The unprecedented global shift to online learning over the past few months has seen educators and students across the UAE quickly adapt to the “new normal”. While there are still challenges ahead, there are also incredible opportunities for growth and development that could help redefine the entire educational experience.
We, as educators, need to broaden our horizons and invest further in the remote learning experience as an integral part of the post COVID-19 era. It is time for student life to expand beyond the boundaries of the classroom, and embrace the limitless potential of distance learning. Empowering an already technology-savvy generation, which has made technology an integral part of their daily lives, we can create a new educational environment that can thrive and emerge stronger than before.
With today’s students already well prepared for this digital transformation, it is now up to us, the educators, to do our part; investing our time in guiding them towards a secure, remote learning community which will be the student life of the future. Traditional education requires students to receive education on school or university campuses, with technology largely sidelined and denigrated as platforms for entertainment. But in today’s digital world, computers and mobile devices are an integral part of student life, and it is essential for educators to step out of their comfort zones; changing the way they teach and ensuring that their students enjoy an enriching and fulfilling online experience, which fosters creativity and nurtures innovation.
In this digital world, institutions must play a more proactive role in helping students to form individual identities and present them with a wider range of character-building opportunities. Just as we did with traditional education, we must provide this generation of students with a wholesome, remote student life, including extracurricular activities, leadership programs, career guidance, job fairs, and even entertainment. Today, more than ever before, we must fuse these elements into an exciting, digital world where students can immerse themselves in self-development and feel empowered to set short and long-term life goals. This digital realm should be a unique opportunity for them to gain new contacts, experiences, and skills to help them shape their future careers.
Our role shouldn’t end with online classes and lectures. We must continue to communicate with our students via accessible channels throughout the day, providing them with a dynamic digital platform for emotional support and guidance to help them overcome any challenges they may be facing in their personal or educational lives. We need to ensure the availability of programs that enable them to interact with their fellow students, such as clubs and volunteer programs. There should be platforms encouraging reading and dialogue, academic support with remote peer coaching, and accredited programs teaching new skills and languages, as well as outlets for entertainment and socializing such as sports, video games, and contests.
Today, educational institutions have a rare opportunity to turn one of the biggest challenges of modern times into something that enriches students’ lives rather than disrupts them. By guiding students to invest their time productively, and encouraging responsible online conduct, we can help to ensure tomorrow’s leaders are more resilient than ever.
Dr. Abdullatif Al Shamsi
President and CEO