• UCQOL founded by the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Education (MoE) and nine leading universities in the UAE are working together to develop high-quality online education.
• Eight blended courses launched, 67 faculty members trained, and over 7500 students benefited in two years, since establishment
Dubai, United Arab Emirates – March 07, 2023: In a sustained endeavour to make university education accessible, interactive, and student-centric, the UAE Ministry of Education (MoE) and Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, on Tuesday brought together educators and decision makers to discuss support for online learning as part of the foundation’s quarterly Thought Leadership Series event.
Now in its third edition, the event aims to convene key stakeholders to address some of the most pressing issues in education today and cultivate knowledge sharing that will aid the transformation that the higher education sector demands.
Delivering the keynote address at Pullman Downtown Dubai, Dr. Hassan Obaid Al Mheiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Accreditation and Educational Services, UAE Ministry of Education, highlighted the success of the University Consortium for Quality Online Learning (UCQOL) the first regional multi-sector collaboration, which is spearheading online education to produce market-driven, high-quality, and accredited online programs.
The initiative, launched in 2020, was designed and created in partnership with the Ministry of Education and nine leading universities of the region to build the capacity of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the online education ecosystem. The multi-phased project has so far successfully launched eight premium blended courses with the support of university administrators, knowledgeable faculty, and expert instructional designers. Through structured needs assessments organised in selective distinct areas, the project in its second phase has trained 67 faculty members across the region and awarded one institutional grant in less than two years, towards the creation and delivery of sustainable online programs.
The event hosted a panel discussion and three expert round tables that examined best practices, challenges, and opportunities associated with academic accreditation, and viable approaches to student and faculty support and partnerships. In addition to Dr. Hassan Obaid Al Mheiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Accreditation and Educational Services, UAE Ministry of Education, the distinguished list of speakers included Mr. Sultan Al Ghurair, Board Member, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, Dr. Sonia Ben Jaafar, CEO, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, His Excellency Dr. Mohamad Baniyas, Higher Education Advisor & Director, Commission for Academic Accreditation, Cindy Bonfini-Hotlosz, Chief Executive Officer, Instructional Design for E-Learning (IDEL), Dr. Issam Srour, Professor and Director of Abdulla Al Ghurair Hub for Digital Teaching and Learning, American University of Beirut, and Wafaa Al Habach, Online Learning Scholars Program Scholar, ASU Alum.
With the global market for online learning set to reach $350 billion by 2025, the demand to ensure that online education is user-friendly, sustainable and in alignment with the market needs is imperative.
“It is critical that we keep improving and renewing the teaching and learning methodologies in higher education with a focus on long lasting, scalable, qualitative approaches to keep pace with continuous change around us. AGFE and UCQOL has been a major catalyst to collaborative development of quality online academic programs and practices among institutions and I have no doubt that UCQOL will serve as a regional and international model that will share knowledge and expertise with many other institutions and countries in the region. The Ministry is extremely proud of the milestones the consortium has achieved in such a short amount of time and the ecosystem this project has developed to make online learning accessible to a wider pool of students and I have no doubt this success will continue,” said Dr. Hassan Obaid Al Mheiri. Assistant Undersecretary for Curriculum Sector, Ministry of Education in his keynote address.
“We are proud to play an integral role in pioneering the future of online learning in the region. We look forward to supporting the proliferation of UCQOL, as a UAE initiative, becoming a blueprint for countries to follow – to help students upskill and enrol in courses from anywhere they have a connection while assuring a higher level of teaching and learning. Strengthening education systems holistically is part of the Foundation’s mandate. The Consortium is founded on the work we have done with MIT, AUB, AUC and ASU over the last seven years in a sustained effort to practically champion embedding technology-enabled premium education options in the higher education sector of the region”, said Sultan Al Ghurair, Board Member, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation.
UCQOL was developed in line with the UAE National Innovation Strategy and the National Higher Education Strategy 2030, to solely help make online learning accessible and a seamless experience for students willing to learn and upskill, virtually. Currently in its second phase- Training & Capacity Building – the project will see more higher-level online design workshops and sprints in support of over 100 departments in addition to ongoing course design and accreditation development.
The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation has been championing online learning in the Arab region, promoting, and supporting access to this model of learning since 2016. Through the Al Ghurair Open Learning Scholars Programme (OLSP), it has provided over 250 scholarships to Arab youth to complete postgraduate degrees and credentials at Arizona State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It has also supported online and blended learning capacity building efforts at the American University in Cairo in Egypt and American University of Beirut in Lebanon where it continues to work with the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture in this regard.