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March 26, 2020

See You Online: A Q&A From the Virtual Front Lines With Sarah Eltabib, Faculty Senate Chair

Our lives have been changing rapidly as we try to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus. With the decision to move classes online, the Adelphi faculty has been hard at work revising syllabuses, getting up to speed on technology, and thinking outside the box about how to teach and support students virtually.

One of those guiding them is Sarah Eltabib, chair of the Faculty Senate. Eltabib is a senior lecturer in the General Studies program who has taught Human Rights and Social Movements, Western Civilization I and II, and World of Ideas I and II. She has a bachelor’s degree in European history from Stony Brook University, a master’s degree in international relations and affairs, international law, and human rights from St. John’s University, and is currently pursuing her PhD at St. John’s University. Before becoming senate chair in 2019, she served as co-chair of the University First-Year Experience Committee and co-chair of the Faculty Senate Committee on Student Life.

How have faculty been adapting to the online format?

I’ve been teaching online for many years, but there are other faculty members who are not as experienced. But they jumped in to learn. FCPE [Faculty Center for Professional Excellence] has been running workshops on how to use programs like Panopto, Zoom, VoiceThread and Moodle. I’ve been advising professors to create new syllabuses and to vary how they teach—maybe do a podcast, then discussions on Zoom. Faculty members are coming up with great ideas for teaching courses. We’re going to see more visual and audio being used. And faculty and students will come up with great ideas for how to meet virtually.

How have students been adapting?

I’m hearing great first-day success stories! One hundred percent attendance in many courses. Students that generally came in late did not disappoint. They joined in on the conversations and began to learn. There are obvious obstacles many students will have to work through, such as access to the learning and writing centers, and access to technology for some. We have an amazing faculty. I am confident that our faculty will find a way to work with students should they need assistance—as long as they communicate their needs.

What advice and tips have you been giving faculty that pertain to students as well?

  • Try to create an environment with as little distraction as possible so you can focus.
  • Be aware of the background and how you’re dressed. That said, showing yourself and where you are is not a requirement. You have an option to turn your camera off if you prefer.
  • Test devices before a conference or class held in real time (synchronous class) to make sure they’re working.
  • Most important: Communication is key. I suggest students check their Adelphi email three times a day. See if your email program lets you create VIP members, then add your professors. As long as students and faculty are communicating, we will get through the semester. We will be fine.

What should students do if they need help?

The first line of defense is let your professor know what’s happening so they can work with you. All faculty members care about their students and we want you to succeed. Instead of meeting in your professor’s office for advice or tutoring, you can meet through Zoom or Google Meet, for example. Let us know you’re struggling and that you need help, and we’ll get you the help you need.

As a historian, what lessons can we learn from the past?

People learn from each outbreak. Often, living through this becomes an opportune time for self-reflection. People get by.

What are your closing thoughts?

Pants are not optional! I’ve exchanged some funny emails about how people forget they can be seen on camera. That goes for what’s around you as well. You might want to tidy up or use a background, which you can do through Zoom.

Seriously, though, this is an exciting time for higher education. We’re about to find out who can be creative, who can troubleshoot, who can assess students using nontraditional methods. We have a great campus with great faculty.


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