My teaching portfolio since 1985 entailed the preparation and teaching of 22 different courses at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) – AUB, 15 of which (68%) were in computer engineering which is my area of specialization. Furthermore, nine (42%) of the courses, all of which I had introduced, were either final year undergraduate electives open to graduate students or were graduate courses, such as Advanced Computer Architecture (ACA), Computer Graphics (CG), Modeling and Simulation, and Computer System Analysis (CSA), among others. The average class size of all the courses I taught from 1985-2004 was around 55 students with 63% of the 75 courses taught during that period having an enrollment of more than 40 students and sometimes reaching as high as 158 students. Teaching the above courses shaped my understanding of the teaching profession and the methods to use to achieve students learning.
Teaching is the promotion of active learning. It is inspiring students to personalize ideas and concepts through active engagement rather than passive reception and to think creatively especially when it comes to analysis, synthesis, and design in all work needed inside or outside the classroom. Many research studies have proven that students learn better when they are agents of their own learning. I consider myself very lucky to have taught some of the brightest AUB students admitted to the Computer and Communications Engineering (CCE) as well as the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) majors.
My goals as a professor are to provide my students with a strong foundation of knowledge in the subject matter taught, to encourage them to reflect on the course material, and to kindle their enthusiasm to think “outside the box”. I always try to incorporate active learning techniques in each course I give including group discussions, research papers, small design assignments, and group projects, among others. Moreover, it is essential to help students sharpen their critical thinking skill, guide them to obtain knowledge independently, and find viable solutions for difficult problems as many of the technical problems they will face in their future jobs would not have existed during their study years. Hence, I believe that my prime responsibility as a professor is to unleash the potential of my students and to nurture their abilities through various ways, including the assignment of research-related and design-oriented tasks. Equally important is how to convey that knowledge in an effective and clear manner in the classroom as well as engage students in case studies and in state-of-the-art research.
Equally significant is testing the presentation and communication skills of students when they present their work to the whole class (research papers, projects, etc.) These soft skills are essential to their future success as engineers and managers as has been demonstrated by the many surveys carried out with international companies regarding the skills fresh graduates need to have when joining the workforce.
Furthermore, assessment of student performance is an important aspect in teaching. I would like my exams to evaluate not only how much content knowledge my students have grasped, but also evaluate their analysis, synthesis, and design skills related to the course subject matter. Accordingly, most of my exams were open-book capitalizing on design questions in order to extrapolate each student’s ability to analyze, synthesize and design rather than his/her ability to memorize the material.
I am proud to say that I have succeeded in achieving my goals in the courses I taught, as evident from the following sample of Faculty Appraisal results (out of 5) provided by students for some of the courses I regularly taught (shown in brackets): 4.6 (ACA), 4.6 (CSA), 4.45 (CG), etc. Furthermore, some of the comments made by students are as follows: (a) EECE 611C (Spring 2004): “The instructor enhanced my learning by encouraging research which is considered a major issue in the academic process”, (b) ELEG797: “The course was very helpful & contributed a lot to my research skills”, (c) “Dr. Diab is one of the best professors we have had so far. He shows a great deal of experience and expertise in his domain”, (d) “This is one of the few courses I was happy to take at AUB. I being a computer enthusiast and willing to improve my already increasing knowledge, enjoyed this course extremely”, and (e) Ways in which the instructor enhanced my learning in the course: “Professor Diab is by far the best professor to teach me until now. He gives great advice and presents the material very clearly.”
I also believe that professors should play a proactive role in engaging students outside the classroom. Accordingly, I have spearheaded the design, development, and implementation of web sites pertaining to several courses including: Microprocessor Systems, Computer Architecture, CG, ACA, to mention a few. I was also involved in the supervision of lab courses including Electronics Laboratory (1987-1989), and Microprocessor Systems Laboratory (1990-2002), among others. Moreover, I was the Founder and Counselor (July 2, 1997 – June 30, 2003) of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Student Branch (IEEESB) at AUB. The IEEESB, established on July 2, 1997, started out with 77 members and grew to over 400 members in 2003. It was among the first IEEE Student Branches established in the Middle East and the first in Lebanon. The IEEESB website received the: (i) 1st place (May 2003) in the IEEE Region 8 (Europe, Africa, Middle East) among 26 contestants, and (ii) 3rd place (June 2003) in the IEEESB Web Site Contest. Furthermore, I was the coordinator for the final year projects for CCE and ECE students for a period of 11 years (1985-1996), as well as the supervisor of 42 final-year undergraduate projects and 13 Masters Theses in the ECE Department (1985-2004). Moreover, during the period 1987-2004, I was advisor to an average of over 70 students per year.
More recently, the Continuing Education Center (CEC), which organizationally falls under the Office of Regional External Programs and represents AUB’s community outreach and life-long learning arm, will be the first unit at AUB to launch on-line distance learning professional certificates and diplomas by the end of 2018. I expect that this will allow exponential growth of CEC students over the next decade. This will make AUB go global in terms of its CEC outreach in the future.
Finally, I strongly believe that a faculty member should act as a role model for his or her students, treat them with respect, guide them, and care about their future success. As such, I always presented myself as a role model to my students and acted with full professionalism and integrity. I was cordial, encouraged questions, and was accessible to all my students and advisees during and outside office hours. In my opinion, the most worthwhile goal for a university professor is to leave a legacy of students who can competently apply what their professor had taught them and become lifelong independent learners: “That they may have life and have it more abundantly.”
I truly cherish the experience I had with my students whom I meet all the time in Lebanon and all over the region as I travel extensively in my capacity as AUB’s VP for Regional External Programs. The outstanding majority of them hold very good posts in reputable companies as CXOs (i.e., CEOs, COOs, CAOs, CTOs, CIOs, CFOs, etc.) which always brings to my heart a sense of pride and satisfaction having accomplished my duty towards my students. Students that transformed into agents of positive change in our region and beyond.