Banners in Jepson Alumni Center

Sound solution helps law students in hybrid classes

October 5, 2020

Campus Life

Combining in-person and remote instruction has its challenges, but some innovative thinking, industrial-grade sewing, and a little elbow grease recently came together to improve acoustics in Jepson Hall Alumni Center for in-person and remote law school students.

The tall ceiling inside Jepson created an echo that made the space — currently used for socially distanced classes — a tough spot for in-person and remote law school students to hear each other simultaneously.

“The problem was that it’s a big, voluminous room,” said Andrew McBride, associate vice president for facilities and University architect. “There were problems with students talking back and forth from one end of the room, and faculty hearing from a student in the back of the room.”

McBride consulted with members of his team, who brainstormed a number of solutions and created a Photoshop sketch of cloth banners that would cut down the noise. 

McBride, who likes to sail, employed the industrial sewing machine he uses for his hobby to stitch a sample, along with PVC tubes to help the banners hang straight to created a prototype of the banners now hanging in Jepson.

“At the end of the day, we went out a fabric store and bought out the store of all its fleece,” McBride said. In about a day Vessela Stefanova, an administrative assistant in University Facilities/Support Services, created 20 additional banners for the space.

“I think that it's just a can-do attitude,” McBride said. “We're here to help facilitate the educational mission of the University, and we want to help meet those needs.”

Members of the electrical shop went in on a Saturday during Labor Day weekend and installed the banners which are placed perpendicular to each other to help absorb the noise.

Additionally, dozens of microphones were brought in and spaced out on tables to make it easier for remote students and the instructor to hear students in the class, said Doug West, assistant vice president, of telecom/media support and user services.

“The banners actually made a major improvement to the idea of sound bouncing all over that room,” West said. “Andrew and his team were very helpful in improving that experience.”