WILLMAR — Nearly all Ridgewater College courses on the Willmar and Hutchinson campuses will shift to remote learning beginning Monday.

Just 6 percent of the college’s students had been attending courses in fully face-to-face classes or labs since the semester began Aug. 24.

With the shift to mostly online delivery of curriculum, even fewer students will have in-person classes or labs, according to a news release from the college.

Exceptions will be made for students learning hands-on skills with specialized equipment, including those who are near graduation or completing certifications.

Examples of continued on-campus study include veterinary technology students working with animals, machine tool students programming manufacturing machines, and nursing students practicing patient care with simulation equipment. Other courses continuing with some face-to-face instruction include automotive, agriculture, electrician and welding.

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Most students in general courses have been studying online since March. About 38% of students have been enrolled in hybrid courses involving in-person and online instruction.

“We anticipate that the pandemic situation will worsen rather than improve heading into the end of the semester and following the Thanksgiving holiday break,” said Ridgewater College President Craig Johnson in the release.

Craig Johnson, Ridgewater College president
Craig Johnson, Ridgewater College presidentRidgewater College photo
While the safety and health of students and employees is driving the Ridgewater decision, other factors include the growing community spread and the strain on the regional healthcare systems, said Tressa Lukes, Ridgewater Safety Administrator.

“By making this decision now, prior to Thanksgiving, we believe it provides the best opportunity for all of our students to complete the semester,” said Mike Kutzke, Vice President of Student Success. “It also gives faculty and students time to prepare for the transition.”

Ridgewater’s campuses will continue to be open for campus visits and tours by appointment and using strict safety protocols. Essential services like the library and internet access will continue to be accessible. Essential services will be available over semester break, but libraries will be closed.

From Aug. 24 to Nov. 11, Ridgewater reported having 44 student cases of COVID-19 and seven employee cases. Across the Minnesota State system, there have been 2,424 student cases and 296 employee cases.

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