Grant expands distance learning for S.D. high school students

ABERDEEN, S.D. (Press Release) – Governor Kristi Noem has approved a $468,850 grant from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to help the Northern State University Center for Statewide E-learning handle larger enrollments this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, 2,400 high school students from 104 South Dakota school districts are served by the E-learning Center. That is an increase of about 22 percent over the entire 2019-20 school year, with spring semester registrations still coming in.

“The grant improves the work of NSU E-learning teachers because it updated the technological infrastructure we rely on to do our work,” said E-learning Principal Mary Cundy.

The grant has funded significant infrastructure upgrades, allowing for more seamless monitoring and support of high school courses that are delivered online. These improvements ensure a better overall product for students.

“This grant has had a tremendous impact on our E-learning Center and the high school students we serve across South Dakota,” said NSU President Dr. Tim Downs. “We are very grateful to Gov. Noem for providing this crucial funding.”

Last spring, Noem praised the efforts of the E-learning Center at a press conference, saying, “Northern’s E-learning Center and others have created greater capacity for supporting remote learning and educational opportunities throughout our state to get the kind of resources out to students that need it, and need to continue their education even though they can’t be in the building.”

So far this year, there has been a steady stream of short-term student absences for quarantines and short-term school closures as a result of the pandemic. When these absences occur, students join their classes from home via a live stream of the class during the scheduled class times or watch recordings of the classes.

“We have about 500 students studying from home long-term. These students are able to interact with their teachers and classmates in real time via their laptops. The quality of their classroom experience is the same, whether they are in classes on site or studying from home,” Cundy said.