On Oct. 6, Kezia Levy ’24 woke up to a concerned email from one of her professors questioning why Levy had not completed her biology exam by the due date. The professor offered to extend the assignment window for an extra two hours so that Levy would not get a zero on the exam. While such an email might normally induce panic, Levy was more frustrated than stressed — this semester, Levy is not even enrolled.
The News interviewed six students who, like Levy, declared leaves of absence before the Sept. 14 deadline mandated by Yale College but after submitting a preliminary class schedule which was due on Aug. 21. All six reported receiving notifications about work they are missing and seeing their Canvas reflect failing grades in courses they are not actually taking. But according to the University Registrar, students need not fret about those grades appearing on any official transcript.
“It is rather concerning to think that somewhere in the Yale system [it] may appear that I am failing five classes,” Levy said. “I know that the system approved my leave, but I still have this irrational fear that these lack of grades will appear on my transcript somehow. I am not personally bothered by professors reaching out, although being reminded about school often makes me nostalgic that I am not experiencing the Yale learning environment I so enjoyed last year.”
Levy is an international student who was initially on the fence about whether or not to enroll in classes. Since the deadline to submit a preliminary schedule was before the deadline to declare a leave, she registered for classes to ensure she would have a course schedule in case she decided to enroll. Currently, her Canvas grades reflect zeroes in all of the classes she originally selected.
Chloe Conaghan ’24, who would have been a sophomore but also decided not to enroll in classes this semester, reported a similar experience in an interview with the News. Because the pandemic situation was changing so rapidly in August, Conaghan wanted to wait until the last day to submit her leave of absence. In order to avoid the fine on OCS for not submitting her course schedule by the deadline, Conaghan submitted a preliminary roster of classes. A few days later, she submitted her leave.
Although the charge for tuition was removed from her Yale account and her leave was processed and approved, she is still currently enrolled in all of her original classes on Canvas. Further, she too has zeroes in all of them, with all assignments marked as “missing.”
“At first I was concerned my LOA wasn’t processed and I had actually been missing classes or even worse, paying tuition,” Conaghan wrote in an email to the News. “Now, I don’t really mind it. It is kind of funny to check a Canvas account and see straight 0’s.
“The Canvas emails are annoying, but sometimes I like to see what each class is working on and the topics they are studying,” she added. “When I am missing Yale or school in general, I check what my should-be-classes are reading.”
According to University Registrar Emily Shandley, Canvas grades are not transferred to official transcripts. She explained that Canvas is a learning management tool that is distinct from the student information system where registration is sealed and final grades are reported. While both systems support course enrollment, they serve different purposes and are managed by different entities.
Shandley added that the Registrar’s Office generates an enrollment census for Yale College each term that verifies the enrollment status of students for the official term record. This information is used by the Faculty Grade Submission application, which creates official course rosters for each class. The rosters on the FGS are updated daily.
Although Canvas receives a feed from the student information system to create the course sites with which students interact, Canvas also maintains a separate roster, because it can host other roles such as shoppers, teaching fellows, auditors and guests who would not formally be enrolled in the course.
“A student who has taken a leave-of absence may still appear on a Canvas roster for a period of time at the beginning of the term, but will not have an official term registration record in the student information system,” Shandley wrote in an email to the News. “Without term registration, there is no course to grade in FGS and no grade to post to the transcript.”
According to professor Ian Turner, while this phenomenon is not particularly stressful for him, it did cause confusion about who is actually taking his courses. One of his official Yale class rosters currently lists 51 students as enrolled. However, Canvas also lists six people still coded as “shoppers.” Some of the students in that category are taking leaves of absence, but others are students who dropped the course and were never removed from Canvas.
Turner does not recall anything like this occurring in previous semesters in his classes. In his opinion, it would be preferable to have a way for instructors, or even students themselves, to be able to remove themselves from the Canvas roster.
“I suspect continually receiving Canvas updates, emails, announcements, etc. for a course you are not enrolled in could get cumbersome for students,” Turner wrote in an email to the News. “But as far as I know, neither I nor the students have the ability to do this right now.”
But while Turner feels empathy for the students in this position, some of the students who are still on Canvas rosters for classes they are not taking instead feel bad for the professors and teaching assistants.
Josephine Holubkov ’24 and Aria Norcross ’24 — both of whom reported being enrolled in classes on Canvas while on their leaves of absence — expressed sympathy for the professors who think students are enrolled and disengaged in their courses. Norcross commented on professors having to reach out to students who appear to be ignoring their work and skipping classes. Similarly, Holubkov commented on how those professors have to expend extra energy reaching out to students who do not actually need the help.
“I honestly just feel bad that that’s something [my professor] has to be concerned about on top of helping students who are actually enrolled,” Holubkov said. “I’m sure she has more than enough on her plate right now.”
Dec. 4 is the last day of online classes for Yale College.
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