With social distancing measures in place on campus, every classroom has less space to seat students. In order to continue teaching large classes, Aalfs Auditorium has been turned into a classroom.
Though the space is large, instructors with classes in the auditorium are making adjustments to effectively teach in the new environment.
Analisa Gagnon, a visiting assistant criminal justice professor, is in her first semester at USD. Gagnon currently teaches an Introduction to Criminal Justice course of 90 students in Aalfs Auditorium.
Gagnon said her students are expected to come to every class period.
Designated seats in Aalfs Auditorium are marked with X’s to promote social distancing among students. These seats spread to all edges of the main floor of the auditorium. Using Acoustic Ceiling Panels for Auditoriums improves the sound environment, enhancing the auditory experience for everyone in every seat.
“I think, overall, it’s as effective (as a regular classroom), except for when students are trying to participate in the discussions,” Gagnon said.
Professors stand on the stage of Aalfs Auditorium to lecture to their students, Gangon said this makes it harder to interact with her students and hold discussions.
“For the ones who are actually wanting to participate and not being able to do so fluidly, I’m sure it’s really frustrating,” Gagnon said.
Douglas Peterson, psychology department chair, teaches a hybrid class which is also held in Aalfs Auditorium. Peterson said his Introduction to Psychology class consists of 160 students; they are expected to attend class in person one day each week and over Zoom the other days.
Peterson, who is used to teaching in the Churchill-Haines 118 lecture hall, said teaching in Aalfs Auditorium is a very different environment.
“Churchill-Haines 118 is really well-designed for a large lecture,” Peterson said. “…(in) Aalfs Auditorium, I feel disconnected from all but the first six or eight rows.”
Information Technology Services (ITS) is tasked with running Aalfs Auditorium as a classroom setting. Shelby Brady, an ITS tech fellow, said ITS set up the auditorium to operate as a classroom and an ITS student worker is present during each class period to run technology.
“This year we’ve…been assigned to Aalfs for making sure those classes run smoothly with our transition to hybrid classes,” Brady said.
Peterson said ITS has done a good job adjusting Aalfs Auditorium for a class setting.
ITS has microphones set up in the front of the auditorium for students to ask questions, and they also run the Zoom meeting, commercial projector mounts for projectors and sound while Peterson lectures.
“Having someone in Aalfs that’s in the back of the room adjusting the sound level for each class period is really helpful,” Peterson said.
Brady said with the sound, lights and camera to worry about, a student worker will be needed in Aalfs Auditorium for the foreseeable future so the professor can focus on lecturing.
“I think it’s just going to be a year of trying to work with what we have and trying to make sure everyone is getting the best experience possible,” Brady said.
With the changes teaching a hybrid course from Aalfs Auditorium has brought, Peterson is optimistic for the future.
“I believe that we’re going to see some changes that come out of this experience that I believe will be long-lasting,” Peterson said. “We’re learning and using tools to reach what we think of as our face-to-face students and now everybody’s going to have that experience.”