Kendall E. Nygard, PhD, Director of the Dakota Digital Academy
The Dakota Digital Academy (DDA) gained traction this fall with engagement by numerous faculty and administrators across the North Dakota University System (NDUS). Thanks to the vision of Chancellor Mark Hagerott, there is much DDA activity in designing and developing courses in the digital arena, configuring certificates and programs, creating partnerships and planning events. This activity surrounds the need for relevant training and education to serve learners and employers.
We are ambitious and expect to accomplish a great deal in our state. We are committed to fostering access, opportunity, enfranchisement, inclusion and diversity.
We believe in collaboration. Among DDA’s challenges is establishing synergy among the diverse NDUS institutions. With two research universities, four regional universities and five colleges, there are considerable differences in orientations, types of expertise and capacities. At DDA, we view these differences as sources of opportunities and strengths to celebrate.
There is little doubt that the pandemic is one of the most life- and work-altering events in our history. The great flu epidemic of 1918 killed some 50 million people worldwide, including my father’s elder sister. The account of her death and her young daughter being orphaned is known to all members of my family today, more than a century later.
The coronavirus has forced a large-scale normalization of remote work and school, including mandating how DDA as an organization must function. Many questions have been raised. A famous cartoon in the New Yorker shows a dog typing on a keyboard and a caption that reads, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Going forward, if most tasks can be accomplished remotely and most production processes are done by robots, will gender inequality and racism diminish?
North Dakota is a very rural state. The DDA is committed to location-agnostic operations. As broadband becomes fully available and residents adjust to technologies—such as tools for remote collaboration, video conferencing and virtual reality— people may feel that if everyone in their organization is remote, then nobody feels remote. DDA’s mission seems very opportune in our state.
There are also many people whose jobs are impossible to do from home, and they are now faced with unemployment and a need to reinvent their work lives. For example, about 110,000 restaurants nationwide closed in 2020, leaving many employees without work. If the future is basically digital, what happens to the people left behind? We see a pressing need for training and education in many areas of computing and cyber sciences, including coding, information technology, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. The need for upskilling and retraining is also very real. DDA is committed to helping meet those needs.
KENDALL E. NYGARD, PHD
Director of the Dakota Digital Academy,
North Dakota University System
Emeritus Professor, Department of Computer Science,
North Dakota State University