issue Fall 2020

RFU in the Time of COVID

By Sara Skoog, Photos by Michael R. Schmidt
Dylan Hast, MS, CSCS, Fitness and Recreation Specialist

The pandemic forced most of us to change how we learn and work, but it also brought to the fore RFU’s ability to adapt and innovate. Shortly after the university transitioned to remote campus operations in March, strategies were formed to safely bring students and employees back to campus for the fall quarter in August. The following are just a few examples of how RFU has adapted to ensure the campus community can continue learning, working and staying well together, whether we’re separated by six feet or hundreds of miles.

Clinical Anatomy

Bruce J. Goldberg, MD, assistant professor, CMS, teaches a clinical anatomy course while Adam Jansen, the Anatomy Lab director, films the live feed to students.

Mark Grumet, DC, director of the Center for Clinical Anatomy, knew that the COVID-19 threat meant he and his colleagues would need to think outside the anatomy lab — a radical departure from how anatomy has been taught for more than a century. “There’s just no way to have 287 students safely in the anatomy lab on a regular basis right now,” Dr. Grumet said.

The traditional structure of a clinical anatomy course, with students clustered shoulder to shoulder as they observe and perform dissections, could not be implemented while also maintaining appropriate social distancing. While considering alternative teaching methods, Dr. Grumet and his team realized a solution may already exist within the Chicago Medical School’s revised curriculum.

“Since students can’t be in the lab right now, we decided our instructors would do demonstration labs that students would watch over Zoom,” Dr. Grumet said.

Assistant Diener Latesha Bailey, BA, LFDE, and Clinical Assistant Professor Noreen Kelly, MD, watch the video feed during a clinical anatomy course.

While filming a series of demonstration videos over the summer, the instructors were inspired to add a live video component to the course for the fall quarter. This meant turning the anatomy lab into a TV studio of sorts. Now, in addition to scrubs and gloves, instructors also don lapel microphones and deliver their lessons to a video camera for a live broadcast. Students can ask questions via the chat feature in the Zoom video platform, allowing the lessons to remain interactive in real time. Students can also view the videos on demand to review course content.

“COVID broke lots of things, but it's also an opportunity to fix a lot of things.”

Dr. Grumet acknowledges that not all students learn the same way. Some students may prefer a more hands-on approach, while others may prefer listening to a recorded lecture outside of normal class hours.

“COVID broke lots of things, but it’s also an opportunity to fix a lot of things,” Dr. Grumet said. “I’m collecting data on how our students are learning based on things like how many times the videos are viewed. Previously, there wasn’t a way to track precisely how many hours our students spent studying anatomy.”

Fitness and Wellness

The need for social distancing impacted not only classrooms and offices, but fitness centers and gyms as well. Fitness and Recreation Specialist Dylan Hast, MS, CSCS, described some of the changes that are helping the RFU community stay physically active while maintaining a safe distance.

“We have two outdoor group fitness classes a week scheduled at the moment, and we will continue to do those as weather permits,” Mr. Hast said as the fall quarter got underway. “As long as there is enough space for participants to be 10 feet apart, we are good to go. Classes are open to everyone in the RFU community and rotate from week to week, with one week being yoga and WERQ dance fitness, the next week being pilates and cardio blast, and so on. We’re also conducting online fitness classes, which are instructed live over Zoom and recorded. We upload the recorded classes to a Google Drive folder that the RFU community can access at any time.”

Hands-On Learning

Health care and biomedical research are hands-on pursuits, and not all course components can be delivered online. Hands-on experiences such as skills labs, workshops and research might involve activities that are difficult to accomplish while maintaining six feet of physical distance. To ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff participating in close-contact educational activities, the university established a required COVID testing schedule. Rosalind Franklin University Health Clinics personnel are going above and beyond to facilitate this large volume of COVID testing so that students can continue to meet their educational requirements.

COVID Safety Measures

Making RFU’s campus safe for students and employees is no small feat. All campus spaces were assessed and modified as necessary. University administration put a number of workplace controls in place to help reduce and control COVID-19 risk factors, covering everything from cleaning frequency to classroom setup to cafeteria seating. When the university transitioned to primarily remote operations, the Facilities Management Department, under Director Bob Jackson, undertook the monumental task of preparing RFU for the safe return of students, faculty and staff.

Compliance with safety guidelines required tables and chairs to be roped off or removed to reduce room capacities. (Total seating in Rhoades Auditorium and its two pods pre-COVID: over 900. In the time of COVID: 128.) Floors and stairways were marked with direction patterns to help maintain distance and one-way movement. Water fountains were shut off, although touchless bottle-refilling stations remain. Facilities staff installed sneeze guards at reception desks, podiums and other areas that students and employees approach frequently throughout the day. Even elevator and bathroom capacities had to be reduced to ensure adequate physical distancing. These are but a few of the many modifications required to ensure safety at RFU in the time of COVID.

Sara Skoog is a staff writer with the RFU Division of Marketing and Brand Management. In addition to writing for Helix and other university publications, she also produces Pulse, RFU’s monthly e-newsletter.

Please note, any group photo that does not feature physical distancing or mask wearing was taken prior to the State of Illinois issuing such guidelines. RFU has policies in place that require these and many other safety measures.