South Florida Hospital News
Sunday September 27, 2020
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August 2020 - Volume 17 - Issue 2
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South University - Flexible Foresight Fights COVID-19 Consequences

Annually, approximately 2,000 students and their faculty took advantage of the South University, Royal Palm Beach campus academic portfolio of a full range of on-site, online, and remote learning classes to accommodate their academic schedules. A wide range of undergraduate and post graduate degree levels in a variety of health care (Nursing and PTA), public health, business, criminal justice, legal, and clinical counseling tracks were on the course menu.

Then, enter COVID-19 in Winter Quarter with a massive array of documented, predicted, and unknown consequences to campus life and educational opportunities. For many colleges, it began a downward spiral of enormous proportion.

According to Campus President Mark Everett, DHA, MBA, like most higher education institutions, South University was hit hard but was agile and quick to adapt to the pandemic obstacles supported in large part by an institutional ability to respond, dedicated faculty, and their infrastructure of virtual remote learning through the BrightSpace learning management system.
 
South University, founded in 1899, has a student demographic on the Royal Palm Beach campus which includes new traditional high school graduates, working students returning to advance their careers, older students looking to develop and enhance skills of the 21st century to change careers, and a diverse student population.
 
“Due to varied lifestyles of our student population and our mission to meet all accessibility needs, our professors were already aware of and using the latest techniques to extend our academic footprint to some extent. BrightSpace is a live, synchronous remote learning system which provides a virtual environment where students and faculty interact and dialogue from remote locations. When the virus threatened traditional learning environments, we immediately offered faculty refresher courses and converted classes to this modality of teaching,” Everett said.
 
SouthVR, Live Learning, Campus Safety
Campus safety was of utmost importance to faculty and students; so, as of Spring quarter South totally transitioned from campus-based classes and assessments to a virtual remote format now labeled SouthVR (South-Virtual Remote). Thanks to faculty familiarity with Brightspace, this measure, while not easy, was implemented quickly and effectively in an effort to protect the South University community through compliance to early national guidance for social distancing. Campus and academic leadership promptly collaborated for the protection of students, faculty, and staff, to initiate total virtually remote class schedules for the Spring and Summer Quarters with flexibility to provide hybrid learning sources to accommodate the unknown longevity of COVID-19 impact.
 
“Our SouthVR learning format was magnified to help our students continue their education during the pandemic. This format differs from both campus and online classes by offering live scheduled instruction in a remote environment. Full SouthVR conversion is a temporary educational format that will be offered until authorities advise us that it is safe to return to a variety of campus-based learning,” Everett explained.
 
Through SouthVR, South University’s instructors offer live instruction in a shared peer-to-peer virtual environment that encourages interactivity and cohesive working groups. “Our faculty are building dynamic resources to enrich their courses and to ensure that we continue to provide the close-knit classroom experience that we cherish as a community.” Everett stated.
 
Virtual Office Hours, Tutoring, One on One Counsel
In addition to real-time instruction with peer participation, SouthVR allows faculty and program directors to conduct remote office hours, provide virtual tutoring, and schedule one-on-one meetings to ensure that the student experience maintains the quality that they have come to expect. During spring quarter, students continued to have access to the normal South University resources and support services needed.
 
“South University is well-prepared to respond to the needs of students, faculty and staff, with an EAP and student assistance program. Additionally, financial counselors extended their remote services to help minimize any disruption caused by the pandemic,” Everett said.
 
Smooth Transition Strengthens Clinical Affiliations
Many other academic institutions are still trying to grapple with the economic and educational impact of how or even if to open in fall - with students, parents and faculty vocal about the plusses and minuses of different potential educational settings. In contrast, South University was not only able to avoid any reduction in academic workforce, it was actually able to leverage faculty expertise across additional sections and campuses via Go To Meeting resources. Since 80% of curriculum is geared toward health care professionals, the ability to continue essential clinical affiliate arrangements for students to experience actual rotation in health care facilities enriched relationships. “Local hospitals continue to embrace our students and graduates as vacancies in specific areas were impacted by the pandemic. In addition to fortifying our commitment we are moving forward on plans to launch new career programs such as a masters level physician assistant studies,” Everett explained.
 
Sunshine High School Grant Launched
In fact, now high school graduates, home school graduates, and GED recipients in the state of Florida, from: Broward, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach or St. Lucie Counties, electing to attend an undergraduate program are eligible for Bachelor and Associate level grants for up to $1,740 per quarter (varies by program). All requirements are student-driven and are not subject to a committee.
 
“As pandemic circumstances continue to evolve nationally, South University encourages all to stay safe. We are confident that SouthVR will help our students to continue their education and maintain a focus on preparing for their future career opportunities,” Everett concluded.
 
South University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, post-graduate certificates and doctorate degrees. Each professional program has earned accreditation from the related specialized accrediting body and educational agency.

For more information, visit www.southuniversity.edu/west-palm-beach or call (561) 273-6500.

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