Lauren Steimle and Social Distancing in the College Classroom

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How many students can fit in one classroom if everyone must be six feet apart?

Lauren Steimle, assistant professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), is working with a group of researchers to solve this problem, and their goal is to help colleges and universities make informed decisions about returning to campususing analytics and systems modeling approaches. Her team includes Dima Nazzal (Director of Professional Practice), Natasha Boland (Fouts Family Professor), and other collaborators at the College of Computing.

“Our ultimate goal is to quantify public health risks, resource needs and costs, impact on students, faculty and staff, and the revenue implications for higher education institutions as they evaluate scenarios and contingency plans for return-to-campus during this academic year,” Steimle said in the article.

Adjusting course modes and classroom assignments to accommodate social distancing is no easy challenge. Teaching staff and instructional space are limited resources even during non-pandemic times, and universities also have to consider high activity areas – such as aisles or doors – that further reduce the number of students who can safely fit in a classroom.

“The course modes will impact how students register and the number of students that you expect on campus, which in turn will influence the amount of resources you need for public health measures like testing and contact tracing. These decisions are interrelated, which is why a systems approach can be useful,” Steimle said.

You can read the entire article about Steimle’s research here.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: ehall46
  • Created: 03/29/2021
  • Modified By: Shelley Wunder-Smith
  • Modified: 03/30/2021


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