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DSU President shares feedback from students and staff about online courses

The COVID-19 pandemic meant North Dakota colleges and universities could only offer only online learning for much of  the spring semester.

That began in March.

Colleges are now preparing to reopen for the fall.

Dickinson State University President Dr. Stephen Easton has been hearing a lot of feedback from both students and faculty about how things went since March -- what worked, and what didn't.

"The most common feedback I have heard from students during the semester was, 'Our instructors are working us harder than they were when we wre in a face-to-face environment," Easton said in an interview. "That's interesting feedback."

Easton said as the University President, he was encouraged by that feedback.

"That let me know the instructors were taking the second half of the semester very seriously," Easton said. "They were not just 'mailing it in.'"

When he talked with the instructors, he learned they were adding a lot of graded assignments, in order to make sure students were keeping up with the classes.

"I thought that was a good thing," Easton said.

Easton said the instructors didn't think they were really adding to the students' workload, but they were adding some monitoring.

The University System said it moved 11,000 courses to an online status. Easton said while he believes the migration to online instruction was successful, it can’t totally replace in-person, hands-on classes, especially in programs like science and nursing.

"To watch a video, for example, of someone doing a laboratory experiment is not the same thing as having your hands on and doing it," Easton said. "So we do lose something when we switch from a face-to-face to an online course."

DSU was the first in the University System to have faculty and staff vote to return to face-to-face instruction this fall. The State Board of Higher Education has given campuses the go-ahead to make preparations for that.

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