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Needs of students prioritized during COVID-19 pandemic

ENMU-Ruidoso responds quickly to student needs during COVID-19 shutdown

(Ruidoso, NM)—Like other colleges and universities around the country, ENMU-Ruidoso was challenged in early March to provide a quick response to limiting campus access while providing instruction to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And, like its larger sister colleges and universities, ENMU-Ruidoso responded.

Though being New Mexico’s newest and smallest college, ENMU-Ruidoso made a major shift through technology that enabled the college to limit access to college facilities while continuing instruction.

At an initial meeting with the college’s leadership team on March 13, President Dr. Ryan Carstens acknowledged that, while the college would work swiftly to move a majority of classes online and away from college facilities in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, the college should not close the campus facility entirely because there are likely some students who do not have access to the internet.

So, as college faculty began the rapid transition to online courses, the college began identifying computer labs and student services which should be accessible to students in the short term.

ENMU-Ruidoso chose, like many other colleges, to “buy time” for the transition by giving students an extended “spring break,” and used the additional week to shut off hallways and classrooms for “deep cleaning,” to equip college employees with additional technology resources with which to work from home, and to notify students and employees of the changes awaiting them when spring break ended.

Classes resumed on Monday, March 23, with most every academic and Dual Credit class accessible to students on the internet through the college’s website. In all, more than a third of the college’s total instruction was made ready for internet access.

Students logging into the college’s student portal from home or a college computer lab found instructions and guidelines to help them resume their spring classes. They found visual tutorials on how to access course materials, converse “virtually” with an instructor, even finding materials available digitally through the college library.

ENMU-Ruidoso’s Success Emporium Staff continued providing advising, financial aid, tutoring, and enrollment services for students, with many answering phones and connecting with students from home. Phone calls from students and the public were routed to computers and staff at remote locations around the area.

And the college provided a “live chat” option for students with questions who felt more comfortable “texting” with an advisor than speaking over the phone.

The technology that made online instruction possible for most ENMU-Ruidoso students also helped with noncredit instruction, too.

The college developed High School Equivalency courses through virtual classrooms, providing online instruction in math, science, social studies and English. Open, live tutoring for all student services was provided through other online tools.

Two weeks into the “new delivery system,” college faculty reported that an overwhelming majority of students—roughly 85 percent—were engaging successfully with their classes.

Even though spring graduation has been postponed until further notice, the college is prepared to register students for summer and fall classes—again through technology. New and returning students can connect to college advisors through the website’s “live chat” feature or by telephone or email.

College administrators, too, who cannot work from the campus at 709 Mechem Dr., continue their duties from remote sites. Responding to community needs has not been disrupted, even though many events which require use of campus facilities have been postponed or cancelled during New Mexico’s closure of public schools and colleges.

The phenomenon known as COVID-19 will likely have a long-lasting effect on higher education and specifically ENMU-Ruidoso.

“As more students experience classes online and recognize the ease and convenience of these opportunities, we believe fewer students will shy away from online course options, said ENMU-Ruidoso President Dr. Ryan Carstens.

“But we also believe the coronavirus shutdown will help students appreciate the value of on-campus experiences, as well, including the co-curricular and workforce options that will be enabled by our new facility when the crisis has past and construction projects are completed.

“We are using this public health crisis as an opportunity to evaluate our traditional approach to service delivery and adopt new strategies that help us better serve students across Lincoln County,” the president added. “Some of the changes we have made could very well remain as options for our students to improve access.”

With its impressive response to the crisis, ENMU-Ruidoso has shown there is nothing small in its vision or capabilities as it continues to place needs of students foremost in its priorities.

To connect with ENMU-Ruidoso, visit the college’s website at ruidoso.enmu.edu, or call 575.315.1120.