The HCT announced its plan to implement Hybrid Education for the forthcoming 2020-2021 academic year, which will enable HCT students to combine on-campus learning with distance, or remote, learning.
This educational model is in alignment with, and complements, the nature and requirements of HCT’s academic programs, which combine both theoretical and practical knowledge sharing. Distance learning no longer represents a temporary phase, but rather a new transformation in the UAE’s learning process.
The implementation of the Hybrid system is as a result of a detailed study of HCT’s transformative digital learning initiative during the COVID-19 crisis, which enabled students to successfully complete their academic year.
The announcement was also based on a number of factors, including continuous evaluation of students’ and faculty performances during the digital learning phase; HCT’s institutional technological readiness; and community feedback, obtained from a distance learning e-questionnaire posted on HCT’s social media accounts and website. Approximately 45,000 individuals, from a broad cross-section of society, participated in this e-questionnaire, expressing their strong agreement with the continuity of distance learning.
Dr. Abdullatif AlShamsi, HCT President and CEO, told the Al Ittihad newspaper that the HCT plans to implement the Hybrid education system, in the forthcoming 2020-21 academic year, building on the achievements to-date by combining on-campus learning (for applied courses) and online distance learning (for theoretical courses).
“This new educational transformation was based on a comprehensive study, as well as a thorough evaluation and pursuit of best practices, in addition to measuring the community’s views through the distance learning e-questionnaire, which affirmed the community awareness of this type of education and demonstrated a high preference for distance learning as one of the future educational options,” Dr. Al Shamsi said.
Dr. AlShamsi added that a large number of UAE National families are keen to understand more about the nature of teaching and learning for the forthcoming academic year, particularly as the HCT boasts around 23,000 students across its 16 campuses.
He noted that HCT students and faculty showed their confidence and ability to work with online, distance learning, implemented from March 8 to May 16, 2020, where HCT delivered over 400,000 training hours. In addition, 61,804 online, interactive classes were hosted on the Blackboard Ultra learning platform, as well as 115,659 online assessments and 55,000 faculty professional development hours.
“This reflects the readiness of HCT’s technological infrastructure, which enabled the rapid shift to distance learning, while student and faculty satisfaction rates with online distance learning reached a very commendable 91%,” Dr. Al Shamsi said.
HCT launched the e-questionnaire to learn the opinions of its social media followers on distance learning in higher education institutions, via Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and the HCT website. The survey sought feedback on responders’ satisfaction rates, HCT’s readiness, as well as measuring distance learning’s advantages and future challenges. The 8-question survey was spread over four days and answered by 45,892 individuals from the various sectors of society.
The questionnaire’s results showed a high preference rate for distance learning among responders, with the first question asking about agreement with the idea of distance learning in higher education. Around 13,082 connections were made, where 7,694 individuals (59%) expressed their agreement. The second question was aimed at measuring perspectives of distance learning, whether it should be limited to lectures only or cover lectures, assessments and activities. Around 10,530 connections were made, where 6,195 voted for combining distance learning lectures, assessments and activities, as opposed to 2,460 votes for lectures only and 1,878 votes for lectures and assessments only.
The third question asked about agreement with the transformation of student life in higher education institutions (activities, clubs, academic and career advising) into a digital life. Around 6,366 connections were made, where 3,019 votes (47%) were in agreement with digital life, whereas 2,351 were against digital life and 995 votes were neutral. The 4th question addressed the factors that contribute to the success of the distance learning experience, in which 4,333 followers participated. Around 606 participants selected students’ digital skills, while 309 selected faculty digital efficiency and 281 selected the institution’s technological infrastructure. “All of the above” received the majority of votes with 3,387 votes (78%) Around 4,116 followers interacted with the 5th question which asked about what student success in distance learning in higher education reflects; where 796 followers selected “Their self-learning abilities”, as opposed to 441 votes for “Their technological abilities”, and 321 votes for “A fun alternative to classroom learning”. The “All of the above” option received the majority of votes with 2,543 votes (62%).
The sixth question asked how participants visualize learning in higher education institutions after the distance learning experience in the COVID-19 crisis. Around 2,875 voters participated, out of which 2,372 (82%) agreed with adopting hybrid education as opposed to 490 votes for “return to conventional learning”.
The 7th question asked whether distance learning in higher education is perceived as a temporary phase or a new shift in education; where 2,254 votes were received out of which 1,647 votes (73%) agreed with “a new shift in education” and 607 votes agreed with “a temporary phase”.
The eighth question asked whether distance learning in higher education leads to student cost reductions in universities, where 2,336 votes were received, out of whom 1,891 (81%) voted affirmatively, as opposed to 265 who did not agree, while 452 were neutral.
Dr. Al Shamsi said the community e-questionnaire reiterated the importance of adopting “hybrid” learning through the following five factors:
- Reducing student attendance rates on campus, particularly for theoretical courses. This was after determining the ratio of theoretical to practical/applied content for each course, while accommodating a larger number of students, as building capacity will not be an issue;
- Re-structuring educational facilities for applied studies by allocating spaces for laboratory work;
- Focusing on student innovation and entrepreneurship, which are key pillars for overcoming future challenges and boosting the economy;
- Reviewing academic programs and specializations to meet the needs of growing vital sectors, and the changing nature of jobs in post-COVID-19 times. The fields to be considered include:
- