Out of sight, but not out of the classroom

January 5, 2015

It’s common for students to take NNU courses online from anywhere around the globe, but it’s not every day a student takes all of their face-to-face courses via Skype and email. That scenario became Sacha Johnston’s reality when a medical emergency landed her in a hospital over 10,000 miles from NNU.

Sacha, a senior graphic design major from South Africa, went home for the summer expecting to be back in Idaho for classes in the fall. However, a week before her return she began having severe chest pain.

A trip to the doctor revealed her left lung had collapsed to the size of her fist. Sacha was immediately scheduled for surgery. After a week in the hospital she was released under orders of a four week recovery period with no travel.

Concerned about how this absence would affect her senior year, Sacha contacted her professors to see what could be done. She was relieved when all of them committed to help her keep up with her studies remotely.

Did you know that 90% of our graphic design graduates have gone on to careers in their field?

Sacha purchased some textbooks online, while professors emailed her supplemental materials and texts she couldn’t access. Professor Mike Bartlett went so far as to find alternate content for Sacha to study when what he was teaching in the classroom wouldn’t work from a distance. For her painting class, professor Amy Gilles photographed students’ artwork then emailed it to Sacha for her to critique, and Sacha did the same with paintings she completed.

Most of her correspondence with professors happened over email; however, art students also participate in regular student collaboration and critiques, so Paul Kinsman, Sacha’s advisor and graphic design professor, came up with a solution. “Paul told me, ‘We’ll Skype with you.’ I was like, ‘you’ll what?’ ‘We’ll Skype you!’”

Sacha describes that experience as challenging and frequently comical. “The first time we skyped in class it took 20 minutes to get things to work. Sometimes they would forget I was listening and then I’d make a comment but the volume on the speaker would be turned all the way up and it would scare everyone in the classroom! They’d also forget to take the phone device [now referred to as Sacha] when they looked at people’s projects across the room, and then Paul would say: ‘Where’s Sacha? Go pick up Sacha!’”

"This experience has really enhanced my view of NNU.

If I was going to any other university, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Meanwhile, Sacha’s lung wasn’t healing properly. It collapsed again and again while doctors searched for answers. In total, she would be in and out of the hospital five times and miss 12 weeks of the semester before doctors could find a permanent solution and clear her to fly. What began as a generous interim solution developed into an extensive and challenging reality for everyone.

Sacha speaks highly of everyone on campus that assisted her through the semester—helping with her finances, medical insurance (which was through the university), classwork and, most of all, prayer support.

With only a few weeks left in the semester, Sacha returned to a warm welcome at NNU and a chance to finish her full load of classes in person. “This experience has really enhanced my view of NNU. I knew people cared about me here, but the amount they actually went out of their way for me broadened my understanding that this university is about the students, not the professors’ paychecks. If I was going to any other university, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Learn more about studying design at NNU→

Sacha is on track to graduate with her class in 2015!