Outdoor Classes

Kurt Caswell teaches a class in one of the outdoor classroom areas. The outdoor classrooms are new for the Fall 2020 semester; they are intended to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Before students returned to campus, many professors thought of how their classroom would look. Some professors decided to move their classrooms outside this semester to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I decided that being outside would be the best option for class,” Kurt Caswell, creative writing and literature professor at the Texas Tech Honors College, said. “It is a much safer environment for avoiding transmission of COVID-19.”

When Tech was sent home in the spring, professors had to plan for the return to campus, Caswell said. In hopes of meeting face-to-face outside classes had become an option. 

“An indoor classroom space is definitely more closed in,” Caswell said. “An outdoor classroom allows us to set chairs 6 feet apart and have more ventilation.”

Outdoor spaces are less risky than indoor spaces because it is easier to keep people apart and allows for more ventilation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 

“I believe having class outside will work well,” Sidney Deatherage, a senior kinesiology major from Joshua said. “Lubbock weather is my only concern, but I am sure the professor will move online if it is a problem.”

It is nice to be back in-person to see professors and other students, Deatherage said. Tech made an effort to make classes in person and it seems to be going well. 

It takes time to adjust to the new classroom protocol, Deatherage said. Although, it feels good to be back on the Tech campus.

“Having class outside is going good, everyone seems to like it,” Bryan Giemza, humanities and literature professor at the Tech Honors college, said. “It is the safest option regarding minimizing the risk of COVID-19 for everybody.”

Some course subjects this semester work well with the outdoor setting, Giemza said. The subjects go over the natural world and trees, so it fits well with the class’ environment. 

“In fairness, I enjoy the outdoors,” Giemza said. “There were concerns about the Wi-Fi connection, but it seems to be working well outside.”

The Honors College values teaching, Giemza said. The college understands the importance of delivering the same experience as previous semesters in a safer environment. 

“When asking permission from Michael San Francisco, [interim] dean of the Honors College, he was very understanding,” Giemza said. “I could also say to him the environment wouldn’t change the curriculum of the course.”

Callie French, a freshman human sciences major, from Lubbock, said the professors are very helpful, and they have given her confidence that the semester will go well. 

“My initial thoughts were that having class outdoors was going to be really distracting,” French said. “It was also stressful because it’s summer in Texas.”

After her first outdoor class, French said it was easy to pay attention, and the weather did not feel too bad. 

“The professors are very understanding,” French said. “They are willing to work with us and help us out as much as possible.”

It feels safe to have class outside, French said. It is not too uncomfortable, and it is a safe option with regards to COVID-19.

“I think a lot of the stuff that’s in place right now is helpful and preventative,” French said. “But the uncertainty of it all is still scary.”

If students do not get what they need in the classroom because of the barriers of the new environment and protocols, the class will be moved to an online format, Caswell said. 

“I am impressed that Tech took the initiative to put up outdoor learning spaces around campus and make them available,” Caswell said. 

As the fall semester continues, one may wonder how long the outdoor classes will last.

There is a lot of innovation going on right now, Caswell said. And I think some methods will stay long term if they are useful. 

“The best way to function right now is with a little discomfort,” Caswell said. “The changes made in the classroom are safer for everybody.”

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