n Some instructors teaching at the mall say theaters may be an effective classroom.

It’s a common scene. A USF professor leaves the office, fights through traffic to get to the University Mall and heads for the movies. But for the last two weeks, professors have traded their popcorn and soda for a microphone as they’ve taught the first classes ever held at the University Mall movie theaters.Ava Chitwood, a professor who teaches Classical Mythology at the mall, said her experience in the first two weeks has been a good one.

“I think so far it’s going really well,” Chitwood said. “I think it has the potential of being a great classroom experience.”Chitwood said mall officials have made the transition to teaching in the theaters easy.

“The mall people have been extraordinary in the way they’ve set things up for us,” she said.

Entering into the semester, much of the concern about holding classes in the mall centered around transportation problems. Students and professors were asked to factor the travel time they would need to cover the busy 1.5-mile distance between campus and the mall. Students were provided with the option of riding a shuttle bus to class, while professors were offered reserved parking. So far, Chitwood said, travel to the mall has not been difficult.

“The transportation problems have been minimal,” Chitwood said. “There’s a little bit (of lateness), but no more than in any other class.”

In addition to transportation concerns, there were concerns about teaching in a nontraditional classroom setting. In a large movie auditorium, professors are required to use microphones and teach to a larger audience. Chitwood said for her, the issue of using a microphone has not been a problem.

“I’ve pretty much done that before,” she said. “The new equipment they’ve put into the theaters is so much easier than some of the old equipment (on campus).”

Chitwood said she appreciates those who have made her experience teaching at the mall a good one. She said she is thankful for the help of the administration at USF and the officials at the mall.

“They’ve just been great,” she said. “(I have) no complaints.”Manijeh Raissian, a professor who is teaching chemistry at the mall, said the first two weeks have also gone well for her.

“So far it has been very good,” Raissian said. “I like it. It seems like the students like it.”

Raissian said when she learned that classes would be held at the mall, she shared the concern about transportation.

“I was worried about the transportation, but it seems like transportation is working well,” she said. “When I go out (after class), the bus is there.”

Raissian said the theater she is teaching in has a capacity of 240 students. She said the class she is teaching has a roster of about 170 students.

Raissian said teaching in the new environment presented a few early problems.

“At the beginning I wasn’t sure about it, but I’m getting used to it,” she said. “The only thing (about the environment), it was a little bit of a change because of using a microphone, and I’m used to having a blackboard (to use in teaching).”

Raissian said she is learning to deal with the teaching challenges, but despite these challenges, her overall opinion of teaching at the mall is favorable.

“(I’m) just getting adjusted,” she said. “It’s a little bit different.”

  • Contact Rob Brannonat oraclerob@yahoo.com