It’s Last Blog of the Year!
This is the last blog of the year which means it’s time to reflect on 2020. Normally, the final Mosaic Initiative blog of the year would look back at the highlights of the Mosaic Initiative. But this December, it’s impossible to recall the last twelve months and acknowledge anything but the many shifts Higher Ed has made since March in response to the still evolving Covid-19 pandemic. What looms largest in the rearview is that we moved from successfully implementing universal online learning to planning for and then working through an uncertain fall semester. 2020 is a year that has generated uncertainty, inventiveness, and exhaustion.
In this blog, I want to share some of the ways that we rethought our campus spaces to answer the very real health challenges presented to us by this pandemic. So, let’s look at some of the creative ways that IU-Bloomington adjusted their campus spaces to support class meetings, studying, and socializing to support a safe pandemic classroom and campus this fall.
Rethinking Classroom Spaces
One big shift that Indiana University and other universities have made is to recommission non-instructional spaces and remake them into socially distanced classrooms. Many are spaces that, in a normal semester, are intended for large, social gatherings, but that have been reimagined as temporary classrooms. By reclaiming what might have otherwise been unused spaces during the pandemic semester, courses with larger numbers of students (even with seating limitations) were allowed to proceed. For example, the Frangipani room, designed for large events, was converted into a classroom space. Additionally, the IU Cinema is housing numerous classes instead of showcasing films this semester.
It’s not the first time typically non-instructional spaces have been requisitioned as classrooms at Indiana University. For example, early in the last century, Quonset huts were used as classrooms on the Bloomington campus to answer the sharp, post-WWII increase in the numbers of undergraduate students, many of whom were former soldiers.
Rethinking Study, Dining, and Entertainment Spaces
In addition to reimagining how to still hold face-to-face courses, IU Bloomington had to rethink student study, dining, and socializing spaces. With dining halls closed for in-person eating, the university had to find spots for students to actually dine. Outdoor tents located in proximity to dining pick up locations and where tents could be easily placed was the solution. At IU Bloomington, outdoor tented study and dining spaces were placed in various locations all over campus. By fall, heating elements were added to the outdoor tents to allow for continued use as colder weather arrived. These same study tents also doubled as dining tents. In addition to creating these new spaces, IU-B library lists where students can study and when study times are available.
IU was not alone among universities who thought of creative solutions for an on-campus fall 2020. Consider Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, two other universities in Indiana. Notre Dame transformed a large outdoor space, located between their main library and their football stadium, into a lounge area. Called “Library Lawn,” the social space features Adirondack chairs placed around fire pits, a stage for student performances and concerts, and lawn games that can be checked out and sanitized after each use. Purdue, like Indiana University, erected numerous outdoor tents for dining and studying throughout their campus.
Indiana University staff and students worked hard to make a fall 2020 campus experience possible. Looking back on the last year, I can’t help but imagine that, looking forward to a post-Covid 19 world, we might continue to rethink our campuses spaces.
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