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  • The UAE’s experience praised as an inspiring model for ensuring continuity of education during COVID-19 
  • HBMSU Chancellor: ‘We continue to transform challenges into opportunities and reshape the future of learning using advanced technology’
  • Professor Moustafa Hassan highlights teachers’ role in addressing COVID-19 challenges and HBMSU’s efforts in the forefront of global competition

Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU) joined prestigious international institutions at the UNESCO’s ‘Mobile Learning Week 2020’ (MLW 2020) recently concluded. Held under the theme ‘Beyond Disruption: Technology-Enabled Learning Futures,’ the virtual event served as a strategic platform to engage with global organizations as the participants explored new opportunities to continue building technology-enabled learning system amid the challenges facing the education community due to the coronavirus disease pandemic. 

The attendees stressed the need for concerted efforts and use of advanced technologies to guarantee uninterrupted education during emergencies and crises, similar to what has been done in the UAE. The experience of the UAE in handling crises with an impact on education has served as a model for other countries, specifically the implementation of distance learning. 

Professor Moustafa Hassan, Vice Chancellor for International Cooperation, represented HBMSU in the discussions. During a breakout session titled ‘Resources for Distance Learning in Higher Education,’ he delivered a lecture on ‘Empowering Teachers in the Face of COVID-19: The HBMSU Survival Kit.’

In his presentation, Professor Hassan shed light on the pioneering model adopted by HBMSU to provide lifelong learning and showcased the university’s achievements as the first accredited university for online education in the Arab world. HBMSU drew praises for promoting smart learning and lifelong learning in the region to make a real difference in the lives of the people.

The breakout session witnessed participations from Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technology, UCL Knowledge Lab, UK; Ming Li, Director-General, UNESCO International Centre for Higher Education Innovation (ICHEI), China; Gilles Picozzi, Secretary-General, Ordre Africain Des Grandes Ecoles et Universités (ORAGEU), France; Ethel Agnes Pascua-Valenzuela, Director, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Secretariat, Thailand; and many more.

Professor Moustafa Hassan took the opportunity to highlight the importance of that teachers possess the right skills in using modern technologies, which are being harnessed to continue the learning process despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He also emphasized that they should have the tools necessary to efficiently and easily utilize the internet. Such skills will boost key initiatives aimed at building new generations that are capable of transforming challenges into promising opportunities to establish a better future for all.

Prof. Hassan also showcased HBMSU’s pioneering global initiative launched initially in cooperation with the UAE Ministry of Education. Later held in partnership with the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (UNESCO IITE), the crash course, ‘Be an Online Tutor in 24 Hours’ was offered by the university to global learners in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and Russian. He explained that the highly successful initiative attracted learners from more than 100 countries around the world with more than 300,000 registrations recorded, and more than 100,000 certificates issued. This achievement proved once again that the first-of-its-kind initiative was pivotal to the ongoing efforts to provide teachers and faculties in the UAE and worldwide with skills necessary for them to efficiently adapt to the distance learning model based on best international practices.

H.E. Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of HBMSU, thanked the international community for the high confidence in the university being a pioneer in implementing programs to enhance the qualifications of teachers around the world. The first-of-its-kind online course has enabled teachers to respond efficiently and with high flexibility to the rapid changes and challenges that have emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Al Awar also said that the success of the online ‘Be an Online Tutor in 24 hours’ training course has proved the UAE’s ability to transform challenges into exceptional opportunities and implement creative and forward-looking ideas to create a better future. 

Dr. Al Awar said: “The MLW 2020 was held at a time when the world, specifically the education community, continue to face enormous challenges due to COVID-19, which has affected more than 1.5 billion students in 180 countries. The event served as a strategic platform for us to share our unique experiences to ensure continuity in the education system during crises, in line with the directives of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and President of HBMSU. Smart technology is the cornerstone of advanced education, with the adoption of new concepts and unconventional measures serving to guarantee uninterrupted education delivered in safe environments.” 

H.E. concluded: “The current situation necessitates laying the foundations for smart and distance learning. We are now living in a time when traditional education system is not going to work, given the present challenges. Our experience in promoting smart learning in the Arab world has allowed us to share our expertise and capabilities with the global community. At the university, we have been leveraging next-generation technologies, including artificial intelligence, gamification, and blockchain, to make the education system more resilient and support the sector’s growth and progress amid the obstacles. By making use of the distance learning approach, we are also reaffirming our commitment to keep strengthening the UAE’s role in fulfilling the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, especially in terms of quality, equitable and inclusive education for all.”

Prominent international speakers participated in the three-day MLW 2020, including senior UNESCO officials, ministers, international figures, and representatives of governments from different countries. Some of the attendees this year included Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO; Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU; H.E. Li Andersson, Minister of Education, Finland; H.E. Dr. Tarek Shawki, Minister of Education and Technical Education, Egypt; H.E. Dr. Engineer Getahun Mekuria, Minister of Education, Ethiopia; H.E. Gabriel Changson Chang, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, South Sudan; and H.E. Monserrat Creamer, Minister of Education, Ministry of Education, Ecuador. 

Other participants were Jure Gašparič, State Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Slovenia; Raoul Koné, Deputy Chief of Cabinet of H.E. Minister, Côte d’Ivoire; H.E. Dr. Nath Bunroeun, Secretary of State, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Cambodia; Dr. Auhood Abdullah Alfaries, General Director of the E-learning and Distance Learning Directorate, Ministry of Education, Saudi Arabia; Barbara Holzapfel, Vice-President, Microsoft Education, Microsoft; Rob Jenkins Chief, Education and Associate Director, UNICEF, Canada; among others.

The event was organized to explore the benefits of integrating information and communication technology into education. UNESCO, in cooperation with its international partners, has been hosting the MLW gathering for eight consecutive years now.