Transitions: Our new normal

When TCC finally announced that the school was closing, and advising sessions were being moved online, my initial reaction was one of relief. After all, we already have online advising, and as such this would be a seamless transition for both students and staff. However, my relief was short-lived, as it dawned on me, what about my prospective and current international and ESOL students? How do I effectively communicate and advise such a specialized population with complicated cases using IVY chat (a customer service chatbot)? I knew then that this transition was going to require a certain level of creativity on my part, adjustment and trust on the part of my students, as we navigated through our new normal.

As an adjunct instructor, I use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra to teach my class. It is simple to use, requires no software to download and little to no technology knowledge. As an advisor, I realized this tool was exactly what I needed to assist my students and recommended it to my department. Instantly, my international, ESOL and undocumented students seemed pleased with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, as it replicates a face-to-face advising session. Although this a group that generally takes its time to open up, accept and trust, they embraced this method of delivery with no hesitation. This was in sharp contrast to their reaction to IVY chat and phone advising with visual cues that robs them of helping calm their fears and aids them in developing a positive advising relationship.

Many of my students initially were frustrated, as they struggled to make sense of the evolving uncertainty around them, its impact on their graduation, course plan, finances and legal status. This also was coupled with their inability to speak with an advisor face-to-face or have a video discussion, this certainly was not what they were hoping for.

But now, I am glad that regardless of the method of delivery, be it IVY chat or email, phone advising or Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, that each advising session makes my students feel appreciated, understood and respected, conveying the message that the advisor is experienced and knowledgeable about policies and student issues.

Thus, as we continue to find our way in this new normal, it is imperative that we realize that uncertain times reveal our reality, and at TCC change is constant, but our zeal for our students always propels us, to assist them in finding “success within reach.”

Sheila Addo, an academic advisor at TCC Southeast, enjoys reading, traveling, cooking and spending time with her family and friends.