As universities cautiously gear up to welcome new and returning students, there’s a lot of work that’s been done and a range of protocols put in place for the new semester. Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) Dubai Campus, located in Academic City, has gone above and beyond, not only adapting to the new normal but actually embracing it with a set of protocols that have been approved by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Dubai, in line with the UAE government guidelines.
“We spent the past few months planning and preparing for the new academic session for the upcoming semester,” says Dr S.V. Kota Reddy, Academic President at MAHE Dubai. “Our dedicated team had several brainstorming sessions to prepare the reopening strategy document, [which] I’m delighted to inform has been approved by the KHDA.”
Our dedicated team had several brainstorming sessions to prepare the reopening strategy document, [which] I’m delighted to inform has been approved by the KHDA.
Moustafa Abdellatif is one of two health and safety officers responsible for keeping MAHE Dubai students and staff safe this semester, and he’s happy to say the campus is ready. “We’re so excited to welcome our students to the new normal at MAHE Dubai.”
These safety protocols have not only been employed on campus but also in the hostel, transportation, cafeteria and common areas across campus.
He outlines the preparations and protocols for the semester: “We’ve arranged the classrooms to maintain physical distancing; thermal screening machines have been placed at campus entry points; payment cards have been given to students to ensure contactless payments; and hand sanitiser dispensers have been placed everywhere on campus. These protocols have not only been employed on campus but also in the hostel, transportation, cafeteria and common areas across campus.”
However, he’s keen to point out that staying safe requires everyone do their bit. “We’re hopeful that students will help us follow these guidelines and procedures by following the floor markings and safety signage all over campus.”
As part of its preparations, MAHE Dubai recently surveyed its students to determine what learning pathway they would prefer: online only or blended education, which combines online learning with safe face-to-face sessions. “Most students have opted for blended learning,” says Dr Reddy. “That means, for the students who’d like to come to campus, we have the latest technology and infrastructure and well-trained faculty members to impart quality education in both modes simultaneously.”
For Dr Jason Fitzsimmons, chairperson of the university’s School of Business, MAHE Dubai’s strength lies in its years of investment in technological infrastructure. “That includes hardware and software to support a technology-enabled learning environment.” He credits the university’s learning management system – which was already in place before the pandemic – and its built-in collaborative tools for enabling blended and online-only learning options.
Having around 15,000 hours of online classes delivered this year alone during the first semester, as well as conducting online examinations successfully, we feel we’re quite well prepared for the upcoming semester and should be able to again be ready to teach online and face-to-face classes simultaneously.
“Having around 15,000 hours of online classes delivered this year alone during the first semester, as well as conducting online examinations successfully, we feel we’re quite well prepared for the upcoming semester and should be able to again be ready to teach online and face-to-face classes simultaneously.”
Prof. Elsa Ashish Thomas, Head of the Department of Arts and Humanities at MAHE Dubai, says the student response to last semester’s switch to an online-only learning environment was overwhelmingly positive. “Faculty now are trained and equipped to teach both groups of students - in the classroom and those who are sitting at home learning online.”
However, during the process, Prof. Thomas adds that MAHE Dubai staff were also mindful of something beyond academia and exams – the overall student experience. “Along with ensuring uninterrupted learning, we made sure that student clubs were active, ongoing and functioning. We made sure students had forums to interact in other than classrooms. We hosted a series of well-being seminars, extracurricular events and competitions online. In the coming semester too, our aim is to go a step further, offering an enhanced experience in all aspects of student life.
“Irrespective of the programme or mode of study that you choose, our responsibility towards each and every student remains the same: safety-first, quality education and holistic development.”
Irrespective of the programme or mode of study that you choose, our responsibility towards each and every student remains the same: safety-first, quality education and holistic development.
Jatin, an engineering student at MAHE Dubai, says, “I really look forward to coming back on campus! The university recently updated us about the latest regulations and safety protocols that we’ll be following once we return to campus. We would have to wear our masks pretty much all the time and maintain a social distance within class and outside too. I am sure it is for our best. Regardless, coming back to campus will be a happy change for us from virtual classes and I cannot wait to meet my faculty and friends – with social distancing, of course!”
Reshma, another hostel resident, explains: “When I returned from India last week, I already noticed a lot of safety measures implemented in the hostel premises. It feels a bit different but a lot safer. My parents were a little worried before sending me back, but after seeing the steps taken at the hostel, they are happy now.”
MAHE Dubai has already communicated the new set of guidelines to students like Reshma and Jatin, who says, “I really appreciate what the university is doing to make sure we have the best and safest experience on campus.”
Reshma, for her part, sees the measures as a new experience that she’s looking forward to.
“I’m confident that with all these measures we can provide a safe, healthy and secure environment for campus life,” adds Dr Reddy. “I welcome all students to MAHE Dubai for a new normal campus life.
“I wish you all the very best for your upcoming semester.”