Director of Architecture Stephanie Pilat Discusses Program’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Student, faculty and staff safety has been a hot topic of discussion and is of the utmost importance to the University of Oklahoma and the Gibbs College of Architecture. You can learn more about Gibbs College efforts and share your own feedback here.

To help address these concerns, we recently spoke with Gibbs College program directors to find out what adjustments being made to their programs to ensure student, faculty and staff safety, while supporting learning outcomes.

Below, Director of Architecture Dr. Stephanie Pilat shares responses to some frequently asked questions. 


Q: How are classes in your program being handled or adjusted this semester in light of COVID-19, and how does this differ from a typical semester? 

A: Our faculty are reworking their courses to actively facilitate community building and connections among students. Many of the informal interactions that happen in person are being formalized through increased small group discussions, more collaborative projects and flipping classrooms to have more discussions. 


Q: Can you say how you expect this will impact student learning? What special ways will faculty in your program be working to support students? 

A: We believe that all our planning and use of technology will actually create more engagement with students. We feel confident that the living, learning community that is a hallmark of the OU experience will not only be maintained, it will be stronger than ever.  

We’re learning ways to ensure each and every student meets the learning objectives of a course while engaging their peers and faculty in meaningful ways. 


Q: Students in your program work on unique projects that have different needs, work cycles, project lengths and outcomes that are unique from other programs in the college and on campus. Can you give examples of some of those projects, how they have worked in the past, and how you expect them to be adapted this semester? 

A: Our students are challenged to design buildings, architecture. This is incredibly complex and normally we rely on in person interactions. We are exploring new software such as Miro whiteboards to better communicate things through drawing virtually. 


Q: Are there any unique or different safety measures being taken within your program? 

A: All desks will be spaced 6′ a part. There will be one-way traffic in some areas of the building. We are encouraging all students to bring a folding lawn chair to class so that we can have class outdoors often. 


Q: Returning students are uncertain regarding how the next semester will unfold. Please share some advice or suggestions that may help students navigate this semester in your program and prepare to learn given any special changes or adjustments that are being made?  

A: Students should let faculty know if they are uncomfortable with anything proposed. We recognize the anxiety and uncertainty of the moment and are eager to be flexible and supportive. 


Q: Parents may have concerns about these same changes and adjustments. What insights might you offer parents who are concerned about the possible negative impacts of these changes?

A: There is a body of research called “No Significant Difference” that indicates students are just as able to learn via online courses as in person. So parents should recognize their children will be able to learn the necessary material. More importantly, we are actively working to foster a sense of community and connection to ensure the living, learning community of OU is strengthened.