How Our Courses Work
The Graduate School strives to deliver rigorous courses that are nonetheless flexible and enjoyable. One of the ways we accomplish this goal is by providing three avenues of instruction for each course: lectures, discussion sessions, and an asynchronous message board.
Each course also requires reading, papers, and other assignments and assessments. However, the discussion sessions and lectures make up the bulk of classroom instruction for our students.
Lectures in Live Courses and Flex Courses
Each course will include a series of bi-weekly lectures in which the lecturer will elaborate on topics introduced in the assigned reading and provide additional context or instruction related to the course topic. How the lectures are delivered depends on whether the course is a live course or a flex course.
Live Courses offer students brand-new course content, delivered by world-class faculty, specifically designed for us. Live courses generally feature twice-weekly live lectures, giving students a highly interactive classroom experience. These lectures can be accessed by students through the online classroom after they are held to allow for rewatching them or watching them if, for whatever reason, it was missed live. Lectures are supplemented by weekly or bi-weekly live Preceptor discussion sessions.
Flex Courses offer students maximum flexibility in accessing and scheduling their weekly course material. Pre-recorded lectures delivered by the Lecturer can be accessed anytime through the online classroom, allowing students the freedom to schedule their own learning. Flex Courses also have interactive learning as their core, providing students with synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities via required live Preceptor discussion sessions and online forums.
At the heart of our courses are discussion sessions – weekly or bi-weekly small-group conversations that give students an opportunity to converse with their peers about the course’s lectures, readings, and related topics.
This sort of direct engagement is one of the critical components many online degree programs often fail to incorporate into their curricula. At Signum, however, we want to make sure that students are working together to share ideas, ask questions, and debate issues related to the course topic. Discussion sessions are conducted using our classroom software and guided by Preceptors. Auditors who enroll at the discussion auditor level will also participate in weekly or bi-weekly discussion sessions. The maximum size for each discussion group is twelve participants (ten for our language-learning classes).
Courses are offered during three 12-week terms each year. Signum’s course weeks run Monday through Sunday, and all times are listed as Eastern Standard or Eastern Daylight.
Signum’s Online Learning Environment
The Signum classroom uses conferencing software to connect students with Lecturers and Preceptors during live lectures and discussions.
During lectures in Live Courses (usually two each week per course), students and auditors can log into the live lecture to watch and listen to the lecturer’s presentation.
While you will not be able to speak during live lectures, you will be able to submit comments and questions to the Lecturer at any time during the presentation. This gives both credit students and auditors the ability to engage synchronously with the Lecturer, without having to remember to send an email later. (In the event that not all comments or questions can be answered during the lecture, many Lecturers will often respond via email or discuss the topic in the next class.)
One concern that people often have with regard to online learning is whether they will have access to the instructors. At a traditional college or university, many instructors establish “office hours” when students can stop by to ask questions, clarify assignments, and receive additional recommendations for further readings or research. At Signum University, we believe that collaboration between students and instructors is an important aspect of the educational environment. Therefore, current course Lecturers and/or Preceptors are available by email, discussion forum, or video chat so you can connect directly with them to ask questions, clarify ideas, and discuss paper topics.
Students must always use their Signum student emails to communicate with faculty and Signum staff. Faculty and staff will always use your Signum student email when they communicate with you.
Student Support and Resources
Signum’s Digital Campus extends well beyond the live-instruction interface. The University also offers ways for students to access course materials and other resources, receive assistance, and engage with each other outside of the classroom. See Student Services at Signum University for more information.
Each course receives its own page in our digital campus where credit students and auditors can access course information and materials, including:
- The course syllabus and discussion session assignments
- Weekly schedules with links to assignments, readings, lectures, and other materials
- A discussion forum where students, auditors, and instructors can exchange ideas about topics brought up in class or related issues
- An archive of recorded class lectures to download for listening or viewing later
These course pages are typically made available before the course begins, so that you can access materials and start readings ahead of time, if you desire. The course pages will also be available after the end of the course, so that both credit students and auditors can continue discussions in the forums and access downloadable materials for review and further study.
