Students reflect on unconventional end to spring semester


graphic by Cody Cline

When students went on spring break March 6, nobody could have anticipated that they wouldn’t return to school.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed numerous parts of society around the world, from how we dine and shop to how we conduct school and work. After extending spring break to March 20 before beginning a two week period of online classes, the South Dakota Board of Regents made the decision that students would not return to the classroom for the remainder of the semester. Activities were cancelled or postponed, professors moved their classes online and students had to pack up their lives and return home. With the semester finally over, students are looking back on a term cut short by coronavirus.

Many students, including mass communications major Logan Kurtenbach, did not enjoy the online format. “I personally am just not good with online classes,” Kurtenbach said. “I prefer the structure of having somewhere to be so that way I can hold myself accountable.”

Professors were able to determine how online classes would be held on an individual basis, with some choosing to have virtual classes over the group video chat app Zoom. Others allowed students to complete the work that they would have done had the semester continued normally, without the requirement that they attend virtual class. 

Although Molly Graesser, who is majoring in exercise science, found issues with how testing was conducted after classes went online, she also found positives in the flexibility of an all-online curriculum. “I got to work in healthcare and save money for grad school,” Graesser said. “I was also able to watch my sister some days since she didn’t have school, either.”

Due to these circumstances, the South Dakota Board of Regents implemented a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Alternate Grading program for the semester. A select number of classes and degrees were exempt from this program, but most students had the option to change their letter grade to a simple pass/fail, if they wished to do so. 

According to the official announcement released by the SDBOR, students had the option “to convert grades of A, B, or C to Satisfactory (S) Grades.” Regardless of how a student’s grade would be reclassified if they chose to do so, the alternate grading scale means there will be no effect on their overall grade point average. 

As universities around the world weigh whether or not to return to traditional classes in the fall, there is also the question of if keeping students away from campus helped to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the first place. Although there is no definitive way to determine the potential cases that would have been diagnosed if classes were held, many believe that the decision did keep students safe.

“I definitely think it helped stop the spread,” Kurtenbach said, “especially after learning that a few students tested positive just after leaving BH.”