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FAQ - Academics

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Online Classes

Pass/Fail Grading Impact on Financial Aid

Summer and Fall Classes


Online Classes

Is the university closed?

The university has not been closed, and services are available on campus with limitations. To the extent possible, many services will continue to be provided remotely. Classes moved online on March 18 and remained online for the spring 2020 semester and will now continue through the summer semester.

Faculty instructors, advisors, and other university support staff continue to be available remotely. The university transitioned to a telework environment for the majority of operations on March 16, and continuing until further notice.

How will I access my classes online?

Faculty instructors began contacting students before March 18 with information about how to access course materials and other next steps. Individual faculty will be the primary contact for students during the period of online instruction. Please watch your email regularly as it will be an important source of information from your instructors and the university.

What are there strategies for transitioning to online learning?

There are specific tips and strategies for navigating online courses. These strategies focus on time management, developing habits to support increased virtual communication, and approaches to organizing online work. Academic Coaching is also here to support students virtually through one-on-one academic skills development sessions, which includes organizing online work, breaking down online assignments, and study strategies. Students can sign up for an Online Academic Coaching Session using YouCanBookMe. Students can open the link, select the appropriate appointment type, and then fill out the intake form. On the intake form under "Session Method", students can use Zoom video and input the appropriate information.

Additionally, students are encouraged to work with their faculty to develop strategies as they transition to online learning for each of their classes. Faculty can answer questions about their online class structure and give guidance on how to approach online learning in their class.

What should I do if I don’t have the necessary computer equipment or internet access to participate in my classes?

Please contact your individual faculty members and instructors to discuss arrangements. Faculty are working to be flexible and provide support for students.

Where can I access books, reading materials, etc.?

Faculty are being asked to make every effort to be accommodating, flexible, and supportive. We understand this is difficult and that some students have circumstances that will make it challenging. The AU Library can scan textbooks in their collections or on reserve and link them to class syllabi in Blackboard. Individual faculty will be determining the specific materials and how they will be available for each class, so please look for instructions from your faculty.

What if I don’t have or can’t afford internet service for virtual class participation?

Please consider visiting your local library if social distancing is possible as recommended by the CDC when in public spaces. Also contact your area internet provider to see if they are offering any discounts on internet services to help during this crisis.

What accomodations are available for online classes?

For the duration of online classes during the summer semester, approved disability-related accommodations will work as follows:

Testing Accommodations:

  • Main Campus Students: Make sure that your faculty member has a copy of your Academic Support and Access Center (ASAC) accommodations letter, and work with your faculty member regarding your accommodations. If you need additional assistance or have a new accommodation need, please review the information on ASAC’s website, or contact ASAC at asac@american.edu or 202.885.3360.
  • WCL Students: WCL students should continue to work with the Office of Student Affairs for exam accommodation implementation.
  • Faculty: It is critical that faculty continue to provide reasonable accommodations, including testing accommodations, to students in their online classes. Faculty should pay close attention to students’ ASAC memos and be in contact with students about their accommodations. The ASAC is committed to helping faculty work through challenging situations and can be contacted for guidance at asac@american.edu or 202.885.3360.

Accommodation Guidance for Blackboard Assessments:

  • Can I use Blackboard for accommodated assessments? 
    Exams and quizzes on Blackboard are not compatible with the software many of our students use to take exams. If you plan to use this platform you will need to create alternative assessment formats for students with text-to-speech and speech-to-text accommodations. For questions/guidance, please reach out to exams@american.edu.
  • How do I extend time for a student on Blackboard?
  1. Left click on the small circle next to the assessment title you want to modify
  2. Click “Edit the test options”
  3. Scroll down to “Test availability exceptions”
  4. Click “Add user or Group”
  5. Select the student with accommodations and click submit
  6. Select the criteria for that student (attempts, time, availability)
  7. Click “Submit” all the way at the bottom
  8. More Resources:
    View “Adding Extended Time to Quizzes and Tests in Blackboard.”
    For technical questions, visit the AU Blackboard support page.

