Austin (KXAN) — Staff and faculty at the University of Texas at Austin are on campus preparing to put the finishing touches on their plan to resume some in-person classes starting Wednesday. KXAN got to go on campus for a first look at the set up in several different classrooms and to speak with administrators about the plan for the fall semester.
The university says based on preliminary numbers that 76% of its classroom “seats” (or spots on classes) will be fully online, another 19% combine online and in-person elements and only about 5% are fully in person. Additionally, UT said that almost 50% of its undergraduate students are taking an entirely online course-load for the fall semester.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and community spread of COVID-19 still happening in Austin, the university is planning for the fall semester and aiming to set up the campus in ways that protect against the virus.
Face coverings are recommended outdoors on campus and required in most indoor settings for both employees and students.
The university says that fewer than 25% of its actual seats are being held by students coming in in person, the rest are unoccupied due to online classes. UT said that it will need to wait until the first day of classes to know the actual enrollment numbers, however.
In individual classrooms, desks will be arranged to promote social distancing. Desks are either marked with a green sticker that says “use”, marking where students should sit, or they are spaced out so that students are not close together. Classrooms are also equipped with video screens so that professors can see the webcams of their students if a class has partial in-person and partial online attendees.
UT is also using “Remotely Switched Classroom” studios, which several dozen faculty members will utilize to live broadcast the largest classes on campus. Around 25% of all student credit hours will be delivered in this RSC setting, the university said.
Students are being paid by the university to help both pre-record and live record lectures for professors throughout the semester.
Signs throughout campus and in buildings remind students to social distance, which benches not to sit on, how many people should be in a room and where face coverings are required.
Art Markman, a psychology professor and the head of UT’s academic working group for planning this fall semester, said that the messaging is designed to tell the campus community what they can do rather than what they can’t do.