Educators, students and even their parents had to adapt to extraordinary circumstances when universities in the UAE closed their doors to stem the spread of Covid-19 in March. Now, with the country’s higher education institutions partially reopening, their representatives tell GN Focus how effective methods of blended learning — many of them quickly adopted over the course of the pandemic — and social distancing guidelines will make the 2020/21 academic year a little different from the usual fare.
“To ensure that we continue to deliver a world-class standard of education, we have put together a new and innovative educational model — Think Smart. Study Different,” says Dr Cedwyn Fernandes, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Director of Middlesex University Dubai. The new model lets students choose their preferred methodology of learning. “The first option will comprise a blended learning model; combining face-to-face classes and online learning. The second is an online learning model supported by our state-of-the-art online education platforms. This model will enable students who cannot physically come to campus to attend classes and continue their studies.” This is subject to approval by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). Middlesex is also working towards ensuring that other elements of the student experience are retained in the new model.
To ensure that we continue to deliver a world-class standard of education, we have put together a new and innovative educational model — Think Smart. Study Different.
“Understanding the importance of learning beyond the classroom, we have been developing our student experience to ensure that this remains available wherever permitted in-person, and virtually — from careers and employability services, to student activities, sports and academic support workshops.”
At Gulf Medical University (GMU), all colleges and programmes are set to resume next month in time for the new academic year, subject to precautionary measures and guidance by the UAE Ministry of Education and health authorities. “Classes would be scheduled in such a way as to avoid high student concentration at all times,” says Prof. Hossam Hamdy, Chancellor, GMU. “Safety measures would also be ensured with regard to student transportation and accommodation. The university would follow a blended system of instruction going forward. Our focus is on equipping students with the skills that really matter, as we are certain that the future of health professions education is going to be different.”
At Murdoch Dubai, however, the administration has decided to continue delivering the majority of classes online for the September trimester. “While classes can seamlessly continue on our Digital Campus, we will introduce opportunities for the students to meet and interact with their peers, friends and faculty at our new campus in Dubai Knowledge Park outside of classroom hours,” explains Dr James M Trotter, Dean and Academic President, Murdoch Dubai. “This blended mode of instruction will offer our student cohort the best of both worlds while ensuring we are maintaining the highest levels of safety and well-being.”