Northland Community & Technical College intends to return to in-person instruction and activities for most programs and operations beginning fall semester 2021, with an anticipated lessening of COVID-19 restrictions.

The college, which has campuses in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, made the announcement in a press release on Monday, March 29.

Northland has had hybrid and/or online learning since the beginning of the pandemic last spring, but with lowered coronavirus numbers and an increase in the number of vaccines available, the college is loosening its limitations.

“The loosening of these limitations provides greater flexibility in Northland’s approach to serving and supporting students while protecting the health and safety of the entire campus community,” the college said in the press release.

Interim President Shannon Jesme said the college is hopeful the fall semester will “be more normal around here, a return to more classes offered in-person, more in-person services and more activities.”

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“While we are hopeful, we will continue to follow state and local guidelines to ensure the safety of our students and employees,” she said in a statement. “As the fall semester approaches, we will continue to monitor the situation and update our plans as needed.”

Northland has monitored the spread of the coronavirus and implemented protocols and plans based on the guidance of public health experts. The positive trending of the virus transmission and infection rates, wide-reaching vaccine availability and vaccination rates, and continued utilization of many of the college’s health and safety measures makes the return to campus possible, Northland said.

The college’s plans include a more traditional on-campus experience for students this fall with many classes offering the conventional in-person format. However, many courses and programs will continue to utilize remote or hyflex, a format that allows students to shift from remote to in-person instruction. In addition, the offering of many student services both in-person and remotely is likely to remain to provide students with more options.

“At Northland, we had transitioned some of our programs and courses to hyflex delivery prior to the pandemic,” Northland Provost Brian Huschle said. “However, we will use the lessons we learned during the pandemic and the improved technology we installed to add to the overall learning experience."

Huschle said the learning experience of the pandemic is helping leaders to “make our academic offerings even stronger while meeting the needs of students through flexible instructional options.”

“Our many programs that require hands-on training will continue to provide that training in-person, with fewer restrictions as warranted in the lab and other training settings," he said.

Northland will be prepared to pivot to remote delivery of instruction should conditions warrant.

Jesme credits the hard work of Northland faculty and staff during this unprecedented time. “Because of the outstanding efforts of the entire Northland community in successfully battling the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year, I am confident that we will see a successful return to mostly normal on-campus operations in the fall,” she said.