Notetaking Technology:

  • For notetaking purposes, you can continue to use both Sonocent Audio Note-Taker and Glean. Livescribe pens can also be used to record online lectures in real time.

ASL and CART Accommodations:

  • Services for synchronous lectures are being provided remotely. Students can continue to request ASL interpreters for meetings with professors, staff, and other course-related activities; interpreters will be provided through video relay. Interpreter and CART requests can be sent to the ASAC via the Interpreter CART Request Form.

Captioning Accommodations:

Faculty and students are also encouraged to use readily available assistive technology supports within their computer’s operating system:

For any questions regarding accommodations please contact the ASAC at asac@american.edu or 202.885.3360.

What remote support services are available?

Remote support services for students, such as the Counseling Center, the Writing Center, Academic Coaching, and Tutoring services will be available while classes are held. Academic advisors will be available, and you should reach out to your individual advisor to schedule a remove appointment.

Academic Coaching is here to support students virtually through one-on-one academic skills development sessions designed to support student thriving. These sessions will assist students in creating engagement opportunities to intentionally interact with their courses virtually. Sessions will be held on Zoom and Skype for students to easily access. Students can sign up for an Online Academic Coaching Session using YouCanBookMe. Students will open the link, select the appropriate appointment type, and then fill out our intake form. On the intake form under "Session Method", students will select Skype Video or Zoom Video and input the appropriate information.

Have registration deadlines for fall and summer classes been extended?

Yes, priority registration for summer and fall classes will be delayed by two weeks. Summer 2020 registration, originally scheduled to begin Monday, March 23, has been changed to Monday, April 6. Registration for Terms 2020T3, 2020T4 originally scheduled to begin Wednesday, March 25, has been changed to Tuesday, April 7. Fall 2020 registration, originally scheduled to begin Wednesday, March 25, has been changed to Tuesday, April 7. Additional details are available on the registration web page. (Please note that WCL follows a different academic calendar).

Pass/Fail Impact on Financial Aid

Will changing my course(s) to a Pass/Fail option cause me to lose my undergraduate federal aid and/or AU Grant?

Generally, students who are making satisfactory academic progress will not be affected by changing grade type. When the Office of Financial Aid reviews your final grades and overall academic progress in May 2020, they will evaluate the following criteria:

  • GPA: As an undergraduate student, you must maintain at least a 2.00 cumulative GPA to remain eligible for federal financial aid/AU Grant. Per AU’s Undergraduate Academic Regulations, a grade of "P” or "FZ” on a Pass/Fail grading option does not impact the GPA. If your GPA is otherwise 2.00 or better, then any course grades on a Pass/Fail grading option will not impact your eligibility for aid.
  • Credits Completed: Undergraduate students must complete at least two-thirds (66.67%) of all attempted credits. A grade of “P” counts as a successfully completed course while a grade of “FZ” does not. Earning a grade of “P” will not impact to your eligibility; however, earning an “FZ” could impact your eligibility if it results in you dropping below the required two-thirds completion rate.
  • Maximum Time Frame: Undergraduate students must complete their degree program within six years to remain eligible for aid. Since most students complete their program within four years, changing your grade option is not likely to impact your eligibility.

Will changing my course(s) to a Pass/Fail option cause me to lose my undergraduate merit scholarship?

Generally, students who are making satisfactory academic progress will not be affected by changing grade type. When the Office of Financial Aid reviews your final grades and overall academic progress in May 2020, they will evaluate the following criteria:

