Completing semester at distanceWith much cooperation, persistence and hard work by the entire community and beyond, Valley City, N.D., has been fortunate to avoid catastrophic loss of property or damage from the flooding Sheyenne River.
By: Steve Shirley, INFORUM
With much cooperation, persistence and hard work by the entire community and beyond, Valley City, N.D., has been fortunate to avoid catastrophic loss of property or damage from the flooding Sheyenne River. No doubt there have been some losses, inconveniences and disruptions, but there has been no loss of life and no widespread/citywide flooding. At Valley City State University, we are engaged in the important work of finishing this academic year online and at a distance while Valley City moves into recovery mode.
It is important to note and distinguish that VCSU is completing the spring semester via distance-based and technology-based methods and that we have not canceled the semester, as had been stated in some media reports. The spring semester continues at VCSU; it is simply occurring at a distance rather than on the physical campus. It is also important to note that the VCSU campus is completely dry and safe.
VCSU is in an excellent position to complete the semester despite the fact our students will not be on campus the final few weeks. Because our students attend a laptop university, they each have computers equipped with the latest software and configured to work well in a distance-learning environment. Our online learning management system allows our faculty to teach courses and allows our students to learn in ways similar to their on-campus experience. Many of our faculty routinely use these assets in their on-campus courses, so for them this transition is almost transparent. As part of the flood preparations, our IT staff has worked diligently ensuring all necessary technology services remain available as our students complete the semester.
To be sure, the face-to-face classroom interaction is important in the educational experience and will be missed as we complete coursework at a distance. Our students departed campus for Easter break believing they would only be away for a long four-day weekend. Mother Nature had other plans, and our students were not able to return for the final few weeks to enjoy springtime on campus, say goodbye to their friends and professors, and routinely end the academic year in a fashion we normally take for granted. We look forward to seeing our graduating seniors back on campus for commencement, which will occur as scheduled on Saturday, May 16.
Adversity often brings out the best in people, and I have seen our faculty, staff and students, as well as the rest of the Valley City community, demonstrate this every day for the past month. We have seen the very best in all of our citizens throughout North Dakota and Minnesota all spring in fighting and winning the flood battles. At VCSU, we are rising to the challenge of completing the semester without benefit of an on-campus presence. At the same time, we are committed to providing a quality educational experience for our students.
Shirley, Ph.D., is president of Valley City State University.