As faculty and staff prepare to welcome students back to campus this fall, an initiative is underway to provide a look at classrooms in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are committed to preparing for a strong fall semester,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Ben Vinson III. “And practice makes perfect!”
“This initiative is just one of the many ways we are being thoughtful about how we bring students back into the fold with safety for both our students and faculty in mind,” he continued.
Members of the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education (FSCUE) and its COVID-19 planning subcommittees met in late June to tour two simulated spaces, one in the Peter B. Lewis Building and the other in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences building. During the tour, groups of faculty simulated teaching experiences—including Zoom sessions for those who could not attend in person.
The classroom spaces were set up to experiment with socially spaced seats, Plexiglas shields, and microphones for instructors.
“I think the exercises illustrate a wider truth, which is that the faculty is taking very seriously the task of figuring out how to best deliver high-quality teaching during the COVID crisis,” said Anthony Jack, co-chair of the FSCUE subcommittee for seminar and discussion classes. “It is inspiring to see all the extra work being done, just because professors care so much about teaching well.”
Peter Shulman, chair of the FSCUE agrees: “We know that many people have ideas about how instruction should work this fall and our faculty wanted to put these ideas to the test. With the results of these simulations, faculty will be able to incorporate those features that work best for their particular classes and ensure the most seamless instruction for our students.”
See the spaces for yourself
Now, the group will expand the simulation experience to other faculty members who might be interested in a sneak peek. Room 202 of the Peter B. Lewis Building and Room 336 of the Mandel School building will be open for faculty or staff to view at select times through Aug. 12. Due to lowered room capacities, interested parties are asked to sign up for a 15-minute session at each location.
What to anticipate in classrooms this fall
Masks for everyone
Instructors and students alike will be required to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose. Face shields will be made available to anyone who would like one.
Seats spaced at least six feet away from each other
In larger, lecture-style classrooms, that means chairs will be blocked or removed. In smaller classrooms, desks/tables will be spaced at least six feet apart.
Plexiglas shields for instructors
Instructors in many classrooms may stand behind Plexiglas partitions.
Microphones will be available for faculty in those classrooms that would benefit from it.
Disinfectant cleaning supplies will be provided in every classroom. Hand sanitizer stations will be distributed at building entrances and hallways leading to classrooms.
Classmates via Zoom
The simulations found that simultaneous discussions with remote and in-person participants was all but impossible for both technical and social reasons. Many classes will have both in-person and remote components that each faculty member is tuning to be the most optimal for each individual course. For some courses, lectures will be either recorded or streamed live; for others, there may be discussion sections for in-person or remote students. The goal is to accommodate all students regardless of their circumstances.