Classes and COVID
Margaret Dahlberg, Ph.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs
Our goals at VCSU this fall are clear: Keep the campus healthy. Provide a high-quality, accessible education. And, as much as reasonably possible, provide a personal, face-to-face experience where students can flourish.
VCSU officials have been working with City-County Health officials and within CDC and North Dakota Department of Health guidelines to make certain we have correct protocols in place to support student and employee health. Everyone will need to participate, however, by wearing facemasks in public areas, washing hands regularly, sanitizing workspaces, monitoring personal health, and maintaining good physical distancing practices. All classrooms have reduced capacities; the dining facility will limit seating to 75% capacity (and only 3 people per table); single dorm rooms are available on request; and even game days — assuming we have them — will look different for fans.
We know that some faculty and students will need to stay at home this fall, either for their own health, or to care for a loved one. And some of us will be suddenly absent — perhaps testing positive for the virus or quarantined as a close contact of a family member or roommate who comes down with COVID-19.
To support this uncertainty, all classrooms are being upgraded to include cameras and enhanced audio, so that those who are not able to attend in person may still attend virtually, with the same opportunities for discussion, presentations, and small-group activities that they would experience in person.
This flexible approach will provide synchronous remote course access that keeps students and faculty engaged with everyone in the face-to-face course, whether they are remote or in person on any given day. The actual classroom is available virtually, using cameras and microphones to give the whole classroom experience, not just trained on the faculty presenter.
Remote learners can participate — ask questions, respond to others, even make presentations to the class or attend a small-group meeting. The class is recorded, so those who cannot attend synchronously can watch the class at a later time, and those who need to check on something or who need to listen to part of a presentation a second time can do so.
This will be an ongoing choice: Students can choose whether to attend in person or remotely on any given day.
Students registered in a face-to-face course at VCSU (one with a scheduled meeting time and classroom) will have automatic, synchronous access to the course, and should commit to attending class virtually any day that they cannot attend in person.
This approach does not replace distance or online learning. Students who are not able to attend synchronously on a regular basis should register for an online course, where the course is designed for asynchronous attendance, all students are online, and instructional delivery and engagement are all developed for the online experience.
We look forward to welcoming our students back to campus this fall. Things may be a little different, but by being attentive to each other’s health and well-being, and by working hard to achieve a good educational experience, we can make this upcoming semester a success.
Together — wearing facemasks and employing physical distancing — we’re still better.