In an effort to bring more students to campus during a time of online classes, the Minnesota State University, Mankato IT Department invested in MavPODS, an enclosed room where students can complete a variety of tasks.
Mark Johnson, vice president and chief information officer for IT Solutions, wanted to build a space where students could easily transition between in-person and online classes without having to leave campus.
“We thought of the idea of these pods in the beginning of COVID-19. This isn’t the only solution, but it’s one of them,” Johnson said.
Added Clay, “Some students don’t have reliable access to the internet or a private space to work, and the pod will help.”
With only a small portion of the pods being completely installed, MNSU students are already taking advantage of these spaces to attend class and complete homework.
Ariel Showers, a freshman, pointed out the benefits of the pods.
“They’re nice to get away and focus on stuff in between classes,” Showers stated. “I like how convenient they are, and the pods aren’t a bad thing if people are using them to study.”
Clay said students were consulted on the plan.
“We talked to students around campus to see what they wanted,” Clay stated.
MNSU senior Samantha Boltz was another student who praised the pods.
“I think if students like a quiet environment, they will definitely use these pods. I’ve been here for the past three hours, so I really enjoy them,” Boltz explained.
To spread the word about MavPODS, Johnson presented the idea at the Student Government meeting last week.
The presentation lasted about 10 minutes. The MavPODs plan was not subject to a Student Government vote, nor did it pass any official resolutions in support. In addition, there was no official consultation.
One concern with the MavPODs is their price tag. Johnson dove into this question by explaining, “We wanted to invest in something with a positive, long-term impact. We used the money from federal funding.”
The federal funding comes from a program aimed to help public entities recover from the pandemic.
Added Clay, “Each pod costs roughly $10,000, and this price includes all of the fees added onto it, such as set-up.”
Another concern brought up is the MavPODs’ accessibility challenges. There is a slight step up to enter the pod, leaving those with certain disabilities unable to use them. This small space also doesn’t leave enough room for people with these accommodations to comfortably use the pod.
Andrew Johnson, a member of MNSU’s Disabilities Advocacy Committee, said he’s disappointed with this design oversight.
“This is such an insult to those with disabilities. Our University claims to be focused on inclusion, but that isn’t seen here,” Johnson exclaimed.
He said the pods, while small in perspective, still take up a large portion of the hallway and clutter up the space.
“This says those with disabilities are not valued. All of our concerts were overwritten,” Johnson said.
To find one of the 100 MavPODs locations, scan the QR code located on each pod or on the flyers hanging around campus. You can also visit mankato.mnsu.edu/mavpods to find a pod near you.