Classrooms at WSU take a new form with COVID-19 precautions


Kaylee Stout/The Sunflower

Desks at WSU have different signage promoting social distancing throughout campus. COVID-19 will affect the layout of classrooms.

Whether they’re seniors or incoming freshmen, all Wichita State students can expect to see physical classrooms take a new form this fall.

All classes that would usually be in-person will be in a hybrid format this semester, meaning part online and part in-person. Social distancing and masks are required in classrooms, but specific details about class formats vary from instructor to instructor. Some instructors have chosen to shift entirely online.

Jody Fiorini, a professor and head of the School of Psychology, has been with WSU for six years. Because every class is different, Fiorini said the department had to get together to figure out the best choice for individual classes.

“We got together as a faculty, so we looked at all the courses in our program as a group that really helped because we brainstormed ideas,” she said.

Fiorni is doing a mix of in-person and online instruction for her class.

“I have one of those weird classes that is difficult to teach without an in-person component,” she said. “It’s harder to do with Zoom.”

She will be holding an in-person class with three students at a time and the rest of the students attending over Zoom. She has provided see-through masks for the students so they can practice reading facial expressions. The classroom will be big enough for students to social distance.

Fiorini’s advice to students is to carry a reminder to maintain social distancing.

“Once you feel comfortable with a group of people you find yourself becoming closer and more careless with your distance,” Fiorini said. “(You need) some sort of reminder to yourself, something you carry around with you to remind you to not be as close.”

Economics professor Patricia Bradley said after consideration, she also decided to teach partly in person and partly online.

“There’s just a lot of information on the COVID-19 website from WSU, and it was just a process of reading through that and thinking about my classroom,” Bradley said.

Bradley said that she will take every precaution necessary to keep her students safe.

“There is enough space in the classroom that everyone can sit with 6 feet of distance in between,” Bradley said.”(I will) make sure that as students walk in they all have their masks on and in place, (I will) ask them to start seating from the back of the class to the front, and then when we leave we will leave from the front of the class to the back.”

While it may seem easy to sit six feet apart, Bradley said the only way the university can maintain social distancing is to keep reminding students and faculty.

“We just all need to be aware and maybe make reminders when it becomes necessary,” she said.

Bradley’s biggest piece of advice for students is to take time during the pandemic to learn all of the new ways people are communicating.

“Although this is a challenging time and a challenging environment, we are learning things that are going to be very important to know in the new work environment that students will be entering post college,” Bradley said. “I don’t think that any of the technology we learned in this pandemic will go away once the pandemic is over.”

Alexandra Middlewood is a political science professor at WSU. While the majority of her classes are all online, her Model United Nations course will be a mix of online and in-person learning.

“So much of Model UN is team building and getting to know the other students in the class, and I was trying to figure out the best way to do that,” Middlewood said.

Her Model UN class will meet once a week. And while there are only 16 students in the class, they’ll be in a room designed for 50 students to allow social distancing.

Middlewood said she’s taking student safety into her own hands.

“(I) went to Costco and bought a bunch of disposable surgical masks and I’ve been buying hand sanitizer to provide to my students,” Middlewood said. “That wasn’t something that the university required us to do, but that’s something I wanted to do to keep my students safe.”

Middlewood said the biggest advice for her students is to take social distancing seriously, even if it isn’t an ideal situation.

“Look, this isn’t an ideal situation for anyone, no one wants to be in this situation,” Middlewood said. “But it’s important that we do this so that we can get out of these social distancing measures earlier because the longer we don’t take these precautions, the longer this is going to be going on.”