Turning design courses into robust online experiences

Tom Hahn, career instructor of architecture

Editor’s note: Beyond the Call is a new section in Around the O Workplace that highlights the exceptional work of UO employees during COVID-19. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only. This interview was conducted during spring term.

Tom Hahn

Career Instructor of Architecture

How long have you worked at the UO?

It's almost exactly five years this this spring.

Tell us about your work:

My primary duties are teaching architectural design studio to all levels of students, everything from the very beginning all the way up to the final studio. I also teach a couple of core curriculum classes. One is on building construction, sort of the nuts and bolts of architecture, literally. Also, I teach environmental control systems with Allison Kwok. Shout out to her as a great colleague in that role. It’s effectively the nuts and bolts of mechanical systems like heating, cooling, passive solar design and carbon impact.

I have taught some parts of the design-build program that we do here where we design buildings and then students later build them. We've done a series of houses that have been sold on the open market to affordable housing families. That's been a lot of fun to work on those designs and then see them actually get built with students’ help.

What does your workday look like during COVID-19?

The first thing is I don't get to ride to school every day on my bike. I love seeing the changes of the seasons and friendly faces on the on the streets going to campus. The other thing is there's lots of meetings, goodness, we're having faculty meetings and colleagues getting together to kind of ad hoc things and help each other.

I've actually enjoyed that part, I feel like, and I kind of geek out a bit on the kind of online logistics and digital interface logistics. It’s kind of a hobby of mine, so I'm really happy to be able to share things I learned with colleagues. I really feel strongly that the colleagues I have in the architecture department are amazing. They're super-talented, super wonderful people, and if I can help some of them be able to convey that awesomeness through the online world, I'm glad to do it.

What is keeping you motivated during this challenging time?

That we might not be doing this forever. I'm teaching a summer studio and the decision was made to do that online again. I actually have learned a lot and that is going to make it very robust, so I feel comfortable if we did have to be online in the fall. I'll have a big lecture class to teach then, 120 students or something, plus labs, plus a studio, so it'll be it'll be pretty intense. But looking forward to maybe not having to do this forever.

A huge shout out to the IT people all across campus. I'm sure everybody feels this way, but they've been super helpful. Design, our setup is so challenging when you think about it. If somebody told me two months ago that I was going to be teaching studio online, I'd be, like, no way. Now, even when we do come back in person, I probably will do part of my stuff virtually simply because our profession is becoming more and more global and the students really need to know how to do it and be capable with it.

Tom is a faculty member in the College of Design’s School of Architecture and Environment.

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