Gibbs College Works to Ensure Safety this Academic Year
OU has been working diligently to ensure that returning students, faculty and staff return to a campus that is safer and better prepared to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about campus-wide efforts, visit www.ou.edu/together.
In addition to increased cleaning schedules, adding new and more robust cleaning agents and disinfectants and updated mask policies, Gibbs College has been working to improve air quality and clean the exchanged air within Gould Hall and make changes to schedules and classes to better accommodate student learning.
Gibbs College administrators, faculty and staff have been especially hard at work in organizing safe ways to approach changes to schedules and class formats. Faculty have also been participating in training to help tailor their teaching to blended, online, and “socially-distanced” in-person formats.
Leehu Loon, Associate Dean of Administration and Landscape Architect professor, said that he worked with the college over the summer to redesign layouts in the studio spaces for proper spacing and direction, to create one-way aisles and more.
Director of Regional and City Planning, Dr. Charles Warnken, said that until this semester, RCPL had no online courses, but they are now 67% compatible with web or video conferencing.
Elizabeth Pober, Director of Interior Design, adds that blended format classes are another important change, incorporating both online sessions with Zoom and in-person course sessions. Importantly, the blended delivery will allow faculty to meet with smaller groups or individuals, which will reduce the number of people in a classroom or studio at once.
As a significant portion of studio time incorporated individual instruction and feedback, the faculty has shifted to small groups or individual appointments to prevent larger gatherings.
Across all programs, directors have endeavored to limit close contact, crowds and closed or tight spaces.
Along with changes to how courses are handled, there have been some concerns over how these changes will affect student learning and projects. Luckily, the program directors at Gibbs know how important it is to design effectively!
Dr. Stephanie Pilat, Director of Architecture, knows how important it is to find the best in an opportunity.
“We believe that all our planning and use of technology will actually create more engagement with students,” Pilat said. “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.
Pilat isn’t alone in the sentiment. Each program is using this opportunity to modernize and grow in their course delivery methods, using new tools and finding ways to be more available, even if it can’t always be in person.
Ron Frantz, Director of the Environmental Design Program, said that his Historic Preservation Planning class is typically very heavy in field trips and walking tours, which will have to be adjusted to meet safety constraints related to the pandemic.
While it’s been difficult to replicate the in-person experience, he’s had success with his student teams surveying their areas via digital maps and photos. Frantz is using as much creativity as possible to keep students engaged and learning.
While many projects can be adjusted digitally with familiar technology, some will be employing new software. For example, architecture students, who are challenged to design buildings, will be using Miro whiteboards to better communicate their drawings virtually.
All of these changes have been designed to keep students safe, but it does present new challenges for how students will perceive their learning and classes.
Dr. Pilat says students should let faculty know if they are uncomfortable with any of the proposed changes. “We recognize the anxiety and uncertainty of the moment and are eager to be flexible and supportive.” Pilat said.
Ben Bigelow, Director of the Construction Science Division, suggests that students make time for office hours, whether they are in-person or virtual. Bigelow also says students should make it a point to speak to their professors every week.
Commitment will be key according to Pober. “Commit to being part of this new learning experience. Commit to not giving up. Commit to supporting others and receiving support from other,” Pober said.
“Commit to both identifying problems and contributing solutions. Commit to engaging and participating. Commit to getting outside of your comfort zone. Commit to truly being a part of the OU, Gibbs College and Interior Design family. Please know, we are committed to you!” she continued.
Beyond the students, parents have their own share of concerns. Many of the faculty at Gibbs College are parents themselves and share in those concerns. However, the program directors are unanimous in their commitment to deliver a sincere, modern approach to best accommodate student needs and health concerns while providing an effective learning environment.
Dr. Warnken said that while the times present many opportunities and challenges, students will be embarking on a professionally and emotionally rewarding journey.
“The collegiate experience is more than academic, it is about personal growth and a great experience—both of which can and will be provided to students this year.”
You can learn more about Gibbs College’s specific efforts and share your own feedback here.
Published on August 14, 2020