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An adapted classroom: Students and faculty find new ways to engage in teaching and learning

September 18, 2020
student and professor writing on opposite sides of clear paneTechnical entrepreneur and management graduate student Molly Over ’20 (left) and mechanical engineering professor Chris Muir work with a clear board in Hopeman Hall. The board, which allows faculty and students to interact while maintaining separation, was made by Christine Pratt, a senior technical associate, with plexiglass donated by Greg Gdowski, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)
Students and faculty members adapt to new—and safety-conscious—ways of interacting as teachers, scholars, and researchers.

Teaching and learning at the University of Rochester look a little different this fall. As Rochester has slowly opened campus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, students and professors are engaging in the work of scholarship and research, but they are interacting in innovative and coronavirus-adapted ways.

Some classes in the College and at the Eastman School of Music have been reduced in size, some are being taught virtually. Masks are the norm for in-person instruction.

And faculty members have put into practice teaching methods that model the University’s safety protocols: building online options into courses, using clear boards to separate teachers from students, holding classes outdoors, employing the Oxford-Cambridge tutorial system (which combines group classes with individual meetings), and working in labs set up at half capacity.

“It’s been an unprecedented experience for everybody,” says Rudi Fasan, the Andrew S. Kende Professor in Synthetic Organic Chemistry. “I think the University and faculty have done a great job of adapting to this new reality. It’s had a major impact in the way we teach and conduct research. We shut our research lab down for a few months, but were able to resume this summer and ramp up to a point where we can be productive.”

Here’s a look at some of the ways University faculty members are teaching this semester:


students at Cobbs hill for class

CONNECTING AT COBBS HILL: Elizabeth Garijo-Garde ’23, a music and public health major, Facetimes with classmate Ashley Wang ’22, a public health major and nursing student, during a trip to Rochester’s Cobbs Hill as part of the class Environmental Health and Justice in the Rochester Community led by Katrina Korfmacher, an associate professor of environmental medicine. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)


photo of dance class taking place outside

DANCE DAYS: An outdoor dance floor and rehearsal space has been set up near Spurrier Hall. Classes like West African Dance (above), led by dance program instructor Kerfala (Fana) Bangoura, feature both in-person and Zoom options. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)


Eastman class with social distancing

CHORAL CONDUCTING: Professor of Conducting and Ensembles William Weinert leads a rehearsal for the Eastman Chorale as the ensemble also practices the safety protocols of wearing masks and staying physically apart. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)


students in lab practicing social distancing

CHEMISTRY COURSE: First-year students (left to right) Vedat Duzgezen, Jordan Blair, Ethan Kahn, and Christine Bednarzh work in a lab set up at half capacity in Hutchison Hall. The lab is for the chemistry course Chemical Concepts, Systems, and Practice, taught by Carl (JC) Olsen, an assistant professor. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster).


masked music students getting antiseptic wipes

CLEAN ROOM: Students grab antiseptic wipes during a break in a rehearsal session for the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, led by Neil Varon, a professor of conducting and ensembles. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)


faculty member meeting outside with student

WRITERS RETREAT: Novelist Joanna Scott, the Roswell Smith Burrows Professor of English, meets outdoors with Kai Reed ’22, a physics and mathematics major who’s working on a cluster through the Department of English. Scott and William Miller, an assistant professor of English, are using a tutorial structure common at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge that combines group classes with individualized meetings. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)


class meeting at the meridian marker

MERIDIAN MEETING: Joan Saab, an associate professor of art and art history and of visual and cultural studies, and students in her class Topics in American Art: Public Art meet at the Meridian Marker on the Eastman Quadrangle. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)


class meeting with social distancing in lecture hall

LECTURE NOTES: Robert Minckley, a senior lecturer in the Department of Biology, leads a session of the class Ecosystem Conservation and Human Society. Held in Lander Auditorium, the class offers a Zoom option for remote students, while students who attend in person have to wear masks and follow distance protocols to reduce capacity in the auditorium. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)


sock covering spout of bassoon

WELL DRESSED: What better way to dampen aerosol transmission from a bassoon during a rehearsal for the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra than a musically themed sock? (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)


 

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Undergraduates who arrived August 1 for a New York State–required quarantine are finding plenty to do while they prepare for the fall semester.
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