Dubai: What is a typical day like for a university lecturer in the UAE amid COVID-19 pandemic?
Well, it’s anything but typical, said Matthew Stuart Brown, lecturer of marketing at Middlesex University Dubai.
“I don’t think there is ever a typical day in education, and that’s one of the attractive things about it. You get different ideas, different questions each time even though you may have done the same class again and again,” said Brown, 45, who is from the UK, where he was director of professional studies at the University of Buckingham before joining Middlesex University Dubai three years ago.
Of course, that is not to say there is no routine — there is — with strict timings for face-to-face lectures as well as those held online. However, each day is a little bit different. “It’s not necessarily a ‘9 to 5’, the timings vary. Some days I’ll have more lectures than others. A lot of my postgraduate teaching takes place in the evenings, because many of the postgraduates are working during the day, and a lot of my undergraduate teaching is more traditionally during the daytime. Some days I might be starting in the afternoon and working through to the evening. Some days I might be starting at 8.30am and going through to a more traditional 6pm finish.” Alongside his lectures, Brown is also working on his PhD with Middlesex University London.
‘We can’t just wander off’
But perhaps what is not seen, added Brown, is the fair volume of “prep” (preparation) that lecturers have to cover for staying abreast of developments in their field. “I think a lot of people think university lecturers turn up for an hour and wander off again, we can’t do that. We’re certainly looking at industry reports and general articles, often in our own time as well, but yes, we are absolutely given time to prep because the university recognises we are, fundamentally, trying to educate people to be creative and individual thinkers. It takes time to do that, you can’t just walk into a classroom and get people to do that. It’s about the prep and the new information you provide that allows them to study a little more in depth,” he said.
Adapting to the pandemic
There hasn’t been a huge change in the way Brown goes about his day because of the COVID-19 crisis, but he has had to work with the situation as creatively as he can. He no longer gives paper handouts to his students; those are sent digitally during the lecture itself. Brown does miss the pre-pandemic times when he would pull the chairs around and have a discussion with his students. Thankfully, there is software that breaks people into virtual discussion groups. “We have to be a little bit smarter and cleverer with the situation. It’s not a bad thing in the long run. In many ways it’s been nice to embrace newer technologies that we probably might have taken a longer time to adapt to.”
‘I wanted to give something back’
Brown wanted to become an educator primarily because he “wanted to give something back” after working in the business industry. “I spent a lot of years engaging with people, marketing to them. I’m a people-person. At the end of the day, I wanted to give something back. I genuinely enjoyed coming into education and imparting not only the teaching material but my experiences in industry, to try and bring that to life in the lectures,” Brown said.
“I’ve seen my students as they stared out and as they graduated, and how they’ve grown and developed. If I’ve helped in some part to do that, I’ve really enjoyed that. That’s the kind of ethos at Middlesex University Dubai, my colleagues feel similarly about it. Hopefully we’re benefiting them to shape the lives that they want for themselves both professionally and academically.”