Adelphi faculty develop pedagogical solutions to meet the challenges of COVID-19

When COVID-19 shut down classrooms in March 2020, schools and universities were forced to adapt to online education on the fly. No road map for this transition existed; instead, each educator had to employ a trial-and-error approach, working to find the practices that best served their students and curricula.

At Adelphi, faculty advanced the University’s long-standing commitment to research and public service by blazing new trails in remote teaching and learning. Across departments, schools and fields, they turned unprecedented challenges into opportunities for innovation, devising novel teaching strategies, analyzing their results and sharing their findings with the academic community. Here is what they discovered.

Living history journals inspire communal healing

Roni Berger, PhD, professor in Adelphi’s School of Social Work, was in the middle of teaching a doctoral course when the pandemic exploded. “I realized this was an ideal time to teach qualitative research, which is all about capturing people’s lived experiences,” she recalled.

Dr. Berger invited her students to keep regular, reflective journals—a common method of qualitative inquiry—for the rest of the semester. The students shared their journals with one another and performed a content analysis, which Dr. Berger published in collaboration with Kari Tabag, MSW ’97, adjunct professor and doctoral student of social work, and Alissa Mallow, MSW ’83, DSW ’00, assistant director of field education in the School of Social Work at that time, as well as doctoral students Chireau Toree White, Cheryl Fiore, Adam Schachar and Estee Hirsch, as “Teaching and Learning in a Time of Corona: A SocialWork Experience,” originally published in Clinical Social Work Journal on April 3, 2021.1

Shared experiences emerged in the journals: feelings of isolation, health stress, worries about family and screen fatigue—all consistent symptoms of exposure to the same collective trauma. Yet, the authors reported, the entries showed that students were “moving from an intense experience to more acceptance of a ‘new normal’ and, in some cases, to manifesting resilience.”

In their paper, Dr. Berger and her co-authors argued that students who receive peer support will be better positioned to understand, process and validate their own emotional reactions. Tabag, who participated in the journal-sharing process, agrees. “We didn’t feel so isolated after reading about each others’ experiences,” she said.

Adapting social work courses to reflect the profession’s principles

Dr. Berger partnered with Marilyn Paul, MSW ’95, PhD ’07, clinical associate professor of social work at Adelphi, to examine remote social work education from another angle.

In their efforts to create online courses, the pair found that the tools and technologies available tended to impose the kind of pedagogical rigidity they had always rejected. “For example, the external technologist helping us bring our courses online wanted us to grade everything the students did and follow a ‘cookbook’ formula,” Dr. Berger explained.

She and Dr. Paul worked with the technologist to arrive at a compromise: a feature in the online teaching software that allows social work instructors to personalize courses around a prescribed template. In “Pedagogy vs. Technology: Challenges in Developing Online Courses in Social Work Education” (Journal of Teaching Social Work, June 22, 2021),2 they outlined several suggestions for more effective collaboration between instructors and technologists. “Courses should be developed in a manner that allows easy and constant revisions,” they concluded, “and technology trainers should instruct faculty on the use of software and platforms.”

Virtual simulations prepare nursing students for the age of telehealth

In early 2020, Marissa Abram ’08, PhD ’17, assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Public Health, had been planning to conduct a classroom simulation that would teach her students to care for psychiatric patients with comorbidities. While the pandemic meant her class couldn’t simulate the experience in person, remote learning presented an unexpected opportunity to simulate telehealth.

Dr. Abram collaborated with College of Nursing and Public Health colleagues Adrial Lobelo, DNP, clinical assistant professor, and Maryann Forbes, PhD ’99, associate dean for academic affairs, as well as MS in Nursing Education alumna Geralyn Caliendo ’84, MS ’20, and Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, dean of the Duke University School of Nursing, on a pilot study that became “Telehealth Simulation of Psychiatric and Chronic Disease Comorbidity: Response to theCOVID-19 National Epidemic” (Clinical Simulation in Nursing, April 8, 2021).3

“In this simulation, we had the patient decompensate—that is, become suicidal—so the student had to come up with a crisis intervention over telehealth,” Dr. Abram explained. “Students build confidence when they know they can’t hurt anyone in a simulation, so it creates a psychologically safe experience for them to improve their skills.”

Afterward, students completed a survey about their perspectives on delivering effective care via telehealth. According to the authors, most “expressed increased openness to, interest in, and confidence in using telemedicine for the management of psychiatric patients.” With healthcare “now and for the foreseeable future being delivered via telehealth mechanisms,” they wrote, “our study shows that telemedicine simulations can improve nursing students’ comfort with and future use of telemedicine for treating psychiatric patients.”

