With education across the world affected by the abrupt shift to online learning, NYU Abu Dhabi’s (NYUAD) Office of Community Outreach and Hilary Ballon Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning established a Virtual Tutoring Project to provide academic and moral support to middle-school and high-school students in Abu Dhabi. More than 30 NYUAD community members delivered 300 hours of tutoring to nearly 60 school pupils in grades five to 12, over a three month period.
The sudden shift to online instruction presented an array of challenges for some schools and pupils, including a lack of devices to access learning, poor internet connectivity, and limited teacher training on remote instruction. Some students also found it difficult to stay motivated online, particularly if immediate support was not available to help understand a concept or complete an assignment. A mix of NYUAD students, alumni, and staff members, the tutors helped school pupils further their studies and overcome some of the challenges resulting from learning from home. The NYUAD tutors connected with Abu Dhabi students while working remotely themselves from 16 different countries including China, Egypt, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, UAE, the US, and the UK.
Commenting on her tutoring experience, NYUAD Class of 2023 student Aya Abu Ali said: “The most special thing about being a Virtual Tutor was the one-on-one personal connection that the program allowed me to make with my tutees despite the countless miles between us and a laptop screen being the sole physical connector. Education is such a humanitarian profession, and to be able to exercise our humanity and awareness of global issues in times of crisis was a privilege and a vital part of who we are and what we strive for as NYUAD students.”
NYUAD Class of 2020 alumna Vongai Mlambo, commented: “When my tutee told me that she aced her exam because of how thoroughly we had covered a topic, I felt immensely touched. Our last session was particularly challenging as none of us wanted to say goodbye. We had become so integral to each other's lives over a few months and that inter-existence is something that I have found to be rewarding.”