  • GPA: Undergraduate students must maintain at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA to remain eligible for undergraduate merit scholarships. Per section 3.4.1 of the AU UG Academic Regulations, a grade of "P” or "FZ” on a Pass/Fail grading option does not impact the GPA. If your GPA is otherwise 3.20 or better, then any course grades on a Pass/Fail grading option will not impact your eligibility for aid.
  • Credits Completed: Undergraduate students must complete at least two-thirds (66.67%) of all attempted credits. A grade of “P” counts as a successfully completed course while a grade of “FZ” does not. Earning a grade of “P” will not impact to your eligibility; however, earning an “FZ” could impact your eligibility if it results in you dropping below the required two-thirds completion rate.
  • Maximum Time Frame: Merit scholarships are only available for a maximum of four years/eight semesters. If changing the grading option will extend your anticipated graduation date, then it could impact your eligibility if it causes you to exceed the maximum time frame to receive the award. If you are getting close to that limit, consult your academic advisor to ensure that any course/courses will still count towards your degree completion if you change to a Pass/Fail grading option.

Will changing my course(s) to a Pass/Fail option cause me to lose my graduate financial aid?

Generally, students who are making satisfactory academic progress will not be affected by changing grade type. When the Office of Financial Aid reviews your final grades and overall academic progress in May 2020 (June for students on the four-term calendar), they will evaluate the following criteria:

  • GPA: As a graduate student, you must maintain at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA to remain eligible for your federal financial aid. Per section 3.5 of the AU Graduate Academic Regulations, a grade of pass or fail on a Pass/Fail grading option does not impact the GPA. If your GPA is otherwise 3.0 or better, then any course grades on a Pass/Fail grading option will not impact your eligibility for aid.
  • Credits Completed: Graduate students must complete at least two-thirds (66.67%) of all attempted credits. A grade of “P” counts as a successfully completed course while a grade of “FZ” does not. Earning a grade of “P” will not impact to your eligibility; however, earning an “FZ” could impact your eligibility if it results in you dropping below the required two-thirds completion rate.
  • Maximum Time Frame: Graduate students must complete their degree programs within 6 years (Master’s) or 9 years (PhD candidates).

Will changing my course(s) to a Pass/Fail option cause me to lose my graduate merit scholarship?

Graduate merit scholarships are managed by individual programs–this includes all renewal decisions. Please follow up with your graduate program director regarding the impact, if any, that this may have on your tuition remission and/or stipend.

Summer and Fall Classes

Why did AU offer a 10 percent discount for summer? Why wasn’t it higher?

As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, we know students and families are facing increased financial hardship. We provided this discount to support our students and to provide additional educational opportunities.

AU provided this discount to offer financial relief to students and their families and more additional options for students to advance their education. For a typical summer schedule of two courses (6 credits), this discount translates into approximately $1,000 in savings. We hope the 10 percent discount can help students complete additional courses for less than the standard costs in fall and spring, which can be useful in a time of economic uncertainty.

Why is AU not providing a discount for spring tuition since courses are being taught online?

Throughout the COVID-19 situation, we have taken unprecedented steps to support our campus community and deliver our robust, high-quality education to students.

Our faculty worked to ensure a smooth transition to online instruction and incorporate innovative solutions that delivered the AU education to students no matter their location. During this time, students continued to have access to our faculty and the wide range of academic and support services that are the foundation of our educational mission. Our academic advisers were available throughout the spring semester to support students in the transition and a special cross-functional team was deployed to help students with any technological or connectivity challenges. With campus operations curtailed in compliance with safety orders, AU students were engaged with new ways of experiencing a wide variety of typical university activities, including webinars with our staff, virtual debates and student government elections, and numerous online events.

While COVID-19 presented a new set of circumstances, online education is not new for American University or our students. There are typically more than 500 online classes each year that are equivalent to our face-to-face instruction and have the same requirements and tuition levels. Students still received full credit for completing their courses.

Will financial aid be available to me for summer courses?

Institutional financial aid is not available in the summer for undergraduate students who are not enrolled in the three-year BA programs. One of the reasons we offered the summer tuition discount was to help undergraduate students who may want to take summer classes but do not receive their regular financial packages in the summer. Additionally, we wanted to help students continue their studies if they chose without the fall and spring costs of housing, meal plans, and travel. Students may still be eligible for federal financial aid to assist with the summer cost.

