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 Interior Design Elizabeth Pober shares responses to some frequently asked questions.

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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: Interior design courses have all been changed to a blended delivery method. This approach will incorporate both online course sessions in Zoom and in-person course sessions in Gould. Both delivery methods will be scheduled during the regular course times.  

Blended delivery will allow faculty to meet with smaller groups or individual students in person, thus reducing the number of people in a classroom/studio at any given time.  

A significant portion of studio time has always incorporated individual instruction and feedback. This approach will continue, but with smaller groups or individual student appointments scheduled without the entire class being in studio together at the same time.  

Lecture and other lecture lab courses can use the in-person session for discussions or other in-class activities with smaller groups of students.  

In many ways, Zoom has made it easier for us to connect and be available to support and help one another in an educational setting. We have the technologies available to us continue to connect and be a part of our educational community. Much like social media platforms, GroupMe, or even group texts, Zoom can support and provide similar methods of connection.  

In addition to audio, camera and text communication, Zoom also allows us to draw together on the same “piece of paper.”  We can even share control of one another’s computers if we are helping a student with a digital drawing or model on their computer.  

We will use these technologies even when we are together in person because we have to social distance and can’t sit side by side drawing on the same piece of paper like we used to.  

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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: This is a new approach to instruction and learning for all of us.  

While we all wish life could hurry up get back to normal so we can all be back together in person and seeing each other’s smiling faces not hidden behind masks, large group gatherings in classes and studios are just not possible at this time.  

Students and faculty have to create and use new approaches to connect with each other, both in-person and virtually. We all have to commit to this new educational process and recognize and accept that things are going to change and that they won’t always work out perfectly.  

This adds a new layer to student learning and requires the students to be vested in the process. The Interior Design program is not just a group of students and faculty working and learning together. We are a family. We genuinely care about each other and we are vested in supporting one another. I would say that commitment makes a big impact in this situation.  

Faculty have committed to being available for students outside of class. This means we really want our students to reach out to us when they need us. No one is alone in this situation.  

Again, we are a family and we are here to support one another. Students can’t retract and hold back, they have to commit to engaging and communicating with faculty and with each other regularly. We are trying to come up with fun ways to engage with one another.  

Faculty have created special study sessions outside of class to support one another, sometimes even with pizza! Finding ways to lighten up the mood is also important so we can continue to smile and laugh during this challenging time like showing up to class wearing an unexpected funny hat.  

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

A: Gould Hall has been completely redesigned with all classroom and studio spaces incorporating socially distanced desks. With all the students and desks we need, this meant we had to take over every room possible in the building.  

For all of our students returning to Gould, you are going to see a lot of changes. The gallery is now a studio! We also focused a lot of attention on air quality in our building because of the airborne transmission of COVID-19.  

Many things have been incorporated like one-way facing desks, one-way circulation, desks facing air returns, MERV13 filters and other special equipment intended to filter the air.  

While these things don’t seem like the typical design solutions you might be familiar with, the current “normal” is very different. Design must respond to new and ever-changing needs for keeping the people using our spaces safe during this pandemic.  

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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: Commit to being part of this new learning experience. Commit to not giving up. Commit to supporting others and receiving support from other. 

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 the Interior Design family. Please know, we are committed to you!