New 'landing zones' give TCU students a place to work New 'landing zones' provide a safe and quiet atmosphere for students to study and attend their online classes, but are they getting much use?

By Haeven Gibbons

TCU has set aside five landing zones for students attending online and in-person classes and for those who do not want to attend virtual classes from their dorms.

The zones are spread around campus:

  • King Family Commons, Room 203 A/B/C;
  • Brown Lupton University Union, Ballroom 3301 C/D;
  • Mary Couts Burnett Library, Room 1208;
  • Rees-Jones, Room 337;
  • Smith Hall, Room 1520 A/B.

Two study tents have also been set up. One tent is set up between Rees-Jones Hall and the Neeley School of Business; the other is on the south side of the library.

TCU added a new section to the interactive map that highlights the location of the five landing zones.

“There was a desire to provide a space for students to be able to leave their residence for any reason and to have a quiet space to study across the campus,” Jack Washington, Assistant Director for Campus Planning said. “We kind of focused on providing spaces with a broad coverage from West to East of the whole campus.”

Reservations are not required for the landing zones, but the zones have capacity limits. Landing zone maximum capacities range from 12 to 40 people, the largest zone being the BLUU Ballroom 3301 C/D.

The zones and tents added an additional 200 instructional seats for students. Both zones and tents are equipped with power outlet towers and were strategically placed in areas with reliable WiFi.

They are disinfected daily and are open for the duration of their housing building's availability hours. Students should bring earphones and are required to wear face coverings and social distance.

“I am a big fan of the landing zones and I am appreciative of our facilities group for installing them,” Provost Teresa Dahlberg said. “What really matters, though, is what students think.”

Student Feedback

Lakelin Conrad, a junior neuroscience major, makes a 15-minute walk from his off-campus house to use the landing zone in the library. He said going somewhere to study rather than staying in his room helps him get more studying done and perform better in his classes. Pictured left: Lakelin Conrad studies in a landing zone. (Haeven Gibbons/Staff Photographer)

“I like to come to the library to do work because I can associate it with being productive,” Conrad said. "At home, I don’t know when my roommate will come in and want to hang out.”

Abi Welch, a first-year biology major, has used the outdoor study space and said the fresh air helps her balance being on technology with being able to think straight and have outside stimulation.

“I absolutely love the zones and outdoor study spaces as it helps me be able to leave my room daily, see other people, have a place to go and be able to still socially distance,” Welch said. “I use the space every day including on weekends as my roommate uses the room for her classes, and it is much easier for us to do our classes in different places."

The zones also provide students with a sense of community.

Shelby Salisbury, a junior youth advocacy and educational studies major, uses the zone in Smith Hall every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. She said she has even made a friend at the landing zone.

Zone Utilization

While the zones are frequently used by some, others might not even know they exist.

“I think a lot of people don’t know what they are or where they are,” said Tracy Hull, the dean of the Mary Couts Burnett Library.

Hull said the new study spaces usually don't have more than a few students in them at one time, and some days the rooms are empty.

The rooms need more publicity and public knowledge, Hull said.

Sophomore nursing major Reagan Marshall said she is extremely thankful for the zones but does not think many people know how to use them.

The landing zone in the library was a conference room that was converted because of its WiFi capabilities and movable tables to support physical distancing. The library landing zone is located on the first floor between the books stacks P-Z, a relatively hard-to-find area.

Map highlighting the location of the landing zone in the Mary Couts Burnett Library.

“I’m still trying to find where the rest of them are,” said Monica Nieto, a first year strategic communication major. “But I think they’re a good idea because it’s a peaceful environment to study in.”

Some people opt for other spots.

“Eventually people get their favorite study spots, so people are probably still trying to figure out their favorite Zoom spot to attend class,” Hull said. “Or they may want to sit in the old reading room because that’s where they always study.”

In general, there are less people out on campus, which results in fewer people using the zones. Hull said another factor in the low zone attendance could be the weather. As it cools down people will be looking for spaces to study inside, she said.

Despite the low use of the library landing zone, many students have asked library reference desk staff where they can Zoom for a class or find a quiet place to study.

“Every time I am on the desk in person I have someone walk up to me and ask where they can take their online class,” Assessment Librarian Boglarka Huddleston said. “Most people do not use the phrase ‘landing zone’ nor are they familiar with it, but I always direct them to 1208 and give them the other locations.”

The most popular venues are the outside study spaces under the tents. Washington said he thinks the reason these are the most popular is because they are easy to notice.

“You’re just walking by and they’re there," Washington said. "It’s easy to kind of pull over and use."

The study tent is located on the south side of the library. (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)

Juggling online and in-person classes

For students attending both online and in-person classes, the zones are essential.

“I live off campus, and I have virtual class that ends 10 minutes before my in-person class, so I have to take it in the landing pads,” said Salisbury.

Welch and others have similar experiences.

“I have used a zone because I have an online class after an in-person class, and I wouldn't have time to make it back,” Welch said.

The landing zones are strategically placed around campus to provide aid to students in these situations.

“We wanted to have a place where if a student were taking an in-person class, say in Rees-Jones, and then had an online class not too long afterwards that they wouldn’t have to go all the way back home,” Washington said. “We wanted to make sure that they had a place to rely on to be available to go to that next class.”

The landing zones were part of the larger effort to create a safe campus for students this semester following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It wasn’t just the landing zones,” Washington said. “We set up 217 instructional spaces in addition to that (the zones)."

Washington said it was a team effort across the university to prepare a safe campus for students. More than 2,000 tables and 4,000 chairs were moved over the summer, he said.

“I know operations are modified this semester, but we wanted to continue to provide opportunities for students to have a normal-type experience,” Washington said. “The main goal is to support the student experience as much as we can.”

The five zones were added to the TCU interactive map, and the TCU Student Affairs Instagram shared a poster outlining the landing zone room numbers.

“We want to make sure you are aware of five landing spaces, designated specifically for students to connect with online classes or study, in addition to our residence hall lounges, outdoor spaces and many study spaces in the Mary Couts Burnett Library,” Associate Provost for Student Success Annorah Moorman said in an email sent to students the first week of classes.

Created By
Haeven Gibbons