Taking Classes at Signum

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 two avenues of instruction for each course: lectures and discussion sessions.

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

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

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.

Discussion Sessions

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 (eight 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.

Live Lectures

During live lectures (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.)

Faculty-Student Interaction

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, 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.

Course Pages

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.

Discussion Sessions

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 (eight for our language-learning classes).

Class Attendance

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.

Grades

Final course grades are given in terms of honors, passing, or failing:

A90% – 100%Honors (exceeds expectations)
B – C70% – 89%Pass (meets expectations)
D – F0% – 69%Fail (does not meet expectations)

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

Withdrawals

A student may choose to withdraw from the course or switch to auditing status 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 Dean of Faculty).

After week 9 of a course, you may not withdraw or change registration status without written permission of the Preceptor, Lecturer, and the Dean of Faculty. 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.

Refunds

  • In the first 3 weeks of the semester, students may withdraw or change registration status for a complete refund or tuition adjustment.
  • In weeks 4 through 6, students will receive a half refund/tuition adjustment.
  • After week 6, no refund or tuition adjustment will be offered.
  • After week 9, a student may not withdraw or change registration status without written permission of the preceptor, lecturer, and either the Department Chair or the Academic Dean.

Documentation may be required for a withdrawal after week 9 of the course and will only be granted in extreme circumstances.

Incompletes

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

  1. desire to complete the course for credit, but
  2. are unable to finish the work in the final weeks due to extreme circumstances and
  3. 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 Dean of Language and Literature.

Time-Off Policy

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 Dean of Language and Literature in advance or petition to the Dean for readmission after an unexpected and prolonged hiatus.

Academic Probation and Suspension

Students who have failed three or more courses will be put on academic probation and are required to meet with their advisor to develop a plan for improved academic performance. Academic probation is a warning sign, but one in which a student can recover. Probation will be reversed after the successful completion of two additional courses in the program. 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 Dean of Language and Literature and the Teaching Coordinator in conjunction with an academic success plan developed in conjunction with the student’s advisor.

Thesis

Signum M.A. students research and write a Thesis in their last two 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 Guidelines.

Academic Honesty

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 Academic Dean, 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.

Admission Requirements

Each candidate seeking admission to Signum will be required to provide, as part of the admissions process:

  1. A scanned copy of a government-issued photo ID, such as a state driver’s licence or ID, a federal greencard, or a passport.
  2. 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

Informal Verification

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.

Formal Verification

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 with 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.

Accessibility

Signum University is committed to making reasonable accommodations to provide equal educational opportunities for students with disabilities. It is the responsibility of students with documented disabilities to communicate requests for accommodations with their Advisor and their instructors.

Student Evaluations

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 9/24/2020

Questions?

Ask questions or request clarification on student policies, procedures, or anything else in the Student Handbook through our contact form or email [email protected].