At the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the success that we encountered despite the COVID-19 crisis is attributed to several factors that allowed its community to transition seamlessly (and literally overnight) from a traditionally f2f delivery model to fully online teaching and learning. These factors include:
- HCT’s institutional strategy which is forward looking and focused on utilizing technology to enhance and personalize the teaching and learning experiences of its students.
- HCT had started investing and shaping its technology ecosystem back in 2017 around the future needs of its learners and the expectations of how education and technology would be perceived in the next 10 years.
- This ecosystem continues to play a crucial role today in driving HCT to where the institution aims to be in the next 10 years
- The ecosystem includes a scalable infrastructure capable of supporting growing institutional needs, facilitated by integrated sets of teaching, learning and assessment tools (e.g. Blackboard LMS, Collaborate ULTRA, Respondus, Zoom, MS Teams and other supporting technologies amongst a long list of state-of-the art intelligent learning systems).
- By 2017, HCT had also extensively invested in the preparedness of its academics to assist them in confidently adopting and integrating these intelligent learning systems into the curriculum to enhance the learning experiences of their students.
- HCT’s investment in making rapid authoring tools (e.g. NearPod, Kahoot!, Bookwidgets, SoftChalk, StudyMate to name a few) readily available to its academics helped them design and develop interactive digital and immersive learning objects.
- Our academic practices include embedding interactive digital learning objects and eTextbooks within Blackboard courses to allow student access for anytime, anywhere, and on-demand learning.
- The integration, preparedness and availability of these systems allowed HCT academics to explore the domains of blended and online modes of delivery (extending beyond physical classroom spaces) almost 3 years before COVID-19 restrictions completely shifted our education paradigm to deliver teaching and learning experiences fully online to students.
The above factors had already positioned HCT to deliver on an ‘Uber’ like smart eLearning strategy that helped shaped its leadership’s vision of a ‘Digital Campus’. HCT’s Digi-Campus persona today is defined as the integration of a suite of HCT services, capabilities, and resources. It enables HCT stakeholders to utilize HCT’s technology ecosystem to effortlessly obtain learning resources, provide learning content, deliver student and academic services, as well foster interaction among the HCT community at large. In a nutshell, HCT’s Digi-Campus now serves as a single online environment open to all HCT community that is personalized to its students, their interests, and their relationship with HCT.
This is part of a futuristic setting HCT is working on that includes curriculum personalization, digital credentials, stackable, and campuses with no physical borders. HCT metaphorically refers it as the ‘UBER’ approach. The HCT Digi-Campus ushers in the next stage of modern education. Employability is today’s reality and it only comes from ensuring students have the skills and competencies that add value to the marketplace. HCT’s Digi-Campus incorporates skill-rich stackable, micro-offerings, led by world class faculty, down a personalized journey of obtaining relevant market driven skills and competencies to all interested learners.
HCT Digi-Campus features e-Employability (Careers & Employability) and Yalla Digital (Student Engagement Services) offered via its enterprise LMS (Blackboard). The Digi-Campus does not simply limit engagement to the in-class experience but provides a framework that is not time-bound. HCTs technology and virtual resources are ensuring that full interactive engagement is available for students round the clock; “Whenever, Wherever”. This is what gives it that UBER feel. The ecosystem of HCT’s Digi-Campus is also built upon the following:
- Robust infrastructure from network and servers and security systems
- Intelligent learning systems
- Digital content suitable for the right delivery
- Extensive training programs from pedagogy to technology utilization.
Amidst COVID-19 concerns and the general wellbeing of its community, HCT embarked on a mission to pilot distance-based education by introducing students and faculty to fully online mode of delivery. As it were ‘a history in the making’ moment, the preferred choice of HCT’s academics and students was overwhelmingly Blackboard Collaborate ULTRA as the institution’s ‘go to’ video conferencing technology.
Faculty preparedness through past years of extensive professional development using Blackboard Learn and its integrated technologies resulted in high level of satisfaction and comfort both for academics and their learners.
HCT has become a benchmark for its peer institutions in the region and around the world based on the high impact value training embedded into its fabric of professional development framework that has prepared its academics for overnight transition to fully online mode of delivery.
HCT has won the Blackboard 2020 Catalyst Award for its exemplary Training and Professional Development program that delivers high impact training courses designed to upskill its academics, both in innovative pedagogical practices and integration of instructional technologies into teaching and learning.
Through the course of its 2-day pilot, HCT was able to ensure continuity of services while maintaining adequate scalability of its technology infrastructure.
Based on the satisfaction results (@ 91.5%) and positive feedback received from its academics and students utilizing Blackboard Collaborate ULTRA video conferencing technology (during the pilot), HCT since March, 2020 has been delivering teaching, learning, assessments and extra-curricular activities for its students completely online.
HCT’s 2-day Online Learning Pilot Stats
Post-pilot stats @ HCT (between Mar 22, 2020 and May 16, 2020)
- 61,804 live online classes delivered (Using Bb Collaborate Ultra)
- 85,000,000 minutes of online teaching and learning (Using Bb Collaborate Ultra)
- 1,691,617 successful Blackboard Student logins
- 113,129 successful Blackboard Faculty logins
Remotely administered large scale assessments stats @ HCT (between May 10, 2020 and May 19, 2020) and delivered through Blackboard using Respondus LDB with Monitor for proctoring:
- 115,659 remotely proctored online assessments
- 4,198,558 minutes of assessment sessions
HCT’s long standing partnership with Blackboard and other industry leading technology companies has provided its academics and learners the appropriate teaching, learning and assessment tools to contribute to its UBER like approach while delivering personalized educational experiences for both its academics and students.
The future forecast remains even brighter for HCT and its community, which is the outcome of an ‘Edgile’ teaching and learning environment that comprises of dynamic leadership, exceptional support staff, state of the art technologies, enthusiastic academics and above all 20,000+ bright and willing learners …
A/Director – ILS & Senior Manager – LMS
Division of Education Technologies