Credit students and discussion auditors will also engage in weekly or bi-weekly moderated discussion sessions using the classroom software. During these discussions, all participants will be able to talk directly with each other to present ideas, debate issues, and ask questions related to the course.
The discussion sessions are moderated by Preceptors, who will be able to direct the course of the conversation as appropriate and when necessary. Each discussion group will be no larger than twelve participants (ten for our language-learning classes).
Credit students must meet the following attendance requirements:
1. Students must actively demonstrate a pattern of engagement in the various synchronous and asynchronous aspects of the Signum course experience including viewing lectures, reading assigned materials, attendance and participation in the synchronous preceptor sessions, and thoughtful participation on the course discussion board.
2. You must attend all lectures either by synchronous participation at scheduled times or by watching or listening to archived lectures.
3. You must attend weekly or bi-weekly discussion sessions with no more than two (2) absences per term. Any additional, unavoidable absences must be discussed with the Preceptor ahead of time, at which point the Preceptor may, at his or her discretion, accept the submission of work. If you miss three (3) or more discussion sessions, you will be academically withdrawn from the course unless other arrangements have been made.
4. Participation in the course classroom and in discussion sessions must give evidence that you have watched or listened to the lectures and read the assigned texts critically and thoroughly.
5. At least once in every course, the preceptor of the course has students in the live class turn on their cameras and confirms their identities by comparison with their archived and certified picture originally sent in during the Admissions process.
6. Lecturers and Preceptors may reserve the right to modify these guidelines to suit the needs of their courses.
Assignments and Examinations
Required assignments for credit students include but are not limited to
- Course readings, which must be completed each week before the first lecture of that week as lectures and discussions will concentrate on the assigned texts
- Assignments and/or papers, the number, length, and topics of which will be determined by the faculty team and explained in the syllabus
- Class participation in live or archived lectures and discussion sessions
- Preparation for discussion sessions, as assigned by the section Preceptor, before each session
- Additional assessments as determined by the faculty team
Further, you are expected to engage in timely communication with instructors, whether by email or discussion boards.
Exams vary according to instructor and class; specific instruction will be provide on the course syllabus and/or in the course classroom. Some instructors give periodic exams throughout the course. Others require a midterm and a final while still others give only a final. Instructors may choose whether finals are cumulative or not.
Exams may be written or oral. Written exams may be one large essay, several small essays, or a mixture of essay and objective questions. Oral exams may be pre-prepared and/or question and answer with members of the faculty team. Instructors will also give at least one oral assessment during the term.
Final course grades are given in terms of honors, passing, or failing:
Honors (exceeds expectations)
Pass (meets all or most expectations)
Fail (does not meet expectations)
A grade of “honors” (H) indicates that the student has demonstrated proficiency in all or nearly all areas covered by the course, surpassing the basic competency expected of passing students. A student who achieves a grade of honors will have mastered the topics and skills covered in the readings, lectures, and assigned work, demonstrating facility with these during class discussions and in all or most written and oral assessments. The majority of the student’s submitted coursework will be exemplary at the graduate level; some may merit further development for external audiences.
A grade of “pass” (P) indicates that the student has demonstrated sufficient competence in most areas covered by the course. Taken together, the student’s written work or translations will indicate comprehension of the set readings and other relevant material, including lectures and topics covered in class discussions. The student’s work will demonstrate knowledge of core course material and evince an ability to apply that knowledge to relevant texts and topics both generally and specifically at the graduate level.
A grade of “fail” (F) indicates that the student’s work in the course does not demonstrate sufficient completion, understanding, or application of the course material to allow the student to progress. Individual graded work may not be of sufficient quality for the graduate level; the student may not have gained skills that will allow him or her to complete work in later courses within a relevant sequence; or one or more required components of the course may be incomplete.
Students may receive letter or percentage grades on individual assignments, at the Preceptor’s discretion, but final course grades will be H/P/F.
Withdrawal and Incomplete Policy
A student may choose to withdraw from the course according to the following schedule; however, certain financial and academic consequences will apply as outlined below.
