Texas A&M Converting Sports Venues, Other Facilities into Class Spaces

Texas A&M said it would convert non-traditional spaces into classrooms for the fall semester, which starts on Aug. 19. The institution, which has about 69,000-students, told the campus community that it would use space in sports centers, the student center, the equine center and portions of its theater complex to accommodate class needs. Room assignments are being made to accommodate "optimal use of available classrooms based on physical distancing seat capacity," the university explained in a campus plan published last week.

Course scheduling is being adjusted to accommodate half-hour passing periods throughout the day and one 45-minute mid-day passing period to give staff time for additional cleaning of classrooms. As a result of the extra-long breaks, the day will extend later into the evening, up to 8:35 p.m. on some days. The university reported that it would also increase the amount of fresh air circulating through ventilation systems in the classrooms.

The institution said it would be offering classes in three formats:

  • In-person, with sessions also streamed via Zoom from the classroom;
  • Remotely, both synchronously via Zoom and asynchronously; and
  • Online, with instruction delivered asynchronously in pre-recorded format, with the possibility of some synchronous activities too.

For some of the in-person classes, faculty will have the students rotate in and out so that all students have the opportunity for a face-to-face class at least once a week, with remote attendance the rest of the time. For example, for a Tuesday/Thursday class, the instructor might assign half the class to come on Tuesday and the other half to come on Thursday. Or, a class with sessions three days a week might have a third of students show up each day of the week.

However, nobody will be required to attend class on campus — with the exception of some professional programs that have accreditation and licensure requirements requiring hands-on activities.

The university has developed a face covering policy, stating that those without one can't enter classrooms without an approved exemption. Faculty have been told they can wear a face shield instead of a mask while they're lecturing, but they've also been advised that they should "still wear a face covering when entering and exiting the classroom," since those "provide more protection."

The school has also put a bring-your-own-device requirement in place, stipulating that students have access to technology for online and remote delivery. The cost of that device has come "part of the financial aid calculation," the university noted. Those students who need financial help buying the gear can request emergency aid to do so.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.