Home News Local News Some ENMU-R students facing graduation delays

Some ENMU-R students facing graduation delays

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Submitted Photo For the most part, ENMU-R faculty have transitioned their courses to online or remote instruction. But some programs, such as phlebotomy, require in-person instruction or demonstrations.

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While Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell faculty have been able to adapt the majority of courses to online or remote formats, some of the health science and technical education courses just can’t make that transition, ENMU-R administrators have indicated.

As a result, some students will have to take “incompletes” in their courses until in-person instruction can resume, and a small percentage will have a delay in graduation or program completion.

Exactly what percentage will be delayed was not known as of press time, but a report to the ENMU-R board indicated that 293 people are expected to graduate in May, a 25% decrease compared to previous years. Most of the decline was attributed to certificate programs, including those taken by New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy students, who were sent home as the coronavirus emergency orders were issued.

Laurie Jensen, assistant vice president for health sciences, and Annamarie Oldfield, interim vice president for academic affairs, said that faculty have been “very creative” and risen to the challenge to transition most courses to online formats for the remainder of the spring term, as well as the summer term.

The coronavirus emergency and the state orders meant to stop its spread have led ENMU-R to cancel all in-person instruction for the spring term and the summer session.

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It also has decided not to schedule any in-person skills-based technical education courses for the summer, said Oldfield, but faculty do intend to use that time to help spring semester students catch up with their skills courses, if the public health situation allows.

Many ENMU-R programs are career-oriented or technical in nature. Jensen said that third-party accreditation bodies require that students be able to demonstrate skills using specialized equipment or tools or special knowledge regarding handling people.

She said some health science programs allow for video demonstrations, video simulations or interactive case studies of patient care instead of in-person labs or clinicals, but other program work cannot be completed without in-person meetings.

“Some programs will graduate students in a timely manner this spring, in May, and some programs will do everything that they can online and whatever they can’t do online, what we can’t move forward with, then we will make up that subject content with them,” Jensen said.

She explained that about 19 or 20 second-year nursing students and 14 Emergency Medical Technician-Basic students are expected to graduate in May. But students in such programs as medical assisting and phlebotomy need in-person labs and clinicals and will have to wait to complete their courses.

Oldfield said the same situation exists for the automotive technology, welding and aircraft maintenance programs offered. While remote instruction is being offered whenever possible, some courses require that students demonstrate their skills and use of specialized equipment. Faculty have tried every way possible to adapt, but sometimes the courses just cannot be completed at this time, she said.

She gave an example of a welding instructor who held small group meetings of four or fewer students several times a day for a while, but he realized that the situation couldn’t be sustained for a long period of time.

Students are having various experiences adapting, Jensen and Oldfield said.

“Some students do very well,” Jensen said. “They historically have done that and have taken other classes where they invite the online learning. And others have more difficulty with that and don’t gravitate toward online learning as they would face-to-face.”

Oldfield said some courses are seeing students “disappear” as people deal with life challenges. Quite a few students are parents of school-age children and are prioritizing helping their children with online learning.

“We also have a number of students in the health sciences who work in the field part-time and have increased their hours,” Oldfield said.

While many online courses can be “asynchronous,” taken at the student’s convenience, others cannot be because they require faculty-student interaction.

ENMU-R also is offering online tutoring, and many instructors are providing extended “office hours” to talk with and guide individual students. Oldfield noted that the smaller classes offered at ENMU-R are benefiting local students. At large universities, 300 students might enroll in one course, making individual faculty interaction difficult.

Development Officer Donna Oracion said that the coronavirus impact is requiring a lot of adaptation from students, as well.

“I get a lot of calls to my office number, as well. For the most part, they are understanding. Some are trying to register. Some are trying to get through their classes,” she said. “Education is something they will always need and have to continue. It is important that we all work through it.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.