Project-based learning promises to enhance long-term student engagement

Like Dr. Abram, Assistant Professor Melissa Randazzo, PhD, and professor Reem Khamis, PhD, both of Adelphi’s communication sciences and disorders department, were curious about the new possibilities afforded by remote learning—particularly the relationship between different online pedagogies and student engagement. Their study was published as “Project-Based Learning and Traditional Online Teaching of Research Methods During COVID-19: An Investigation of Research Self-Efficacy and Student Satisfaction” (Frontiers in Education, May 28, 2021).4

The pair compared two asynchronous graduate courses designed to teach the application of evidence-based practices in the health professions. In the first course, students learned via traditional methods: slide-based lectures, written discussion forums and a final presentation. In the second course, they generated their own protocols, conducted experiments and analyzed data.

Drs. Khamis and Randazzo found that the second, project-based class demonstrated higher engagement with the research literature and course content. “Those students were more engaged and now are more likely to pursue other research opportunities,” Dr. Randazzo noted. However, she and Dr. Khamis also discovered that prerecorded lectures “provided an added benefit in research self-efficacy as a measure of confidence.” “As instructors transition to online teaching or revise current courses in the post-COVID instructional landscape,” they wrote, a combination of both methodologies can be successfully applied to advance classroom goals.

A structural framework for remote physical education

According to Kevin Mercier, EdD, associate professor of health and sport sciences, physical education (PE) teachers have historically received less support than their colleagues in other fields. When the pandemic began to erode that support even further, he decided to research its effect on PE instruction and student outcomes.

In collaboration with colleagues from universities across the country, Dr. Mercier surveyed thousands of PE teachers nationwide about their experiences. Their findings were published as “Physical Education Teachers’ Experiences With Remote Instruction During the Initial Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic” (Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, March 18, 2021).5 “It became clear that teachers weren’t prepared to teach in a new modality,” Dr. Mercier said. “In fact, they were often left to fend for themselves.”

In a follow-up survey, Dr. Mercier and his colleagues asked teachers what might help them teach PE more effectively. They found that teachers were assigning work but lacked confidence in their ability to keep students engaged and physically active, especially those who lacked a reliable internet connection.

In “The Success and Struggles of Physical Education Teachers While Teaching Online During the COVID-19 Pandemic” (Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, June 21, 2021),6 the team provided recommendations for quality PE programming in four key areas: policy and environment, curriculum, appropriate instruction, and student assessment. “The lessons learned from these experiences teaching online will not only prepare the educational system, including PE, for future pandemics and global crises alike,” they wrote, “but will also have long-term implications.

A blueprint for the future

Although most institutions have begun to transition back to in-person learning, remote instruction will no doubt remain a vital resource. Thanks to advances in research over the past two years, remote instruction has become far more responsive to the needs of both students and instructors since the earliest days of COVID-19.

Like many of her colleagues at Adelphi, Dr. Berger has come to appreciate the benefits of remote instruction and its promise of providing access to a high-quality, transformative education for all students. “I’ve tried to make the best of what online teaching offers, and I love it now,” she said.


1 Berger, Roni, and A. Mallow, K. Tabag, et al. “Teaching and Learning in a Time of Corona: A Social Work Experience.” Clinical Social Work Journal, vol. 50, 2022, pp. 43–54.

2 Berger, Roni, and Marilyn S. Paul. “Pedagogy vs. Technology: Challenges in Developing Online Courses in Social Work Education.” Journal of Teaching in Social Work, vol. 41, iss. 3, 22 June 2021, pp. 275-289.

3 Abram, Marissa D., and Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Adrial Lobelo, Maryann Forbes, and Geralyn Caliendo. “Telehealth Simulation of Psychiatric and Chronic Disease Comorbidity: Response to the COVID-19 National Epidemic,” Clinical Simulation in Nursing, vol. 54, May 2021, pp. 86-96.

4 Randazzo, Melissa, and Ryan Priefer, and Reem Khamis-Dakwar. “Project-Based Learning and Traditional Online Teaching of Research Methods During COVID-19: An Investigation of Research Self-Efficacy and Student Satisfaction.” Frontiers in Education, vol. 6, article 662850, May 2021.

5 Mercier, Kevin, and Erin Centeio, Alex Garn, et al. “Physical Education Teachers’ Experiences With Remote Instruction During the Initial Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, vol. 40, iss. 4, 21 June 2021, pp. 337-342.

6 Centeio, Erin, and Kevin Mercier, Alex Garn, et al. “The Success and Struggles of Physical Education Teachers While Teaching Online During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, vol. 40, iss. 4, 21 June 2021, pp. 667-673.

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