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Due to huge advances in technology, global education had been moving steadily online for years. Then Covid-19 swept across the world in early 2020 and accelerated the whole process.

The UAE’s educational institutes were quick to close campuses as a precautionary measure against the pandemic. Even though distance learning was adopted en masse out of this necessity, online learning will continue to be a big part of the education system even after the world finds a cure for the coronavirus.

A 2018 report from Pearson Education had already demonstrated an inextricable link between Gen Z’s digital literacy, early adoption of technology, and their learning preferences. According to the report, respondents from Gen Z were more likely to prefer learning through a video or app than the printed textbook preferred by millennials.

And one forward-looking institution in the UAE – Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU), which was established in 2002 as the first e-university in the UAE – is more than ready for the paradigm shift as we emerge from the shadow of Covid-19.

Starting this autumn, all academic programmes at HBMSU will be 100 per cent online using an enhanced smart learning model of live online classes and independent learning.

HBMSU is also currently the only UAE university accredited by the UAE Ministry of Education to offer a completely online and distance learning experience. Courses offered include bachelor, master’s and PhD degrees in business, quality management, finance, healthcare management, human resource management, project management and more.

Students can attend live online classes where they are able to interact with fellow students and their faculty, referred to as virtual synchronous sessions. They also have asynchronous sessions where learners are provided with a variety of learning materials to learn at their own pace.

Expert in online education

HBMSU has long been delivering a large portion of its classes online, with 18 years of expertise in the field of online learning. During the pandemic, the university coached more than 80,000 teachers in the UAE and abroad on how to become an online tutor.

In a recent Gulf News article, Dr Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of HBMSU, explained how the university had helped educators soon after the pandemic led to closure of campuses and trained teachers who were not equipped to switch to online education.

“We are all responsible for each other, we are all in this together,” he said.

We have offered two crash courses: how to become an online teacher in 24 hours and how to design an online course in 24 hours.

- Dr Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of HBMSU

“We have offered two crash courses on how to become an online teacher in 24 hours and how to design an online course in 24 hours. When the demand started, we launched the course in Arabic and English and then added three other languages – Russian, Spanish and French, as we are offering these courses to teachers around the world.”

The response was huge, with over 225,000 people taking the course.

HBMSU does have a physical base in Dubai Academic City, but enables knowledge creation and application through innovation, disruption and transformation. It provides unique lifelong learning opportunities, intellectually stimulating learning experiences and a diverse community of faculty, staff, learners and alumni.

Benefits of online education

There are clear benefits for the student with online education – flexibility, reduced cost, the ability to learn at one’s own pace in many instances, plus physically challenged students can study from home comfortably without encountering the usual problems they may face in an on-campus educational institution.

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But there is another important benefit too. Working with a computer and learning essential internet skills while studying is a valuable experience and can open up networking opportunities that can be further applied to other facets of life.

Additionally, future employers are sure to respect an online graduate's time management and technological skills and view them as already prepared for remote working when necessary, as well as adaptable to new technology and new approaches to doing business.

Remote work is certainly changing how the global workplace operates. In a trend that is showing no signs of slowing down, remote working is rapidly on the increase all around the world. From sales, digital marketing, web development, customer and technical support, to copywriting, translation and much more, remote work is growing across sectors for which the location of worker is not relevant anymore – but their knowledge and experience is.

This content comes from Reach by Gulf News, which is the branded content team of GN Media.