Credit students who drop a course during the first 3 weeks of a 12-week class will receive no grade for the course on their transcripts. Between weeks 3 through 9 students wishing to withdraw must communicate with the Registrar, Bursar, and the student’s Academic Adviser. If the withdrawal occurs in week 3–9 and you are in good academic standing in the course at that time, a grade of W (for “Withdrawal”) will be recorded. If you are not in good academic standing at that time, as determined by the Preceptor, a grade of F will be recorded. After week 9, an automatic F will be recorded (except in unusual circumstances and with the special permission of the Preceptor and either the Teaching Coordinator or Director of the Graduate School of Language and Literature).
After week 9 of a course, you may not withdraw status without written permission of the Preceptor, Lecturer, and the Director of the Graduate School of Language and Literature. You are not required to submit any documentation in order to obtain a voluntary withdrawal until after week 9; documentation may be required for a withdrawal after week 9 of the course and will only be granted in extreme circumstances.
- In the first 3 weeks of the semester, students may withdraw for a complete refund.
- In weeks 4 through 6, students will receive a half refund.
- After week 6, no refund will be offered.
- After week 9, a student may not withdraw without written permission of the preceptor, lecturer, and either the Department Chair or the Director of the Graduate School of Language and Literature.
Documentation may be required for a withdrawal after week 9 of the course and will only be granted in extreme circumstances.
An Incomplete grade is not automatically granted to students seeking to extend deadlines for course assignments. It is only to be granted in the case of extraordinary extenuating circumstances. Students may apply for an I (for Incomplete) grade if they
- desire to complete the course for credit, but
- are unable to finish the work in the final weeks due to extreme circumstances and
- have been able to complete the course’s attendance and participation requirements.
If you have been unable to keep up with attendance and participation requirements, you should withdraw rather than seek an Incomplete.
To apply for an Incomplete grade, you must submit a written request to the Preceptor for the enrolled course. Approval is granted at the discretion of the Preceptor, who will consult with the Teaching Coordinator.
If the Incomplete is approved, the Preceptor will be responsible for setting all requirements for you, submitting the Incomplete grade to the Registrar, and communicating the situation with your Advisor. The Incomplete must be submitted within 14 days of the final exam (along with all final grades for the course).
After approval, you will have until 4 weeks into the following term to submit all remaining coursework to the Preceptor in order to receive credit for the course.
Academic Progress Policies
Students are expected to progress through the MA program steadily. Signum acknowledges, however, that some life factors at times intervene to interrupt or disrupt a student’s studies. Signum has three policies, therefore, which provide boundaries for a student’s participation in our program and which therefore help to guide our students through to program completion.
Time Frame for Completion
Students are expected to complete the Signum MA Program within the following time frames, based on their level of enrollment, as follows:
- For full-time students (minimum of four courses per semester, with no more than one semester off per year): two years
- For half-time students (two or three courses per semester, with no more than one semester off per year): four years
- For quarter-time students (one course per semester): eight years.
Students who need to extend their studies past the expected time of completion relevant to their enrollment level must first request approval from the Director of the Graduate School of Language and Literature.
Annual Portfolio Review
Because Signum relies on a honors/pass/fail grading system, we want to ensure that students whose coursework consistently falls into the “pass” range are progressing towards mastery of essential course or program outcomes and will be able to complete all program requirements, including the research, analysis, and writing required to complete a MA thesis. At the end of each year in which a student has completed two or more courses at Signum, the student will submit a Portfolio for review. The student’s Advisor will coordinate a review of the Portfolio by at least one member of the Signum Faculty, who will review the Portfolio and evaluate the student’s progress towards the MA Program outcomes, bearing in mind the number of courses the student has already completed. The representative Faculty member(s) will in most cases be either the student’s Academic Mentor or a faculty member who has precepted a class with the student during the previous academic year, although the selection may be left to the Advisor’s discretion.
The Annual Portfolio should contain between one and three pieces of representative coursework that the student has submitted for Signum classes in the academic year under evaluation. The student may select these pieces, which should be labeled with the semester and name of the course in which they were first submitted. The student may revise any or all work in light of feedback given on the original (class) submission, but this is not mandatory.
During the review of an Annual Portfolio, the Advisor and Faculty member will identify any areas that the student should prioritize in future courses or work to improve with the assistance of future preceptors or the Signum academic support system. In addition, they will make one of the following determinations:
- The Advisor and Faculty member may determine that the student has made satisfactory academic progress based upon the number of courses the student has completed.
