UND to go online-only for two weeks after spring break

University makes decision Thursday morning. Other schools, including Minnesota and North Dakota State, have done the same.

UND nursing students Hannah Fitzgibbons, right, and Josi Dotterer study for a test at Archives Coffee Thursday just after UND's announcement that classes would be online for two weeks following springbreak. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND has become the latest university to alter its class schedule amid coronavirus concerns.

UND on Thursday made the decision to move its courses online for a two-week period after spring break. The move followed the same decision by University of Minnesota campuses Wednesday and was announced at roughly the same time North Dakota State University took the same path Thursday morning.

UND made the announcement shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday. Specifically, it will cease in-person education and move courses online for two weeks after spring break. Spring break begins at the conclusion of the school day Friday, March 13, and ends March 23.

Students now will have online-only instruction from March 23 through April 3. In-person classes are set to resume April 6; however, Provost Tom DiLorenzo said that date could change as the situation develops, adding that the university will continue to closely monitor the situation.


“Now was the right time, especially because the students were going on spring break,” he said. “It was a good time to have even a little bit more time.”

While it will be a challenging process, DiLorenzo said he feels the university is prepared.

“It’ll be tough because we’re changing how we’re doing our business,” DiLorenzo said. “But I really feel that the faculty and staff and administration are ready to take this stuff. It’s in the best interest of our community. It’s in the best interest of our students. We’re going to make sure students get all the courses they need, get all of the credits they need for them to go graduate on time. We feel good going forward.”

The university has been inching toward this decision for the past several weeks, laying out multiple scenarios that could play out depending on how things progressed nationally and internationally. There are multiple committees and groups of leaders involved with the decision to move forward with online classes, DiLorenzo said, including a pandemic committee that meets regularly, along with an academic affairs committee and a group of vice presidents that also meets multiple times a week.

“We've been working every day 24-7, monitoring the situation trying to decide what to do. We decided ultimately that because of an abundance of care and caution -- and to take very seriously the medical information we received, especially as it related to social distancing -- it was a good time to take a pause and do our remote education with students and have them come back later after the spring break,” DiLorenzo said.

UND had previously asked instructors to put their syllabi online in preparation.

UND Student Body President Gracie Lian encourages students to take the online classes seriously and not to treat it as an extended vacation.


“That doesn’t mean that you should be hanging out with large groups of people and treating it as a second spring break almost,” she said, adding students should be sure to keep an eye out for updates in case the situation changes.

If students have difficulty engaging in classes by distance, such as not having access to the internet, they are asked to reach out to their instructors.

Thursday, in the wake of the decision, some students were left wondering what it will mean for the hands-on portion of their education.

Josi Dotterer and Hannah Fitzgibbons are second-semester nursing students who are in the midst of doing their clinical rotations at Altru. While they understand the campus’ decision to move to online classes, they are now wondering what it will mean.

“I’m thankful that they did it because I’m not even worried about disease as I am if everyone gets it. (Because) then businesses are going to have to shut down and employees can’t go to work. But since we’re in nursing and we work in the hospital, which is where people are being treated, that’s a different situation for us,” Dotterer said. “I feel like we don’t know how we’ll be fulfilling our clinical requirement right now.”

It’s similar to questions many students on campus have right now. What will happen with the flight training operations? What about other hands-on instruction?

Because flight instruction is mostly a one-on-one learning experience, it will continue during the spring break and two-week period of online instruction, UND spokesman David Dodds said. However, that comes with a few new safeguards.

Students are typically shuttled to and from the airport for their instruction; the number of students allowed on those shuttles at once will be reduced to around six or eight, Dodds said. Additionally, those shuttles will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected multiple times.


Students and their flight instructors will be required to do enhanced disinfection of their planes and flight simulators before and after use.

People will also be required to use hand sanitizer before they can enter aerospace facilities.

Other academic colleges are getting creative on how they will handle the changes. Many programs will use Zoom video conferencing or some form of technology that will allow students to interact with their classrooms in real time. Dodds said the medical school will do a lot of its clinical training remotely using Zoom technology. The law school also plans to use the video conferencing software to simulate the classroom and courtroom.

UND’s nursing college is working with the UND administration to determine ways for clinical students to get their required hours. That may involve reaching out to the college’s partner clinical agencies to see how they can best help.

UND isn’t alone in its decision to go online temporarily. NDSU announced its decision to have online classes up until April 6. The North Dakota State College of Science at Wahpeton, Dickinson State University, Minot State University made their announcements Thursday afternoon.

The University of Minnesota system, which includes the campus in Crookston, announced Wednesday that it would be moving to online instruction until April 1. DiLorenzo said UND has been paying attention to what has been happening nationally.

At this time, the university intends to remain open and has no plans of ceasing operations, according to an email sent to the campus. However, hours of operation and services may be limited depending on employee availability and campus needs. The university says it is “committed to ensuring that employees continue to be compensated without disruption.”

While students are encouraged to leave campus if they can, residence hall and dining services will be available for those who are unable to leave over spring break, DiLorenzo said.

“We are open as usual. All functions are open, all operations are open. They will continue for the foreseeable future.”

Also announced Thursday, UND is requiring all students to evacuate all study abroad programs and return to the U.S. immediately.

This decision is based on the Global Level 3 Health Advisory from the U.S. Department of State for all countries due to the spread of COVID-19, a university blog stated.

The blog read: “We recognize this cancellation may be disheartening and that this decision probably creates a lot of questions. We will work to answer your questions as fast as we can and ask for your patience as our first priority is your return to the U.S.”

Dodds said UND’s study abroad advisers are already working with students on an individual basis to help them with whatever they need to get home.

As a public service, the Herald has opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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