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How BSC Thrived

BY KIM SINGER

When BSC and every other college in the North Dakota University System moved to a virtual campus in mid- March, the faculty and staff didn't rest. They adapted quickly to ensure students got the education and support they needed to keep moving forward. The hard work of spring helped shape the highly adaptable experience being offered to students on campus this fall. Read on to see how an abrupt shift led to a Smart Start.


BSC’s campus didn’t close at the end of March, it went virtual. It wasn’t easy with new guidelines being frequently imposed, but professors worked hard to keep students engaged.

Leaders established a unified command structure for making decisions. “Every single decision had students at the heart,” said Karen Erickson, dean of Enrollment Management.

“Every Monday felt like ‘Groundhog Day’ during this time,” said Carla Hixson, recently retired dean of Current and Emerging Technologies. “Every week, the plan we thought would work, we had to restart and repeat until we got it right.”

BSC leadership came up with creative solutions to change how classes were taught. The goal was to make sure students were able to finish strong and earn their degrees and certificates or be prepared for the next year of their program, no matter their field of study.

One example of a creative way to keep students in school was to allow them to move forward with their education at their jobs. “We worked with the employers of two students in our HVAC program to ensure that they were doing on the job what they would have done in labs. Then BSC gave them credit for that work. So when they came back to campus to finish, they didn’t have to do as much,” said Hixson.

Students in other programs, such as the paramedic, lineworker and automotive collision programs, were able to do the same. Additionally, a couple of surgical technology students took positions with the understanding that they could finish their education as part of orientation.

Another approach was to use simulators. Now the nursing program is looking to incorporate a similar plan, along with more focus on the online curriculum. “We created scenarios to increase confidence and problem solving. We also focused on lessons about being a patient advocate and taking charge,” said Hixson. “We purchased software to offer that, and now we’ll use it to increase students’ abilities and confidence in problem solving.”

Faculty for music and art also needed to be creative with their teaching methods. Many, including Doug Klein who teaches guitar lessons, were successful in switching to an online format. Art students were able to pick up their supplies and work from home, and then connected with faculty and fellow students for online critiques.

“What the move to virtual did show my faculty, for the most part, is that they can harness the power of live course streaming to great effect,” said Amy Juhala, dean of Humanities, Arts and Sciences. Hixson said that initially some students panicked, but she took the time to get to know them and calm their fears. “I spent a lot of March and April talking them down, letting them know you can do this. We’ll get you back on campus. We’ll make the connection between theory and hands on when we get you back. We promise.”

BSC leadership delivered on that promise. For the programs that weren’t able to finish on time, students were able to safely attend condensed lab make-up days this past summer in order to complete their certificates and degrees.