Outdoor Classrooms Open on UCSD Campus


Photo of an ourdoor classroom tent.
Maya Philipp / The Triton

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On November 9 as part of UCSD’s Return to Learn program, two new outdoor complexes will be opened on campus. These structures will serve as lecture halls and study lounges for instructors and students.

Nine tents have been built so far: two classrooms and two study areas in Revelle Plaza, and two classrooms and three study areas in Warren Mall. The classrooms are equipped with LCD display screens, speakers, microphones, wireless network range extenders, whiteboards, and seating areas for up to 50 students. Both are ADA and social distancing compliant, with raised platforms in case of inclement weather. The outdoor classrooms will be disinfected daily just like the regular lecture halls and classrooms.

The outdoor classroom technology will be provided by UCSD’s IT Services and will be maintained by the University Centers’ tech services team, which consists of four professional staff and five student employees.

Sharon van Bruggen, executive director of University Centers told The Triton that “the University Centers don’t normally provide AV services for lecture halls or classrooms. However, providing this service for the outdoor classrooms seemed like a perfect opportunity to keep our student employees working, support our campus partners in Academic Affairs, and support the student body with a professional outdoor classroom experience.”

Instructors were given the opportunity to move their fall classes here for in-person learning, while students wanting a safe space to study outside of formal instruction can access the classrooms reservation-free. Recording equipment will allow instructors to make the classes hosted here available for students who are either unwilling or unable to attend.

UCSD officials are optimistic about the use of outdoor classrooms during winter quarter following the success of fall quarter classes like MAE/ECE 148: Introduction to Autonomous Vehicles.

“Classes for winter are not finalized yet, but classes can now be scheduled in the new spaces, at the faculty members’ discretion,” said Christine Clark, assistant director of communications. “The new spaces have been added because we have a shortage of larger socially-distanced classrooms, and both faculty and students have expressed an interest in teaching and learning outdoors. These spaces give faculty and programs more flexibility in delivering learning experiences.”

Despite less than 10% of classes at UCSD being offered in-person, faculty have had difficulty finding spaces to accommodate them. Class sizes are limited to 50 students per class, but with strict social distancing and cleaning guidelines spreading staff resources thin, more classrooms were deemed necessary.

Alongside the opening of outdoor classrooms are new options for outdoor recreation offered through UCSD’s Return to Rec program. Those who register for memberships, free with tuition, can access in-person classes for activities such as boxing, dance, surfing, and archery. Facilities like the track and field stadium will remain open for individual use; the Canyonview pool, graduate housing pool, and outdoor tennis courts will remain open for use with a reservation.

“We have been working hard to institute new cleaning protocols and training staff members in preparation for reopening RIMAC gym for workouts and classes,” Clark said. “Our plan includes transforming the basketball court near Main Gym into an outdoor strength training area by winter quarter.”

Clark was reached out to for clarification regarding the use of outdoor classrooms following winter class enrollment, but no response was given.

Bryce Pollack is a staff writer for The Triton.