Progress in each course

Making satisfactory progress in each course

In the short run, academic success starts at the course level. The grade assigned is an indicator of the relative success a student had in navigating the class. We will focus only on grades that impact a student’s Term Earned Hours and/or the student’s Term GPA. At Oglethorpe, these grades include the common ones (A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D and F) as well as S (Satisfactory), U (Unsatisfactory), FA (Failure Due to Absences) and WF (Withdrew Failing). We will call this collection of grades those which indicate “course completion.” In contrast, there are grades which indicate no concurrent course completion. These grades do not affect either the Term GPA or the Term Hours Earned. Examples of such grades include AU (Audit), I (Incomplete), NS (No Show) and W (Withdrew).

Because we are interested in grades which represent both a course completion (as defined above) and also academic success, we will take course grades corresponding to successful completion as those grades which indicate course completion and also which earn the student academic credit: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D and S. Conversely, course grades which represent unsuccessful course completion are those which indicate course completion but which do not result in earned credit (and which also negatively impact the student’s Term GPA): F, U, FA and WF

Nature of Data

For each semester there is a due date and time for course grades. Starting in the fall semester of 2013, Oglethorpe decided to standardize comparative course grade data by compiling a complete tabulation of all course grades within a few hours of the stated grades due date/time for a semester. In comparing one semester to another we consistently use data fixed in time at these invariant points. It is important to understand that such data is hardly the final word on course grade data. A number of grades will change after the cut-off noted above. For example, grades of I (Incomplete) will be changed to one of the more traditional grades as late or missing work is submitted and evaluated. Some students will file grade appeals which may ultimately cause a small number of course grades to change. But our convention is to use the data frozen in time just after the semester’s grades due date/time in comparing one semester to another, regardless of how many or which grades may change afterward. Since the conventions discussed in this section were initiated in the fall semester 2013, we are limited to presenting data from that semester onward. Also, no attempt is made to tabulate summer school data, as many fewer students participate and a significant proportion of them are transient students, meaning that the student population is very different in the summer. Thus, we will focus on only fall and spring semesters.

Comparison Data

Some schools publish course grade distributions on the web while many do not. Because of the hit-or-miss nature of such data, we cannot come up with a comparison group as we did in the previous section.

Benchmark (Target)

The absence of a reasonable comparison group for course grade data means that choosing a benchmark for success is difficult. For these purposes, we have set a target for % of successful course completion at 93.3% while the target for unsuccessful course completion would be the remaining 6.7%.


Data and AnalysisFall 2013Spring 2014Fall 2014
Number of grades assigned463240134745
% of course grades which represent successful completion94.6095.5094.16
% of course grades which represent unsuccessful completion5.404.505.84