North Texas Daily

UNT and its students can benefit from outdoor classes

UNT and its students can benefit from outdoor classes

UNT and its students can benefit from outdoor classes
October 12
11:00 2020

Establishing outdoor learning environments is a valuable idea whose time has come. At the University of North Texas, outside classes should be considered by students and faculty members after the push for remote and online learning is leading to the decline in the traditional college experience. While in-person classes returned to campus, it still doesn’t feel like what it used to be.

The new system of majority remote and online learning is taking a toll on students in its first semester following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Students this fall are burdened with higher levels of stress and less motivation in the new standard of online lecturing. In a September poll completed by North Texas Daily with 685 students, 84 percent of students felt less motivated about the switch to remote learning. In another poll with 400 students, 64 percent of students felt they were likely to fail a class in the fall semester.

One thing I could assume going through the data is students might be lonely and not interacting with friends or peers on a daily basis makes life move a little slow. I personally fit in with the students who feel higher stress. Not seeing any of my colleagues every day feels empty.

It is obvious students aren’t comfortable with the new system of learning being isolated, so how can we fix it? Perhaps moving classes to the fresh air and outdoors might be a new solution to getting back to the old fashioned way of the college experience.

Spending time and having classes outside will help students combat the growing pessimism in many ways. Being outside has numerous health benefits like improving Vitamin D intake, mental health, focusing and getting in some exercise from walking, according to Harvard Health.

Recent studies also show the link between severe COVID-19 cases and low Vitamin D levels in patients, suggesting low levels of the vitamin in the bloodstream are likely to develop hospitalization or life-threatening complications.

Assuming the warm and sunny Texas climate does its thing, why not give it a shot to try out something new?

The way you can do this is by setting up classrooms throughout different parts of campus, preferably near the individual classroom’s department building. Classrooms could be set with high peak frame tents with tables and chairs to stay socially distant. The lecturers can still bring projectors or whiteboard/chalkboards as the main teaching visuals.

Reed College experimented with this procedure earlier in September. The setup had the high peak frame tents with desks socially distant, including the students and lecturer wearing a mask. The tent classroom space also had multiple whiteboards.

If there are big enough tents to shade 15-20 students it might be a viable option for the university to attempt and bring back a similar face-to-face interaction. This concept doesn’t have to apply to just one single classroom, the campus could set up tented classrooms all around the buildings.

With most courses meeting over Zoom gatherings, you have to depend on nearly flawless internet connection and speed for the best results to appear. The truth is most students really don’t pay attention during Zoom meetings and our focus is on other things if we view the lecturer in our own homes on a computer screen.

As a student with only one face-to-face class, it’s much more convenient to have that situation rather than all courses in remote learning. The old days of the college experience are potentially behind us, and who knows if in-person courses are becoming obsolete?

Students pay big bucks every single semester, so the push for Zoom as the main resource of learning could be a turn off if its flaws continue to be an issue. The opportunity of holding outdoor classes is something the university should think about if it wants to bring creativity with the learning experience in the battle against COVID-19.

Featured Illustration by Durga Bhavana

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Preston Rios

Preston Rios

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