world class scholars expo 2020
World Class Scholar is a cultural exchange programme for classrooms all around the world, and it is bringing its demonstration to Expo 2020 Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Lessons no longer have to be an isolated affair, one where teachers and students are bound to the four walls of a traditional classroom. If the global pandemic has taught us anything it is that we all have the power to connect and interact in novel ways; schools for the past year or so have been operating on a mostly digital platform.

At Expo 2020 Dubai, where the world will converge to connect minds and create the future starting October for six months, World Class Scholars (WCS) will showcase what the ‘Classroom of the Future’ looks like, and what we can do to best navigate it.

Connect, learn and share

Founded by American entrepreneur and digital innovator Phil Noble, WCS is a real-time online, cultural and educational exchange programme that lets teachers from all around the world connect with other groups elsewhere. WCS, which is currently active in 26 countries including in the United States, will see its global debut at the World Expo with a dedicated pavilion space.

“I come from a small town in Alabama … had the opportunity to study at Cambridge University in England,” Noble told Gulf News in an interview. “It changed my life. I realised that the world is a lot bigger than a small town – everybody is different, but they are also the same.”

I come from a small town in Alabama … had the opportunity to study at Cambridge University in England. It changed my life. I realised that the world is a lot bigger than a small town – everybody is different, but they are also the same.

- Phil Noble, founder of World Class Scholars (WCS)

The same principle lies at the core of Noble’s programme – for young minds to gain exposure to different cultures, languages and ideas, and to eventually learn that differences should not divide but rather unite the world to solve common problems.

Creating global classrooms

Situated in the Sustainability District, the WSC pavilion will host a global classroom, where UAE school students will be invited to interact with up to three virtual classrooms in other countries in real-time. Noble stressed that there was no better way to scale the project than at Expo 2020, whose slogan calls for ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, and in the same vein supports WCS’ three-step process to ‘connect, learn and share’.

wcs expo 2020
WCS pavilion space on Expo grounds, showing a physical classroom and its virtual counterpart Image Credit: Supplied

“It took six years to test – you have to get the model right,” he said about the platform, which already boasts tech giants Microsoft and Google as its partners. Local players have struck up talks with WCS as well, with Noble listing Dubai Cares, GEMS Education and Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) for upcoming projects.

High-ranking delegations of the 191 participating countries will be invited to a classroom demonstration every day. The featured country celebrating its Expo-allotted national day will connect with a school in the UAE inside the WSC pavilion space, allowing nearly the entire world to experience the future of education first-hand.

Classroom of the Future showcase

Though all you need is access to the internet and a camera (Noble said that there have been teachers who conducted lessons with a modest smart phone) to fire up the programme, WCS is bringing a ‘Classroom of the Future’ showcase to Expo. With what the world transforming at a rapid pace, the event keeps abreast of new innovations and initiatives in the field of education.

Demonstrations, seminars, panel discussions, thought leader talks and many more events are in the pipeline for the whole of six months, sponsored by various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), schools, tech companies and entrepreneurs.

How does WCS work?

WCS is a teacher-driven exchange programme, since adult supervision is imperative, but the students often end up taking charge. Noble recounted how one of the best teachers on the platform said, ‘we get out of the way, and the kids connect, learn and meet new people [on their own]’.

Teachers of children from grades one to 12 can sign up on the free platform with their email address and immediately have access to handbooks, forms and all the tools necessary to link with another classroom across the world.

A wide breadth of topics can be tackled in this way, from sports to science. Noble recalled that two classrooms had exchanged seeds native to their countries to be grown and shown over a period of time, learning about each other’s flora as well as the scientific process behind it. At the end of the term, connected students will receive a WCS diploma to mark their participation, when they will be crowned as World Class Scholars.

The programme plans to connect a minimum of three million classrooms by the end of 2022 and 15 million more classrooms in three years.