University Looks to Repurpose Spaces for Socially Distanced Classrooms

Indiana University-Bloomington is thinking outside the box – or classroom – this semester to keep students safe and learning.

To help stem the spread of COVID-19, the college is repurposing spaces on campus, including large conference rooms and performance spaces, as classrooms to keep classes socially distanced. While this has been a boon for students and professors who prefer in-person learning, it has required university IT staff to rethink how classrooms are set up, both to adapt the new classroom space and meet the needs of virtual students.

“These spaces were instrumental in ensuring all classes were placed for fall 2020 and spring 2021,” said Jenni Kirby, assistant registrar and manager of scheduling services in the Office of the Registrar. “Without them, we would have classes with no place to meet.”

After understanding the physical distancing requirements in place for the fall semester, Mark McConahay, associate provost and registrar, turned to Mark Russell, manager of learning spaces and technology services, to do a technical review of the campus.

McConahay eventually reached out to his counterparts in departments across the campus, who agreed to make their facilities available to students. The school then went to work securing furniture, ensuring appropriate physical-distancing measures, and outfitting the rooms with the standard classroom technology

The decision to repurpose spaces across campus has won praise from professors, who say teaching this semester has been enjoyable because of good technical support.

Ore Koren, an assistant professor of political science in the College of Arts and Sciences, is teaching a class in a repurposed auditorium this semester.

“It has been a very pleasant experience,” he said. “The venue works very well.”

The university explained that Koren uses screens to present slides from his laptop, and has students socially distanced in the classroom. With the technology and classroom setup he has, Koren says he’s able to talk and interact with the students easily.

“There is always a tech person present at the beginning of each class, which I think is very helpful,” he added.

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs