By Lauren Sieh
As the college has begun in-person class, the normal classroom for some has changed due to restrictions on how many people can now be in one room safely.
This meant that the school had to figure out how many people could fit into every classroom space around campus. Thus calling for, using non-conventional spaces to be used as classrooms.
Most students have already been going to their classes in these non-conventional classroom spaces. These spaces include Wroten Hall, Richardson Performing Arts Center, Messenger Recital Hall and the Outdoor Classroom.
The classes that take place in these buildings are ones with larger enrollment sizes. A few of the classes are College Writing 1 and 2, Biology 1, Introduction to Leadership, Italian Language and Culture 1 and more.
Moving classes that normally take place in a standard classroom into a bigger environment has its challenges, especially with the current pandemic that is going on. Professors and students must wear masks and sit at separate desks, tables, or two to three chairs away from each other.
Alice Bendinelli, associate professor of English, teaches all of her classes in Wroten Hall and occasionally the Outdoor Classroom. She expressed that the bigger spaces come with their challenges, through being further away.
“My classes are much less responsive. And I asked them why and they said ‘Well, we often don’t understand what you say. And it’s not just, we don’t understand the question in complexity, but we don’t understand because we don’t really hear you,’” said Bendinelli.
“Masks are sort of a difficult situation because it’s like a shield. I’m happy to be in the classroom and to be able to do that. But then I have students that are in a cap and putting a mask on, and I barely see them. So they are hard to hear,” said Bendinelli.
Dr. Tamara McEwen, associate professor of biology, who teaches Biology 1 in Richardson Performing Arts Center expresses the same opinion on the change to a bigger space and the addition of masks.
“It’s really strange. The students are way spread out, which is good in times of COVID, but they’re so spread out. The first eight rows, maybe I have good interactions with those. However, in the back of the room, I can’t tell. I can’t read the audience. I can’t read their faces. They’re too far back there. So I really worry about them getting the content,” said McEwen.
“In Richardson, since it’s a performance auditorium, there are no desktops. Students traditionally take notes, so I worry about them being able to write to take their notes for an exam.”
Part of the Biology 1 course has students participating in lab sessions. Due to only a certain amount of students being able to be in one room, McEwen had to make some changes to her lab sessions.
“I am still doing labs. They’re capped at 24. There’s 72 people enrolled in Biology 1. This week, I actually split my labs in two. So normally, I have three sections of lab 24 students apiece, and yesterday, I split them. I had half the class come the first hour, half the class come the second hour, and so I just did my lab twice each section. I ended up doing my labs six times, but it really felt safer with the physical distancing in the room,” said McEwen.
Cheryl Rude, professor for leadership studies, hosts her leadership classes in Wroten Hall. Rude states that technology is a downside in teaching during this pandemic.
“All the technology related to who’s there, who’s not there, who I have to record a session for? What does that mean in terms of like having a zoom meeting? All that’s a con to me because it’s an interference from what I really want to be doing. And I can do it, but I’m not that great at it. So if everything works great like someone taught me, I’m good, but if one single problem happens with technology, it’s flustering. And I don’t really know what to do, because I just don’t know enough about it,” said Rude.
Even with all the changes and challenges that came with moving to bigger spaces, all three professors agree that it’s a safer way to teach and that they are glad to be back in personal classes and interactions with students.