By Syeda Aiman Zehra
In the quiet, green plains behind the SDSB — where the rustle of autumn leaves and memories of birthdays and swing rides reign — there now stands a white canopy over a congregation of desks and chairs. In the middle, affixed between two poles, is an empty white board full of possibilities for the upcoming semester.
This makeshift outdoor classroom is one of the developments that the admin has made to, as stated in the Vicechancellor’s email on 25th November, take the LUMS body towards a return to campus in a manner that is safe and convenient during the ongoing pandemic. Similarly, Dr. Adnan Khan, Dean of SSE, explained to The Post: “many universities have shifted to temporary outdoors classrooms to have in person classes during the COVID outbreak. This is done in order to minimize transmission risk.”
While many students enjoy outdoor learning, it has usually been linked to fieldwork courses and individual study sessions under the Neem trees in the campus gardens. On the other hand, full-fledged lectures have sparsely been conducted on campus the way they are now. “When you would be walking to class and the weather was nice, you really wanted to study outside”, says Mahnoor Imran ‘22, “I would feel jealous whenever instructors were chill enough to take their kids outside.”
With this newly constructed classroom, Imran feels that her long-desired wish is likely to come true. She also identified some of the perks of an outdoor classroom when compared to a traditional one: “What if you’re studying and a cat comes over? I think it’s great that we will get to sit under the sun, and it will also help with concentration to be sitting in a less artificial setting.”
On the other hand, this alternative study space comes with its own set of concerns too. “One part of me is really happy, but I know as soon as summer or even when a bit of rainy season comes around, it’s going to be really difficult to hold those classes and there wouldn’t be a regular schedule,” says Imran.
Concerns also arise around the fact that smog season is in bloom at the moment, which will backfire the purpose this classroom aims to serve by potentially putting students’ health in jeopardy. However, Khan believes that this will not be an issue. He says, “Smog usually decreases by late January, [which is] when the semester starts.”
It appears that these outdoor classrooms are ready for regular use, and MBA classes have already been tried out. Besides, it goes without saying that usage will increase significantly after campus reopens in January. Whether or not these classrooms will be able to serve as a long-term solution is unsure, especially considering their infeasibility during the hot summer months. However, in the meantime, they are proving to be a much-needed solution to a pressing COVID-era challenge.