Kansas University students anxious about fall semester grades can relax a bit sooner this year because report cards were processed and mailed in record time.
"This is the earliest we've ever got them out," said Richard Morrell, university registrar.
A grade-recording system that relies on optical-scanning equipment permitted KU officials to mail reports for 29,000 students Tuesday.
Grades wouldn't have been mailed for another week or so under the old time-consuming and error-prone system of manually typing grades into a central computer.
"This year it took us more time to sort the grade mailers into bundles for the post office than it did to scan the grades," Morrell said. "What used to take three or four days now is done overnight."
IN 1991, fall semester report cards were mailed in the first week of January. This year, Morrell attained his goal of mailing grades by the end of December.
"The system allows people to go home for Christmas vacation and lets machines do the work," he said.
KU began using optical equipment in the fall semester of 1990. About 80 percent of U.S. universities have installed similar systems, Morrell said.
Before the end of each semester, grade report sheets are distributed to faculty. Course instructors mark the correct grade choice on a small computer card.
Morrell said the cards are fed into a scanner and the grade information is collated by computer. Grade reports are printed on carbon mailers and sorted.
ALTHOUGH the system has reduced some human errors, it isn't perfect, he said. Faculty members sometimes pencil in the wrong grade or inadequately erase an incorrect grade.
"But I think the faculty are accustomed to it now. This is the fourth time at it, so it's getting to become part of the woodwork," Morrell said.
He said the next step is to develop a grade-reporting system that gives faculty the option of sending grades from a personal computer to the university's central computer. That would cut paper consumption, he said.
"We spend a lot of money and paper collecting these grades," Morrell said. "Anything we can do to eliminate paper is the next step we'll take."