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Students return to expanded learning opportunities

Elizabeth Burch teaches in a classroom during the pandemic.
A UGA task force is exploring how lessons learned from teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic can enhance the learning environment for students. Fuller E. Callaway Chair of Law Elizabeth Chamblee Burch is pictured teaching in November 2020. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Video conferencing, nontraditional classrooms and in-person sessions will be available

When students arrive on the University of Georgia campus in 2021 to begin their spring semester, they will be greeted with enhanced technology and more opportunities for face-to-face instruction.

“Considering all the nuisances and difficulties that the fall semester presented, faculty and students excelled,” said Rahul Shrivastav, vice president for instruction. “The updates we have made for the spring will allow for in-class and remote students to more easily engage with their instructors and their classmates, providing a truly immersive learning experience.”

COVID-19 classroom sign for social distancing. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Video conferencing expanded

While students continued to learn remotely after Thanksgiving break, UGA installed video conferencing compatible technology in more than 39 centrally managed classrooms. The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences installed 20 of these video “kits” this fall, consisting of ceiling-mounted cameras and microphones.

Jeffery Berejikian, associate professor at the School of Public and International Affairs, taught in one such updated room this fall. “The [technology] setup allowed me to create an inclusive classroom environment,” said Berejikian. “I was able to project remote students on a wall in the classroom, and the updated audio allowed for in-person students to clearly hear comments and questions from online students mirroring a real classroom experience.”

The latest technology additions will enhance learning for more than 19,000 students across campus this spring, building on the 111 classrooms that were updated in the fall with webcams, monitors and microphones.

Nontraditional classrooms

This spring, face-to-face instruction will increase with the expansion of classes into nontraditional spaces including UGA’s Chapel and Tate Theatre (which was used in the fall), Sanford Stadium and the Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. More than 6,000 in-person sessions will be available to students during the semester.

Roberto Carlos, assistant professor at the School of Public and International Affairs, appreciated the option to teach face to face this fall in the Tate Theatre. “I believe that in-person instruction allows for a better connection with students,” said Carlos. “There was an adjustment period as we learned to project with masks but, ultimately, we all adapted, and students seemed to genuinely appreciate coming to class.”

Undergraduate students wearing masks during a music theory class. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Amy Ross, professor at Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, shared a similar sentiment: “My students enjoyed learning in the Chapel this past fall. Students were able to adequately social distance and even got to experience some of the typical hallway conversations that take place before and after class on the steps of one of UGA’s most historic buildings.”

UGA will continue to evaluate and make classroom adjustments in the spring as the pandemic necessitates.