Institutional financial aid for graduate students is determined by each individual school and is predominately allocated for the fall and spring semesters. However, graduate students are eligible to receive federal financial aid in the summer if they are enrolled at least half-time and the courses taken are applicable toward their degree, assuming they are making satisfactory academic progress and meeting all the standard conditions. Graduate students will also be offered a discount on summer classes in summer 2020 in order to help them continue their studies without having to be on-campus.

Will the pass/fail option apply for summer courses? What is the timeline for withdrawing from summer courses?

Summer courses will use the traditional grading system. Withdrawal for summer courses will following the existing schedule, with additional information available on the Registrar’s website.

If I am part of AU’s existing online programs, will I receive the discount?

Yes, the 10% tuition discount does apply to Summer 2020 courses, taught through our existing online programs.

Are Washington College of Law classes included in the discount?

Yes, the 10% tuition discount does apply to Summer 2020 WCL law courses.

Are all classes being offered for summer online? If not, when can I expect and how will I know more classes have been added?

We are in the process of adding additional classes to the summer schedule. Please visit the Registrar’s Schedule of Classes for updates. Summer registration for graduate and undergraduate students began on Monday, April 6 and continues through June and July, depending on the start date of each session. There are no assignment times for registering for summer classes. Students can check the summer registration schedule for additional information.

What is the billing process for summer classes?

Students will be able to see their summer charges due immediately upon registration. Summer 2020 bills are due by June 1, 2020. The Summer Payment Plan is available for three months: May 1, June 1, and July 1. Please visit the Student Accounts website for the application. If there are extenuating circumstances, please contact AUCentral@american.edu for additional assistance.

Will academic supports like the Writing Center and/or Math/Stats Lab be available for students taking summer courses?

Yes. The following academic support programs will continue to operate over the summer and will be available for virtual appointments:

Academic Coaching

One-on-one sessions between a student and a professional academic coach to build or enhance time management, organizational, reading, note taking, test taking, and study skills. Virtual coaching appointments can be scheduled on YouCanBookMe.

Math and Statistics Lab

The Math/Stat Tutoring Lab and the Physics/Computer Science/Statistical Software Support has moved online. Students can schedule one-on-one tutoring sessions for exam review, homework assignments, and understanding concepts.

Tutoring Lab

The Tutoring Lab offers one-on-one tutoring sessions for selected courses in disciplines such as Accounting, Biology, Chemistry, and Economics to provide hands-on practice, discuss best strategies for studying, and assist with understanding course content. Virtual appointments are available.

Writing Center

One-on-one sessions with a student writing consultant to help address assignments, understand the conventions of academic writing, and learn how to revise and edit work. Virtual appointments are available through the Writing Center scheduling portal.

What technical requirements are necessary to engage in online coursework?

While individual requirements for courses may vary, the minimum technical specifications required to participate in an online learning course can be found by visiting the Online Learning webpage. If you have specific concerns about technology needs or access, please contact Sara Biggs at sbiggs@american.edu.

Will in-person classes resume in the fall?

American University will be open this fall, providing the high-quality, dynamic educational experience that is the foundation of our mission while taking all necessary steps to safeguard our community by following the guidance of global, national and local health and government officials. We all want to return to our beloved campus, and we are exploring many scenarios for the fall involving in-person, online and hybrid models and will make a decision that is at the intersection of the best available information about health and safety and our ability to implement our work and educational pursuits at the highest level. Our approach is designed to yield the right structures for our current undergraduate and graduate students and our incoming first-year students. The upheaval of the past several months demands an educational experience and community that is supportive, flexible, and presents a wide range of options that meet individual needs.

AU’s actions to-date, our ongoing planning processes and key task forces, and important upcoming dates are captured in this summary one-pager. The key task forces, comprised of AU’s academic and administration leaders and key experts, are actively developing options for the fall along with the COVID-19 Working Group.

Should online instruction be required to ensure health and safety, AU is ready. Announcement of the fall plans will be made by mid-June.