NSU helping with Center for Statewide E-Learning

ABERDEEN, S.D. (Press Release) – When high school students needed to learn from home this spring, the state Department of Education turned to the pioneer of distance education in South Dakota for help: the Center for Statewide E-Learning at Northern State University.

The NSU E-Learning Center responded, making coursework in mathematics, science, English and social science available on its High School Online Resources Page to assist high school teachers during this time of transition.

E-Learning Center Principal Mary Cundy said when first asked to fill this need, she wasn’t sure it was feasible. But in thinking more about it, she realized they could and should do it.

“I thought: ‘If not you, who?’” Cundy said. “We can do this. We can make this work for these people.”

Once the decision was made, they mobilized quickly in a combined effort involving NSU Net Services; Academic Affairs; and the E-learning Center master teachers.

The webpage went live this month, featuring video lessons and materials for a host of subjects, with plans to add even more. Among the lessons are Joy Korman’s science unit on viruses, which will lead to a discussion of COVID-19; and Lori Wagner’s mathematics unit that will involve using COVID-19 data to visualize the exponential growth and help understand the importance of flattening the curve.

The master teachers didn’t hesitate to take on the additional work.

“It was natural for us to want to try and help ease the load of our colleagues during this trying time,” Wagner said.

Said Korman, “I truly hope that the learning opportunities our team provided will simplify the lesson planning process for our fellow teaching colleagues across the state.”

“We’re a real customer service-oriented group,” Cundy added. “This is a need, and we provide a service.”

When Cundy let area school districts know the resources were available, the response was positive to say the least.

“The two words I kept catching were ‘awesome’ and ‘amazing,’” she said.

Gov. Kristi Noem even praised the efforts of the E-Learning Center at her Monday press conference.

“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,” Noem said.

Cundy said the E-Learning Center is honored to help fill this need for South Dakota students – and for their teachers, who were tasked with becoming distance educators at the drop of a hat with no real training or resources. There’s so much out there for teachers to use for online learning, Cundy said, and yet they have to vet all of it.

That’s not the case with resources from the E-Learning Center, which has been successfully offering distance education around the state since 2001.

“We have partnered with every single school district in the state except one at one time or another during that time,” Cundy said. “We are a known quantity to people. … I would humbly suggest there is a level of trust in the work that we could do. It was a matter of NSU stepping up and saying ‘yes, we will help address this need.’”