FARGO — As a former assistant basketball coach at North Dakota State, Kelli Layman was part of several big games that required intense preparation. It’s part of the reason the Bison won five Division II national championships.

In a sense, in her current job, those feelings haven’t changed this month.

The associate director of athletic academics said it’s too early to tell if the new way of teaching in the COVID-19 pandemic is having an effect on academic performance of the 430 NDSU student-athletes.

“It’s like waiting for game film I guess you could say,” she said, in reference to waiting for grades. “They’re about on par with what we normally would have. Some are excelling, some are in the middle and some are struggling. It’s hard to really know. I’ll say this, the instructors at NDSU have done a mountainous amount of work making this as smooth as they can, whether the students are in class or watching on Zoom.”

Layman said a benchmark will come when she sees mid-term grades, which are not out yet.

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“So it’s hard to gauge right now,” she said. “I’m hopeful that we are right where we need to be but part of me is not exactly sure if we’re where we need to be. I don’t know that. We won’t know that until mid-term grades.”

Like everybody else who works at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex, it’s been a strange fall semester with no competitions. Normally, football would be in the middle of the Missouri Valley Football Conference season.

Volleyball, soccer and cross country would be fighting it out in the Summit League. The Bison men’s and women’s golf teams are playing this fall, but their only meet is wrapping up today in Omaha, Neb.

Team academic honors have been common over the years. NDSU was awarded the Summit League Institutional Academic Achievement Award for 2019-20 with women’s basketball, men’s golf, women’s golf, soccer and softball teams capturing the league’s team academic achievement awards.

The football team had a program-high 3.12 team grade point average last fall and had 72 players make the Missouri Valley Football Conference honor roll.

Layman said in-season athletes have a good grasp of how to balance time constraints, with there not being much room for down time.

“I would say a majority of student-athletes know how to get their work done because there is such a short window,” she said. “It tends to help us when they’re in season.”

The NDSU academic staff is still meeting with students regularly at the SHAC. The space is big enough to socially distance and masks are required. The biggest difference is an appointment is required because the office is only handling 50% of capacity at any one time.

“I don’t want to jinx us but we haven’t had an issue yet,” Layman said. “Hopefully we won’t.”

Meanwhile, NDSU students are working through a high-flex model of study, meaning some classes are done virtually while instructors are able to meet with other students. Asked if online classes pose a greater risk to losing students academically, Layman said that’s a possibility.

“You always risk that, but some students are better online,” she said. “They like it better that way while some need to be in the classroom.”