Following the implementation of its highly successful distance learning Initiative – “Digi Campus” – the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is taking action to investigate restructuring its educational system, in line with the UAE governmental directives, in preparation for post COVID-19 teaching and learning.
HCT’s will build on the many successes from the distance learning program when formulating a restructuring plan, as well as considering all outcomes from the transformation stage, in order to create a “hybrid” learning system. The new approach will combine on-campus education and distance learning, in order to provide students with a fun and exciting hi-tech learning experience at lower costs.
The proposed educational restructuring was discussed by HCT’s senior leadership team at the inaugural online town hall meeting for post-COVID-19 strategies, which was attended remotely by approximately 700 faculty and staff members.
Projections for the coming, post-COVID-19 stage were made with respect to human resources, academic programs, student recruitment, and expansion of distance learning and remote work, as well as other educational issues. Complementary to the educational remodelling HCT’s budget will also be restructured with a large focus on maintaining quality and efficiency of education delivery.
Chairing the town hall meeting, Dr. Abdullatif AlShamsi, HCT President and CEO, said it was convened in line with the UAE government’s directives for institutions to ready themselves post COVID-19. He emphasized the need for the HCT community’s awareness of the upcoming plans, particularly following the resounding success in the shift to distance learning, which will be carried forward in future plans.
Dr. AlShamsi added that HCT’s restructuring will include all policies and procedures, as well as all relevant educational matters, emphasizing a greater focus on technology by supporting HCT’s innovation environment. “We will aim to direct students to gain the maximum benefit from HCT’s InnCuvation Spaces and available technology, such as 3D printing, Virtual Reality technologies, and others, for the purpose of implementing innovative ideas and projects and creating graduating companies,” he said.
“Distance learning represents a new learning curve that expedites achievement of future visions and plans, turning them into reality, and that the re-structuring will help establish a ‘Hybrid’ learning system that combines on-campus education and distance learning,” Dr. AlShamsi said.
“This type of learning has proved its effectiveness due to the students’ passion for technology and the faculties’ success in providing education as an online service,” he added.
Dr. AlShamsi said the future educational system that will be crafted during the post-COVID-19 stage will be more exciting for today’s tech-savvy generation, with efforts to be made to increase the levels of productivity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness through optimal investment in technology.
“Distance learning will help reduce student presence on campus, especially with regard to theoretical study courses that do not require their physical attendance. This will allow for efficient capacity utilization of HCT’s facilities for completing applied and laboratory work requirements, as well as the admission of larger student numbers,” he said.
He added that this new approach will also enable HCT to recruit experienced and qualified faculty, from around the world, renowned for leading applied education without the need for their physical presence in the UAE. “Remote work will contribute to cost reduction, whilst maintaining the quality of learning outcomes in line with international accreditation standards,” Dr. AlShamsi said.
Dr. Alex Zahavich, HCT Chief Academic Officer, addressed the need for reviewing HCT’s academic programs in line with the post COVID-19 job market, whilst considering the potential growth of some sectors during the next stage, such as health sciences, food security technologies, Computer Information Science, and applied research.
He added that HCT plans to provide enhanced faculty Professional Development (PD) opportunities via its digital platforms, as HCT’s teaching body has shown high interaction with state-of-the-art technologies in education.
Engineer Abdulla Al Mheiri, HCT Vice President for Shared Services, addressed the review of HCT’s employee-related structure, stating that the shift to the remote work system during the pandemic has proven highly successful with employees’ enhanced performances, as they signaled their satisfaction and positive interaction with the transformation.
Eng. Al Mheiri noted that over one month around 1,900 HCT employees worked remotely with improved productivity. As a result, job descriptions will be reviewed in order to consider the possibility of continuing remote work, depending on the nature of the job.