- The Advisor and Faculty member may determine that the student does not demonstrate sufficient progress in one or more core areas of scholarship but still has time to improve. In these instances, the Advisor and Faculty member may place the student on Academic Probation. A student on Academic Probation will work with his or her Faculty Advisor to develop a plan for improved academic performance. Probation is reversed after the student successfully completes two additional courses in the program and submits a new or updated Portfolio that reflects sufficient progress towards program outcomes.
- The Advisor and Faculty member may determine that the student does not demonstrate sufficient progress and is unlikely to complete the MA program based on the quality of work submitted and/or the number of courses remaining. In these instances, the Advisor and Faculty member will recommend that the student transfer to the Diploma program (if the student has completed fewer than five courses) or accept a Graduate Diploma in lieu of a MA (if the student has completed more than five courses). A student who transfers to the Diploma program may apply to return to the MA program with the presentation of a satisfactory Annual Portfolio, as described below.
Because a grade of “Honors” indicates “work that exceeds expectations and has already achieved professional mastery,” a student whose mastery of coursework has been recognized with a grade of “H” in one or more Signum courses during the academic year will be exempt from submitting an Annual Portfolio at the end of that academic year.
Satisfactory Academic Progress
All Signum MA students are expected to take classes at least quarter-time. A quarter-time MA student is considered to be making satisfactory academic progress when he or she successfully passes an average of two (2) courses each academic year for five of the first six years of enrollment, failing or repeating no more than two courses during this time and taking off no more than eight semesters in total across the six years except where approved for leave or readmission by the Director of the Signum Graduate School. A quarter-time student should complete the MA thesis within eight semesters of the completion of the tenth completed (passed) course.
Because of the less formal nature of the Graduate Diploma, any student may complete this degree at his or her own pace. In an instance in which a Diploma student wishes, after successful completion of his or her fifth course, to upgrade to the MA program, the student will demonstrate satisfactory academic progress through the presentation of an Annual Portfolio or through the recognized completion of honors-level coursework and the Director of the Signum Graduate School will assign the student a new time to completion based upon the student’s anticipated enrollment level.
Insufficient Academic Progress
The first point of contact for a MA student who is unable to meet minimum standards of progress is the student’s Signum Advisor, who will have a serious conversation with the student about his or her options and help the student make a plan moving forward. If the student does not demonstrate sufficient progress based on the Annual Portfolio, any attending Faculty members will also be able to offer input.
Should a MA student fail to complete the requisite number of courses within the established time frame for completion, the student will be transferred to the Diploma program and will need to apply to the Director of the Signum Graduate School for readmission to the MA program, as described above.
Students who fail five courses in total will be suspended from the MA program and will no longer be able to enroll in further classes. Appeals to have a suspension from the program lifted can be made to the Director of the Signum Graduate School as described above.
Signum MA students may take up to two consecutive semesters off from their coursework at their own discretion and without seeking permission (though we encourage students to inform their Signum Advisors of their plans, as always). Students who need to take more than two consecutive semesters off should either seek the permission of the Director of the Graduate School of Language and Literature in advance or petition to the Director for readmission after an unexpected and prolonged hiatus.
Academic Probation and Suspension
A student can be placed on Academic Probation either when the Advisor and a Faculty member, upon review of the Annual Portfolio, determine that the student has not demonstrated sufficient progress in one or more core areas of scholarship or if the student fails three or more courses across the program. The student will be removed from Academic Probation when he or she successfully completes two additional courses in the program and submits a new or updated Portfolio that reflects satisfactory progress towards program outcomes.
Students who have failed five courses total will be suspended from the program. Appeals to have a suspension from the program lifted are made to the Director of the Graduate School of Language and Literature and the Teaching Coordinator in conjunction with an academic success plan developed in conjunction with the student’s advisor.
Signum M.A. students research and write a Thesis in their last three terms of Signum studies. A Thesis is a substantial work, written in close consultation with a Thesis Director, that demonstrates original scholarship in the fields of language and/or literature. You can find more info in the Thesis Process.
