies in computer science,” wrote reddit user DMihai on the U of T subreddit. “I was hoping I would be out of this limbo soon. Since admission into the computer science post is already incredibly stressful, releasing CSC236 marks this late is insulting.”

Komania, another Reddit user in a different computer science course, CSC324, wrote that prior to writing their final exam on December 16, the class had only 20 per cent of their total mark returned. “I’m venting because I’m really annoyed. I just wish there would be some communication but [the professor] just ignores all of us. I pay $13,000 in tuition and they can’t hire enough TAs to adequately mark.”

Reddit user jjstat4 expressed concern for students who have to decide on back-up courses if they fail CSC236, “as the wait-list end date and drop date rapidly approaches.”

As of press time, marks for CSC236, CSC324, CSC411, STA347, JAV200, and ARC251 have not been posted to ACORN.

U of T Media Relations did not respond to The Varsity‘s inquiries on the grading delays by press time.

If you are a student who has been affected by the grading delay, The Varsity would like to hear from you. Email deputynews@thevarsity.ca with tips.

Editor’s Note (January 17): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that CSC165 had not released course grades by January 15. CSC165 had, in fact, released course grades by January 15. 

Arts & Science students report general course enrolment difficulties

Problems with functionality of ACORN, ROSI

Arts & Science students report general course enrolment difficulties

Following the updated procedures, many students experienced problems with course enrolment on August 5.

After reports of ACORN not working on that date, the official U of T ACORN Twitter account encouraged students to enrol with ROSI.

Ana Fonseca, second-year Neuroscience and Physiology student, told The Varsity that she was not able to log into ACORN until two hours after her start time; she was able to log in to ROSI 45 minutes after her start time and enrol in a course.

After logging into ACORN later on, Fonseca discovered that she was not enroled in her course, perhaps due to a malfunction in ROSI; by this time the waitlist had gone up by 20 spots. Regarding her overall experience, Fonseca said, “It was so much more stress than it should have been.”

Jay Zuo, second-year Computer Science student, said that U of T had “failed us again.” He said both ACORN and ROSI were unresponsive for him from approximately 10:30 am to 12:00 pm.

According to Zuo, there was a glitch in ROSI that may have given some students an unfair advantage over others while enroling in courses: “If you clicked the enrol button repeatedly on ROSI, then click any section on the grey sidebar, six out of 10 times you will be enroled in said course, while others wait fruitlessly.”

U of T Media Relations Director Althea Blackburn-Evans commented on the problems students faced during course enrolment: “Unfortunately, efforts to alleviate potential overload on ACORN didn’t have the desired effect,” she explained.

The university was planning to have ACORN permanently replace ROSI by late 2016; Blackburn-Evans, told The Varsity that “[ROSI] will remain active until we have a good solution in place.”

Blackburn-Evans noted one positive outcome of the staggered enrolment times: students were able to contact staff directly when they encountered problems, as the 9:00 am start time aligned with the start of the business day.

“We’re very focused on improving the enrolment experience for students, and Arts & Science will continue to work with the ACORN team to ensure the new system is stable during heavy enrolment periods,” said Blackburn-Evans.

Faculty of Arts & Science introduces timetable maker

Similar tools already offered by UTM, third-party developers

Faculty of Arts & Science introduces timetable maker

The Faculty of Arts & Science has launched an official timetable planner, which allows students to plan the courses they would like to take.

It is similar to unofficial timetable planning websites such as Griddy, Findacourse, and Semester.ly.  “Other timetabling services may not provide the latest information, and do not include important information about enrolment controls,” reads an email sent to students by the Office of the Faculty Registrar.

UTM already offers a similar service that is almost identical in function to its UTSG counterpart. Both systems offer search options for session, level, subject area, instructor, online courses, date, time, and available space; they also provide enrolment control information. UTSG’s planner additionally allows students to search by department and breadth requirements.

Griddy allows students to search courses by code and session; Findacourse allows students to search courses by code. Findacourse also offers an option to search for courses without prerequisites. Semester.ly allows students to search for courses by department, breadth, level, date and time, and semester.

The Faculty of Arts & Science’s official timetable maker does not include the option to save a mock schedule. With an account, Findacourse and Semester.ly will save the progress students have made; Griddy can create a custom URL for a mock timetable.

