North Dakota Board of Higher Education moves toward reopening campuses this fall

North Dakota Board of Higher Education moves toward reopening campuses this fall

From the North Dakota coronavirus news roundup of the week: April 26-May 2 series

The State Board of Higher Education is moving toward having students back on the 11 state campuses this fall.

The campuses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have gone to online courses.

On Wednesday, board members unanimously passed a motion expressing their intent to have students return to campus this fall, Prairie Public radio reported.

Board president Nick Hacker said the intent is that campuses will take necessary precautions to protect the students, faculty and staff from the continued pandemic. He said it is still the overall goal of higher education to serve the students.

"In a purely online educational environment, the indications are many students don't thrive or succeed," Hacker said at the board meeting. "The learning environment we're coming to know as the most effective seems to be 'experiential learning.' That happens in an academic setting, that allows for labs, collaboration with other students, collaboration with faculty, and so on."

The student member of the board supported the motion.

"I appreciate the idea of giving students this level of certainty on what their future will look like," said Kaleb Dschaak, a University of North Dakota student.

North Dakota Council of College Faculty representative Debora Dragseth, of Dickinson State University, said the faculty she has visited with are "motivated" to get back in the classroom.

"This is not a good way to teach for most of us," Dragseth said. "For most of us, it is really stressful."

The board also said it’s possible to have students in certain fields that require hands-on learning to be back on campus this summer.

The board will have a further discussion at its May meeting.

Meanwhile, Dickinson State University President Steve Easton announced Wednesday that the school plans to return to face-to-face instruction in the fall, with precautions taken for the safety of students, faculty and staff. The university also plans to open residence halls for the fall semester. 

“Of course, the COVID-19 experience has taught us that things can change, sometimes quickly," Easton said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor the situation and plan accordingly.”

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