The COVID-19 pandemic has caused educational institutions, including Dickinson State University (DSU), to adopt new methods in order to continue delivering instruction to their students. From continuing in-person instruction with precautions in place, to shifting to online and hybrid modes of teaching, instructors have learned many new technologies. These new methods of delivery have helped students to navigate the constraints the pandemic has caused. When other methods of instruction are available, student learning becomes more flexible and opens up different ways of integration into an instructor’s lecture.
To accommodate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and to continue allowing the University to teach and interact with its students, DSU has adopted a hyflex model. Hyflex is an innovative teaching model that many higher education institutions have used to navigate this changing environment. Hyflex allows DSU to enhance its students’ experience since many now have the opportunity to attend class in-person, online synchronously (live), or asynchronously, if necessary.
The hyflex model has several advantages for students who are considering which model of instruction is right for them at any given moment. If a student is not able to attend a class in-person, they have the choice to attend the class online. Having these options available to students allows them to choose what kind of delivery works for them and allows them to change if necessary. Students are also exposed to classes they would otherwise not be able to take for one reason or another, such as prior commitments to work. This model allows students to be able to continue on with their education even if something unexpected comes up in their lives.
One instructor has returned to teaching at DSU in this shifting environment: Henry “Hank” Biesiot, a former University instructor and coach. He has always kept a close relationship with the University since his departure. When he heard there was a need for someone to teach a North Dakota history class at DSU, he thought it might be the perfect fit for him. When he returned, he started to teach history using the hyflex model that is now offered at DSU. Teaching this class is perfect for him since North Dakota history is his passion. “He has devoted his entire career to education,” said Dr. Debora Dragseth, provost and vice president for academic affairs at DSU, “so it was not a surprise to us that he was willing to come back into the classroom.”
Biesiot coached both DSU football and baseball for more than 40 years. He was a very successful football coach and was inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Coaches Hall of Fame. On and off the field, Biesiot was, and still is, an enthusiastic supporter of his students, and, in turn, students respect him as an educator. “Coach Biesiot had a lasting impact on so many of the players in the football program, including me,” said Pete Stanton, director of intercollegiate athletics and head football coach at DSU. “Not only was he a great coach but he was a great mentor and role model and a true example of how to treat people in all walks of life.”
To Biesiot, not much has changed between the time he taught before to the present, including the positive attitude and commitment of the students. “The enthusiasm and the attitude of the students has not changed,” said Biesiot, “and that’s a refreshing inspiration to me.”
Biesiot believes teaching North Dakota history using the hyflex model is the best way to teach the class because of the current circumstances. “The students and faculty are the life blood of any campus,” said Biesiot, “and if they did not [adopt the hyflex model], you would be constricting the pulse of the life blood.” With this new model, Biesiot has embraced the opportunity by inviting guest speakers and making connections with teachers he may not be able to make otherwise. In true Blue Hawk spirit, this instructor has returned to teaching to continue making an impact on the lives around him, no matter the changes and challenges he’s faced.