UAE Federal Higher Education institutions create history with Mobile Learning Launch

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, signs a tablet to officially launch the mobile learning initiative at Abu Dhabi Men's College.

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, signs a tablet to officially launch the mobile learning initiative at Abu Dhabi Men's College.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, together with His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research, and John Couch, Vice President – Worldwide Education, Apple Inc. celebrated the historic launch of the Federal Higher Education Mobile Learning Initiative on Sunday, September 23 at the HCT Abu Dhabi Men’s College campus.

The ceremony was also attended by UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Presidential Affairs Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.  The distinguished guests were joined by state ministers, deans of universities and colleges in the UAE, Director of Dubai Ruler’s Office Lt. General Musabbah Rashid Al Fattan, Major-General Mohammed Dhaen Al Qamzi and various university directors and senior educators.

The official launch marked the largest nationwide mobilization of mobile learning in higher education anywhere in the world; implementing the 3rd generation iPads (iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries). It places the UAE at the forefront of adopting transformative technologies in education.  The tablets were put into use by approximately 14,000 new and Foundation Program students at the three UAE Federal Higher Education institutions on September 9, the first day of fall classes.

The Higher Colleges of Technology, United Arab Emirates University and Zayed University are using the initiative as a tool to revolutionize and improve the way students learn and are taught. Through the implementation of cutting-edge mobile learning technologies, the initiative will transform higher education in the UAE and motivate and engage students in their intellectual development, so that all stakeholders achieve excellence in education.

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid officially launched the project by electronically signing a tablet devise before touring the campus where he witnessed students using the tablets in Mathematics and English classes and a number of different scenarios. He also watched video link-ups with classrooms of students at UAEU and ZU.

H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan said at the launch: “I would like to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai, who honored us today with this visit. We appreciate his passion to honor State universities and colleges. I confirm to His Highness that these universities and colleges will always live up to His Highness’s expectations and hopes. They will be successful educational institutions that work hard with commitment, in order to lead world universities“.

“This is a reflection of our leadership vision of the role of education and technologies in the development of the UAE. I welcome all dear guests, especially John Couch, Vice President of Apple, and his colleagues. I also welcome the participants in the International Conference which will be held tomorrow. We will continuously share with them the results of our work and the progress and success we expect for this leading initiative,” H.E. Sheikh Nahayan added.

“I express my happiness and pride in this initiative and achievement, and that we are growing our universities. It also reflects the centrality of the UAE in this region and the world where we have great and wise leaders who have the insight to make the future leaders proud and cherish this occasion,” Sheikh Nahayan said.

“I look forward with interest to the success of this experience, hoping that our students and our nation will achieve all that we look forward to,” he concluded.

The launch was made possible when in April 2012, H.E. Sheikh Nahayan made the call for all three federal institutions to embark on an ambitious initiative designed to transform learning in ways simply not possible even a few years ago. At the heart of this transformation is the mobile tablet technology, pioneered by Apple Inc, which enables a unique anytime-anywhere learning environment.  The initiative called for cutting edge methods of engaging the student in terms of pedagogy and content.

Dr. Tayeb Kamali, Vice Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology said the Mobile Learning Initiative was one of the most exciting and innovative educational processes to be introduced not only in the Higher Colleges of Technology, but also at its federal counterparts.

“The ground-breaking strategy and the associated faculty training demonstrate the Higher Colleges of Technology’s ongoing commitment to excellence in education which includes a strong focus on successful student learning outcomes in technology and innovation, educating our students for the 21st Century. We are therefore pleased to be working with the other federal institutions to create ways of enhancing learning through the innovative use of technology,” Dr. Kamali said.

“With this emphasis on innovation in education we are ensuring our students will have the necessary skills of adaptability, information technology and analytical thinking so that they make important contributions to the United Arab Emirates and enable them to succeed in a changing world,” he added.

More than 800 faculty members across all three institutions were challenged to think outside the box and devise exciting new ways of engaging students, for whom the days of carrying and using bulky textbooks are now a thing of the past.  The historic initiative marks a milestone as 14,000 students in the institutions’ Foundation programs begin their journey of a new way of learning across 20 campuses around U.A.E.  It is a hallmark of building ongoing collaboration among the consortium of the three higher education consortiums in the UAE.

Over the next two years, more faculty members will be engaged in new learning outcomes using tablets and other technologies.  General education curricula and academic majors will be applying the lessons learned to push the boundaries of what might be possible using active learning.  To that end the three institutions will form a consortium in which lessons learned can be shared with others and ongoing research and training will seek to further educate other sectors regarding transformational learning strategies.

This initiative is a first step in a whole new learning paradigm using a wide variety of Applications (Apps) in paperless classrooms. Leveraging the tablets touch technology, a series of augmented reality Apps has changed the way a student sees the world of learning. In the lead up to the launch, taskforces comprising faculty members and management from the consortium of three institutions worked with Apple; educational publishers including Pearson and Oxford University Press; as well as infrastructure vendors to ensure that all campuses across the UAE were fully equipped to provide seamless access to all of the students.

The consortium also is forming a mobile learning consulting, services and training organization to be based at CERT, the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research & Training, in Abu Dhabi. This center will leverage partnerships with Apple Inc and leading international educational publishers to provide services to K-12, higher education and business sectors across the UAE and the Region to promote mobile learning through services covering pedagogy, content, infrastructure, and training. The center will also be home to Apple Distinguished Educators who will provide specialized seminars on various tools and emerging m-learning technologies.

Following the launch on Sunday, the consortium is hosting the First Annual Global Mobile Learning Congress 2012 in Dubai on Tuesday, Sept. 25. Global leaders in mobile learning will share best practices and also learn from the launch of the Federal mobile learning initiative.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid’s announcement of the launch also marks the 25th Silver Jubilee anniversary of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), which opened with 239 students on four campuses in 1988. HCT started with a mission to provide young Emiratis, male and female, the opportunity to seek and obtain a higher education, no matter where in the UAE they resided.