Digital DWU Initiative Aids University’s Transition to Online Instruction

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The last few weeks have looked very different for people due to COVID-19. Despite unprecedented and challenging times, Dakota Wesleyan University remains committed to staying proactive in its efforts to provide a top-quality education and endless opportunities for students.


Digital DWU, a DWU initiative first launched in February 2018, is now proving pivotal as DWU positions itself ahead of the curve and gracefully transitions to an online format for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.


From helping athletic training students diagnose injuries by using video submissions to demonstrate they can properly assess and treat patients, to changing how chemistry projects are taught and allowing music students opportunities to digitally record, produce and synthesize pieces, the benefits of the Digital DWU initiative expand far and wide.


“I have been impressed, though not surprised, with how quickly DWU faculty and students have pivoted to the new learning universe,” said Sean Flynn, history professor. “Microsoft Teams and Zoom are proving to be wonderful video conferencing tools for real time lectures, recorded lectures, group discussions, or one-on-one individualized learning spaces. While it’s impossible to generate the same kind of intimacy and engagement we have come to expect in a conventional DWU classroom, we are nevertheless seeing some really exciting student analysis,” he said.


DWU professors across all majors are getting creative with how they’re teaching content and allowing students to utilize things right in their own homes to continue their coursework.


“The hardest part of the transition has little to do with the content but rather the relationships,” said Bethany Melroe Lehrman, associate professor of chemistry. “Students in organic and biochemistry were sent a shopping list to complete labs at home. Through kitchen chemistry they will test the lipid membrane of eggs, extract DNA from strawberries and explore the world of enzymes with Jell-O as a medium,” she said.


Students and faculty members alike can use the Digital DWU program and the iPads for many uses, whether it be delivering and/or listening to presentations or lectures, researching, skyping/FaceTiming and creating “live” textbooks.


“I’ve received more encouragement and help from my professors and other staff members in these past few weeks than maybe ever before,” said junior digital media & design major, Chloe Solberg. “We may not be face-to-face, but our student support right now is at an all-time high. The first few emails I received from my professors [after the transition announcement] were focused on our health and safety, before anything was even mentioned regarding coursework,” she said.


“This is hard for everyone, and knowing you aren’t alone makes it a little less scary. I’ve had such an inspiring group of people who have taught me at this university, and this experience just reiterates that. The effort the faculty are making and the support they are showing is a guiding force for all students, myself included,” said Mikayla Street, biochemistry senior.


Digital DWU is the first program of its kind in South Dakota. Each full-time student who arrives on campus in the fall receives an iPad, which in times like this, alleviates the question of whether all students will have access to or the capability to transition to e-learning. The program expands on already existing educational practices such as nursing simulation labs, innovation labs and science labs by integrating more technology into the learning and application of students.