In accordance with educational, legal, and moral standards throughout the academic community, Signum University expects and requires that all work submitted by students will be the product of their own personal effort. This means that you will never engage in plagiarism, cheating, collusion, or other forms of dishonest academic practice. Instead, you will produce their own assignments using correct, thorough citation in an accepted style. You will indicate and integrate quotes into your work properly and include full bibliographic information.
You will not deliberately attempt to gain advantage by presenting someone else’s work as if it were your own or duplicating another person’s work without acknowledgment of the original source. You will behave with integrity and be diligent students, avoiding those poor habits that could result in unintentional breaches of academic trust. You will maintain open communication with their faculty members in order to receive guidance on any matters relating to the use of source material.
The consequences of any form of cheating or plagiarism are severe because the offense is serious. All instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Department Chair and/or the Director of the Graduate School of Language and Literature, and a record will be maintained. Depending upon the severity of the incident and the nature of the assignment, the consequences may include a warning and a chance to resubmit the assignment, a reduced assignment grade, failure of the assignment, failure of the course, probation, suspension, or expulsion from the institution.
Identity Verification Policy for Students
In order to ensure the credibility of qualifications awarded by Signum and so protect the hard work undertaken by our students in achieving an MA degree, we recognize it is necessary to implement security measures to protect against fraud and confirm that those who register for Signum classes are those attending and completing course work. At the same time though these procedures should be minimally intrusive and burdensome for both staff and students.
Each candidate seeking admission to Signum will be required to provide, as part of the admissions process:
- A scanned copy of a government-issued photo ID, such as a state driver’s license or ID, a federal greencard, or a passport.
- A scanned photo of themselves, recently taken, which clearly and indisputably matches the person depicted on the photo ID
Where there are good and legitimate reasons why a name or other distinguishing characteristic does not match the supplied documentation, a waiver may be sought provided that additional evidence can be supplied showing why there is a discrepancy. Legitimate reasons for example would be marriage after documents were issued.
The Admissions Coordinator will formally certify that they believe the submitted ID to be genuine and that the name and details of the person accord with other supplied information, such as transcripts of previous educational attainments
Staff interacting with students, including within teaching sessions, are required to be alert to the possibility of fraud, and if they have any doubts about the authenticity of supplied work or the person participating in classroom sessions they should raise this with the Chief Academic Officer.
Once each semester, in a randomly chosen week, each Preceptor will require each of the students present in their session to turn on their webcam, so that they can confirm that the person logged in and participating is the same person depicted in the photo supplied to the Admissions Coordinator.
Where a student is absent for the verification session, they will be contacted and required to make arrangements for them to submit to a similar verification by webcam.
Student Privacy and Rights
Signum students always have the right to see their own educational records and to request that a change be made if they believe their records to be inaccurate or misleading. Signum will maintain confidentiality about students’ personal, financial, and educational information. The only people who will be granted access to students’ private information are Signum staff who require access in order to fulfill their duties and members of state and accreditation evaluation teams where their evaluations necessitate incidental access to student information. No one else will be granted access without the written permission of the student, a court order, or a lawfully issued subpoena.
Signum does reserve the right to make some student information public, either within the Signum community or on its public website. This information may include a student’s name, address, telephone number, email address, hometown, photograph, degree concentration, class schedule, dates of attendance, degrees, awards received, and most recent previous educational institution. Any student who wishes to restrict the release of any of this information may do so through a written request to the Student Records Coordinator.
Signum University is committed to offering exceptional and accessible live teaching to a global community of students, including students for whom traditional in-person instruction may present logistical challenges. Signum is committed to working with and providing appropriate services and academic accommodations that allow all students equal opportunity in their classes and the university community.
The process of obtaining an accommodation, or modifying an existing accommodation, is initiated by the student and supported by the student’s advisor; decisions are made by the Accommodations Coordinator. Please click here to see the Accessibility Policy and here for a list of steps in the process.
Signum values the opinions and input of its students. At the end of each course, you will be asked to fill out a brief survey, assessing the course itself, your Preceptor, and Signum’s online learning systems. Please be open and honest in your responses so we can learn how to better meet our students’ needs.
Updated March 2022