Funding boost for graduate students

The Faculty of Arts & Science introduces three-pronged approach to enrich graduate education

Funding boost for graduate students

From the invention of the first electronic heart pacemaker to the discovery of a drought-resistant gene in plants, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science has a legacy of cutting-edge research. From 2010–2014, the faculty pioneered numerous innovations, including 240 new inventions, 24 patents, and 29 start-up companies. Graduate students were the backbone of these novel research findings.

The Faculty of Arts & Science makes up one of Canada’s largest graduate student bodies, hosting 70 graduate programs and 4,299 graduate students, as of 2015. In an era of rapid technological and ideological advancement, graduate students encounter numerous obstacles during the course of their education.

Starting September 2016, a new policy will be in effect to improve graduate education for domestic and international students on all three campuses. The faculty has identified areas of concern and will be addressing them through professional programs, improved financial support, and by allocating resources on a program level.

More specifically, the faculty will be undertaking a three-pronged approach to increase financial support, create networking opportunities, and provide career directions to graduate students. This new initiative emerged through extensive collaboration between graduate students, faculty members, and administrative leaders across the university.

Although this initiative is not directly associated with the 2015 teaching assistants strike, the policy was designed to respond to the needs of graduate students.

“It is important to recognize that the strike itself was reacting to a certain set of circumstances graduate students at this university and not just at this university face,” said Joshua Barker, Vice-Dean of Graduate Education & Program Reviews in the Faculty of Arts & Science. “The challenges that they are facing are real.”

According to Barker, who was appointed in July 2015, improving graduate student education has been on the faculty’s agenda for some time prior to last year’s TA strike. However, it was only last year that the faculty was able to achieve a balanced budget and was finally in the position to institute an increase in graduate funding.

The Fellowship Initiative supports the university’s long-standing commitment to high quality research by increasing the base funding package for all eligible graduate students within the faculty. Starting with an increase of $1,500 in September 2016 to be followed by an additional $250 per year in the next two years, eligible students will receive an overall increase of $2,000 by 2018-2019.

Barker acknowledged that hourly work — like that of teaching or research assistants — poses a significant burden on graduate students and could hinder them from finishing their programs in a timely manner. Rather than increasing the hourly wage of teaching assistants, the direct increase in fellowship income provides students with opportunities to work on their research and recognizes their valuable contributions to the university.

“We are really trying to invest in the students as researchers,” said Barker.

In 2017–2018, the faculty will also oversee the establishment of Program-Level Fellowship Pools, which are financial resources dedicated to each academic unit within the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Barker explained, “The purpose of Program-Level Fellowship Pools is to allow departments and institutes who have graduate students in their program to identify where they have a discipline-specific need which they can provide fellowships for.”

These pools provide academic units with the flexibility to allocate their resources according to their priorities. For example, the Department of Anthropology may choose to invest in pilot fieldwork for graduate students, while other units may focus on introducing additional scholarships or increasing base funding. “All the funds that come through the Program-Level Fellowship Pools will end up in students’ pockets,” noted Barker.

The allocation of resources will be established in a transparent fashion: academic units will identify priorities in consultation with their graduate students and faculty members.

Overall, the Faculty of Arts & Science is undertaking a major investment in graduate education. This initiative marks the third significant change in graduate student funding throughout the history of the university. It is also the first major effort under the 2006–2007 new budget model, in which authority for revenues and spending was shifted from the university to the faculty level. Under the new policy, the faculty will be providing $3.35 million in 2016–2017; this annual investment will double by 2018–2019.

Besides financial support, the faculty aims to prepare graduate students for transition into full-time careers through the establishment of two new programs, Milestones and Pathways. Milestones will provide students with support to successfully complete their graduate training, and Pathways aims to expose students to alternative careers and valuable networking opportunities.

The form of professionalization that graduate students require is often discipline-specific. These new programs within the Faculty of Arts & Science are designed to complement the initiatives undertaken by the School of Graduate Studies, which typically targets broader skill sets required for a wide range of careers.

The Faculty of Arts & Science in conjunction with the School of Graduate Studies will be conducting research over the summer to examine the distribution of graduates in academic and non-academic careers. By examining the career trajectory of previous graduates, administrative leaders within the faculty will gain insight on ways to support current graduate students and to further enhance the their experience.