Online, spaced-out or even outside: A look at college courses at San Antonio-area universities during the pandemic

Classes meet online, distanced or even outside

Students at Trinity University, image courtesy of Trinity University. (Copyright 2020 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this school year looks different than any other and not just for the young kids. It’s forcing many colleges and universities to adapt with unorthodox methods of education.

At Trinity University in San Antonio, 49% of classes are completely online, 46% are hybrid and 5% of all classes are conducted face-to-face only. The face-to-face courses are typically reserved for labs and art-based classes.

“For the health and safety of students and faculty, classroom occupancy is limited, and physical distancing is being observed at all times — some outdoor learning spaces have been identified as well, and face coverings, with very limited exceptions, are being required in classrooms,” the university said in a press release.

Trinity noted that 1,000 students are living on campus and approximately 2,600 students are enrolled this semester. Trinity officials have also created study spaces on campus where students can participate in remote learning classes.

Like Trinity, Texas State University in San Marcos has created remote learning study spaces and adopted a new approach to face-to-face learning, applicable to art students.

In a tweet that has since gone viral, a Texas State University music student showed what an 8 a.m. class looks like. The class was conducted in a nearby parking lot, close to the school of music.

“This is what my $25,000 tuition buys me at Texas State! Loving my 8 a.m. class,” the tweet reads.

According to Texas State, the class featured in the post is led by an assistant professor of music education in the School of Music and is one of four music education classes meeting outdoors in the morning this semester.

In a statement, Texas State said when the professor of the class learned that the primary way the virus spreads is through the air, especially when air conditioning is in use, he looked to science to find a solution to ensure his students had a chance to continue their education while keeping them as safe as possible.

“Several data sources and models that showed playing instruments outside significantly mitigated the spread of COVID-19,” university officials said. “After vetting his findings with health professionals, he presented his data to these students, and most agreed that moving classes outside was the best solution.”

According to the university’s statement, being outside, combined with wearing special masks that allow the students to play instruments, provides the safest learning environment possible for the students who are working to graduate and become music teachers.

Final enrollment numbers for the nearly 40,000 students enrolled at Texas State will not be final until Sept. 9, but the university released the following course model breakdown:

“Approximately 42% of classes are being offered online and 58% are face-to-face. However, a majority of face-to-face classes will include an online or remote component in an effort to reduce classroom density. Only about 20% of all classes this fall resemble a traditional face-to-face university class where all the students come together in a classroom two or three days a week.”

On the University of Texas at San Antonio campus, they’re following a similar plan.

According to a university spokesperson students have face-to-face learning opportunities that include the arts.

“We hold rehearsals for the UTSA Orchestra and Lyric Theatre,” the UTSA spokesperson said. “... The band will prep for the first home game and by game time will be equipped with special masks too.”

Additionally, the UTSA orchestra is practicing for a scheduled concert on Oct. 9 which will be streamed online. The spokesperson said that this semester students are focusing on string instruments in order to minimize the spreads of airborne contaminants.

Video of UTSA students in the orchestra participating in a socially distanced rehearsal is below:

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About the Author:

Jakob Rodriguez is a digital journalist at KSAT 12. He's a graduate of Texas State University, where he served as the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, The University Star.