On Friday, March 27, just a week into the university’s complete transition to remote teaching and amid a multitude of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Tech convened a flawless virtual Academic Senate that exemplified how meeting and communicating virtually can be done effectively, even when gathering a group of 84 participants known for healthy discourse and opinion sharing.
The Academic Senate is an assembly of faculty and administrators that tackles a variety of matters related to the operations of the university. The packed 2.5-hour agenda of the first-ever virtual meeting featured 17 speakers making reports, announcements, and PowerPoint presentations; with motions, votes, and audience participation rounding out the critical meeting segments. Participants included faculty from all of the university’s schools and colleges, including NYITCOM-Jonesboro, as well as staff and student government leaders.
Given the circumstances, the meeting could have resulted in chaos or a complete communications breakdown, but instead, engagement occurred through crowdsourcing via the chat function and online voting. As issues were discussed, word documents, slides, and websites critical to the issues at hand were shared on the screen—without the usual distractions of papers needing to be distributed or the challenge of trying to see a screen from the back of the room.
“We actually saw many more responses to senate reports in the online environment…more questions and interactive engagement,” notes Niharika Nath, Ph.D., president of New York Institute of Technology’s Academic Senate.
Careful planning by Nath and her four officers included instructing participants ahead of time about the online platform and adherence to Robert’s Rules of Order, as well as technical preparation and testing to preserve bandwidth for streaming, rehearsing voting features, and preparing backup plans in case of technical failure.
Faculty attendees took note of the ease and efficiency of the seamless meeting and picked up a few ideas for their own virtual classrooms.
“The role of each organizing member was critical in coordinating the moving parts of all online components,” says Nath. “Order is the name of the game.”