Bring some hope into your online class – weeks 2-4

Online teaching takes a mental toll on students and faculty alike. I miss the face to face interactions, and the gallery of 25+ mini mug-shots on Zoom just isn’t the same. What is quickly transpiring is that some students have adapted really well to the online environment. These students do appreciate the recorded lectures and the ability to replay, pause and even speed through them and do find the weekly assessments helpful as a measure of their learning. Others haven’t adapted as well. As one of my students explained: “I am finding it very hard to stay motivated.” I understand how challenging it is to stay motivated with online learning, and I can only imagine how the current circumstances compound the issue.

So I decided to liven things up for Week 4. Instead of the regular Zoom session where I go over some of the material in depth, I invited NYUAD alumni, whom I have taught a course previously or I have supervised their capstone, to our zoom session: Nine awesome alumni showed up! It was heart-warming to hear their stories from around the world. They shared their professional experiences that spanned a gamut of sectors: consulting, software development and testing, product design, graduate school, real-estate and even the army. They shared a message of hope that these circumstances will pass. They calmed some of the seniors whose post-graduation job offers got upended. They shared their strategies to survive the unstructured world after university: one alum shared that he only signs 6-month contracts and assesses his achievements and life goals every 6-months, flexibly changing his career and plans if the past 6-months made him miserable. Another explained how he used an 8-month employment gap to reinvent his career. They talked about their current jobs and their biggest challenge post-graduation: budgeting! Another explained how “learning, re-learning and reading books” is something that helps deal with the current situation as well as multi-tasking across a variety of personal-interest projects.

They also reflected on their time at NYUAD and their senior years. They described how OS and DB Systems were intense. “We did everything in Azza’s class: projects, assignments, research, exams, and labs!” and how they regretted not taking the “wood-working” class. They all shared how their experiences at NYUAD made them better professionals and people. I may have intended for the session to cheer up my students, but it ended up lifting my spirits and making me so proud of my former students. More importantly, it made me optimistic about the future of my current students, knowing that NYUAD prepares resilient individuals who adapt well to the changing world.

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