Pilot program for e-grades leaves Central’s paper trail behind

(By Tom Di Camillo)

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz.More than 6,000 letters to Central Arizona College students explaining how to access their grades through the Internet began their journey this week across Pinal County and beyond.

Dr. James Smalley, Central Arizona College’s new registrar, hopes it is the last paper trail student grades will ever have to navigate.

In an effort to expedite the grade process, improve customer service, better utilize resources and “go green,” Central Arizona College is undertaking a pilot program to produce E-Grades that has trees breathing a little easier.

“We believe this is a faster, better and more efficient way to do student grades,” said Smalley, who arrived at Central Arizona College from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania in August. “Most American colleges and universities have moved or are moving toward E-Grades for students. It is not nearly as labor-intensive and expensive as paper mailers.”

While the technology is in place for an easy fix, Smalley is also cognizant of the fact that not every student has ready access to the Internet.

“There is some question in the county as to the availability of Internet access for students, and that is part of the reason to run a pilot program,” he explained. “We should get some answers after the pilot program’s first run.”

While some of the costs are hard to quantify, the saving of time and money are obvious, while the ecological and efficiency improvements are more intrinsic.

“It’s hard to get a figure on the amount of man hours being used,” Smalley said, “but it probably takes two or three days of preparation time to do mail grade mailers. It is a day or more of carrying boxes of grade mailers to the mailroom, shredding the carbon copies, running mailers through a bursting machine to separate them, affixing postage – it is extremely labor intensive.”

Instead of having employees work on the mundane, creating electronic grades frees up time to improve customer service and narrow the lag between finals and when students receive their grades.

“Once grades are entered by individual faculty and submitted and verified by the registrar’s office, a click of the mouse rolls the grades and makes them viewable within a few minutes to the qualified student with an internet connection,” Smalley explained.

The E-grades also help improve the transfer process for students heading to a four-year school after graduating from Central Arizona College.

“Most four-year schools want the final semester’s grades before making a decision on admission,” Smalley, whose former school was a four-year institution, said. “E-grades are more quickly processed and added to the transcript, and as a result are more readily available to the four-year schools than paper copies sent by the U.S. Post.”

The pilot program begins this semester with most fall grades posted online by Dec. 21.

To take full advantage of this special new service, students need only to access the Central Arizona College’s website at http://www.centralaz.edu/ and then perform the following steps:

  • Go to  Quick Links (upper right of screen)
  • Click Grades and Transcripts
  • Click Access your grades
  • Follow User Login instructions

“That’s all it takes,” Smalley said. “No more waiting for the delivery carrier or sorting through holiday packages and cards looking for your grade reports.”

Smalley does suggest students practice now before grades are entered so they may become comfortable with the system.

“If a student has difficulty, then he or she is encouraged to call a staff member in the registrar’s office at any campus or center for help,” Smalley said, adding that students with a financial hold on their account may not be able to view their grades.

If students don’t have access to the Internet, Smalley encourages them to contact the campus or center near their home to pick up a copy, or request to have one mailed.


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