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As students return to their studies, faculty and staff are ready to offer a full array of services remotely. College life will remain online through the end of this semester after the St. Norbert College community took an early lead in responding to the global coronavirus crisis.

Life Goes On(line): SNC Students Get Back to Their Studies After Spring Break

The spring semester resumes at St. Norbert today after a spring break dramatically impacted by the world coronavirus crisis. Students are picking up on their coursework through classes now delivered by alternate modes after the college suspended in-person teaching as students left for break March 9.

Like her faculty colleagues, Valerie Kretz (Communication & Media Studies) was busy over Spring Break as she met the challenge of modifying her remaining classes in courses she’s now halfway through teaching – courses she originally created to be taught in an in-real-life classroom with students in residence on campus.

She says: “I’ve received some training on online instruction, and I teach fully online classes in J-term and summer. So I have an arsenal of tools to rely on during this transition. I have a plan in place for how to move forward with each of my classes that involves increased mediated communication.”

This is by no means the normal process for creating a digital and remote-learning environment, Kretz emphasizes. Making an effective online course requires rounds of thoughtful construction. Angel Saavedra Cisneros (Political Science) doesn’t pretend the work he and his colleagues have done to prepare is seamless. It isn’t as simple as turning on a camera and recording a lecture.

“I have many thoughts that have developed through my conversations with colleagues interested in critical digital pedagogy,” he says. “My approach is to think carefully about the best way to meet my course goals while considering student needs, limitations and best interests.”

His biggest concern moving forward? How his students who need the most guidance will cope with this sudden change.

As Leah Toth (English) points out, students who are adapting to this change are also handling their own personal challenges during this crisis. 

Grace White ’23, double-majoring in English and communication, will be tackling her coursework on a coffee table that converts into a desk while also keeping an eye on her five younger siblings, who are all at home “social-distancing,” too.

“I’m ready for classes to start up again, so that I can get used to the new system,” White says. “It will be scary at first, but, from a [first-year’s] perspective, we adjust pretty quickly to huge changes, and I don’t see why this would be any different.”

Kretz agrees that this is new territory. It helps, though, that the campus family is tackling these challenges as a community – “not just faculty, but faculty, staff and students working together to find solutions.”

Students prepare for new learning experiences
Communication major Lydia Myszka ’23 is ready to go. She’s set up a workstation in the family living room, and she and her sister have made little St. Norbert and Viterbo flags to signify when their respective colleges are in remote session. She intends to stay actively involved with her professors and classmates even if that’s through online platforms: “We can do this :),” she wrote in an email to student reporter Leah Zimmer ’22.

Kaitlin Foley ’23 is looking ahead to when campus can reopen, but she thinks that in times like these it’s important to remember that life keeps going no matter what. “We just have to adapt and move on to our new normal. I think this whole situation showed how much we take for granted, and how much being together can contribute to our lives.”

Anna Vanseveren ’21, studying creative writing, admits to mixed feelings, too, but she’s raring to keep learning. “I’m in the advanced creative writing seminar this semester,” she says, “and I’m excited that we'll be moving to online critiques of our work. I really enjoy our in-class discussions, but I feel that I’ll be able to give better and more thought-out critiques of my classmates’ writing through online comments.”

Political science major Devon Pinder ’21 is a self-confessed auditory and kinesthetic learner. Writing to student reporter Erika Ditzman ’21, she anticipates that half her classes will depend on a group video conference while the other half will be presented via PowerPoint presentation or lecture format. “I’m excited to learn,” she says, “The best way to power through this and learn thoroughly is to make sure that communication between the students and professors is excellent and that both parties are doing their jobs together – together is always better.”

Distance no object: Delivering student services remotely
All areas of campus are ready to provide support to students wherever they are. Here’s how departments and offices are now delivering such services:

  • Academic advising Students can contact their academic advisors directly with questions, or schedule a phone conversation or Google Hangout.
  • Academic support Students can contact Academic Support Services for individualized assistance regarding academic accommodations while they’re away from campus.
  • Peer mentoring Students can request digital peer tutoring, academic coaching or academic peer mentoring services.
  • Internet accessibility Those who need help identifying ways to access the internet while away from campus can reach out to Academic Support Services.
  • Career & Professional Development will offer career counseling and advising appointments online or by phone.
  • Counseling & Psychological Services is available for confidential appointments to help deal with transitions, challenges and new anxieties in the current climate.
  • Daily reflections The Rev. Mike Brennan ’99 is offering daily reflections via YouTube.
  • Information Technology Services Those with questions about technology, software or accessing accounts away from campus can contact the service desk at servicedesk@its.edu or 920-403-4040.
  • Library research assistance Students with questions about research for an assignment or project can reach a librarian at the Research Center using the library web chat function or by phone at 920-403-3466.
  • Free access to e-books Through the college bookstore, students can receive access for up to seven free e-books from participating publishers through May 25.
  • Writing Center Students can receive writing assistance remotely during the center’s regular hours. Make an appointment online.
  • Leadership, Student Engagement & First-Year Experience is offering virtual assistance to help student events and organizations to go online.
  • Mail Students are reminded to change their delivery address to their current address for any future orders.
  • Course registration will take place online as planned April 2-9.
  • Bookstore The college bookstore is offering free shipping on all ground orders.
  • President’s office hours President Brian Bruess ’90 will hold virtual office hours Monday-Friday for the next two weeks from 3-4 p.m. Students can email him during that time and he will call them or offer a Google Hangout.

St. Norbert moves early to address coronavirus threat
Since the college’s first communication regarding COVID-19 on Feb. 4, the situation at St. Norbert, as around the world, developed rapidly. Students studying abroad were called home; athletics were canceled; students left campus for Spring Break knowing they would not return until April 13 at the earliest; by March 18, President Bruess confirmed the switch to online classes for the rest of the semester. Faculty and staff have been required to work remotely since March 18.

Bruess says he feels completely assured that faculty members will continue to provide quality instruction to their students. Alternative course instruction during this time is supported by St. Norbert College’s accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, and students will be able to complete their courses and continue their academic progress.


March 23, 2020