Editor’s note: We would like to thank Anita Moutchoyan, Director and Serine Jaafar, Writing Tutor of the Writing Center at Haigazian University, Beirut (Lebanon) for providing this piece. Our hearts and thoughts go out to them as they grapple with the unfathomable atrocity. To contact the authors, please email Anita Moutchoyan. If you would like to share your writing center’s experience during COVID-19, please submit via WLN.
In the 2019-2020 academic year, Lebanon witnessed a revolution, an economic strife, and a global pandemic which created truly challenging circumstances for the Haigazian University Writing Center. In an attempt to tackle some of these conditions, the HU Writing Center team, within a week of the quarantine period, began providing virtual writing support to students using Zoom. This platform proved to be quite successful since it enabled audio and video communication. Tutees shared their texts via screens and engaged in active conversations with tutors which allowed the Center to uphold its philosophy – one that encourages students to have authority over their work.
What stood out during these quarantine sessions was not only the conversation about writing that took place between tutors and tutees, but also the human component of each session. At the beginning of almost every session, there was always a brief conversation about the pandemic and about feelings related to confinement and its challenges. This engagement proved to be comforting for both the tutors and tutees. Through these sessions, we established a connection, beyond the confinement of space, with the immediate common goal of writing in mind and human interaction in hindsight.
Amid all the chaos, this period of instability introduced some positive changes for the HU Writing Center. It highlighted the value of the service the Center offers as more faculty and students, who had not previously sought our writing support, reached out. Several faculty members promoted the Center by encouraging students to make use of our services.
This experience has also allowed us to expand our tutoring options in the future. Even after fully returning to campus, we plan to continue offering online writing support. In the past, we did not have the ability to extend our opening hours to cater for the needs of working students and graduate students who often request support in the afternoons. Our effective experience with online tutoring has shown that it can be the viable solution we needed for afternoon sessions.
Moving with the demands of our new reality, we have also decided to adopt a flexible approach to peer tutoring to ensure that we continue investing in peer tutors. If we are unable to commit to full campus presence in the near future, we plan to continue training peer tutors by developing new methods via online platforms. Peer tutors in training will observe sessions and practice actual tutoring in a virtual space in order to fulfill training requirements.
The pandemic has, in fact, proven our resilience during difficult circumstances. While the future of the HU Writing Center remains uncertain, given the changing conditions that the country is witnessing, we remain hopeful and determined to provide writing support to our community.