NSU ready for fall semester with flexible learning model

Wolf statue wearing mask

ABERDEEN, S.D. – When Northern State University students return to the campus this fall, they’ll be entering a brand new educational environment focused on safety as well as learning.

Though many classes will resume in person, others will be offered online – and, in some cases, through a hybrid model called “HyFlex,” which allows students to participate in class the way that works best for them.

For face-to-face instruction, all classrooms have been evaluated by the deans, associate deans and department chairs to determine the “COVID-19 capacity,” allowing for a minimum of six feet of social distancing between students, said NSU Provost Dr. Michael Wanous.

“Many courses had to be moved to larger classrooms to accommodate COVID-19 capacity,” said Wanous, who led the NSU Fall 2020 Academic Planning Taskforce. “All classrooms will have a supply of cleaning materials for cleaning between class periods. Hand sanitizer dispensers will be distributed generously around campus.”

Masks will be required in classrooms and all public spaces on campus, as mandated by the South Dakota Board of Regents Face Covering Protocol. Wanous said there are certain learning environments where wearing face masks will be especially important since it is difficult to maintain social distancing of at least six feet, such as in science labs.

“Students may gather around a specimen, microscope or other piece of equipment where it is impossible to maintain social distancing,” Wanous said. “The BOR face covering policy addresses this critical need for enhanced safety. Faculty in the sciences and fine arts have developed protocols for the special learning environments in these disciplines.”

Most classes are being taught face-to-face; however, a few faculty members will be teaching completely online, which will provide online options for students who would like to minimize face-to-face environments, Wanous said.

Hybrid Flexible Learning Model

Many of the face-to-face courses will be using a HyFlex model of instruction. HyFlex, which stands for “Hybrid Flexible,” includes face-to-face instruction supplemented with synchronous and asynchronous online components, Wanous said. In synchronous online mode, students in a different location will be able to join the class in real time and participate along with students who are physically present. Asynchronous mode will allow students to review lectures and other learning materials after class, at a time that works best for them.

For questions about specific classes, students can contact their individual professors, said NSU Faculty Senate President Dr. Cheryl Wold. Students can also contact their professional advisor for input, Wanous said, as they have the most up-to-date list of courses that are being taught face-to-face, HyFlex and completely online.

“Academic advisors can help students think through their various options and come up with a solution that best fits their needs during this period of COVID-19,” he said.

Students with disabilities who need accommodations relating to COVID-19 or otherwise should reach out to the NSU Office of Disability Services at 605-626-2371 or nsudisabilityservice@northern.edu. Needs will be determined on a case-by-case basis, said NSU Director of Disability Services Doris Stusiak. Wanous said clear face shields will be provided to professors who have students needing more visibility as a disability accommodation.

Flexibility, Patience are Crucial

With all of the changes planned for fall, Wold encourages everyone to remember to be kind and patient with others.

“Everyone at NSU is doing their best to make sure that students return to campus safely and have a safe experience while here,” she said. “Be willing to let go of the idea how you imagine things should be, and embrace that different ways can be just as effective for your learning experience. Remember we are in this together, and we must all do our part to try to prevent the spread of COVID. Willingly wear masks and practice social distancing for everyone’s safety!”

Stusiak encourages positivity and flexibility.

“It will be important that students try to stay focused and positive along with being flexible,” she said. “It will also be imperative that students reach out for help or guidance when needing help.”

For the most up-to-date information, with resources geared toward students, faculty and staff, please visit the NSU COVID-19 Webpage.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and, soon, an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $120 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.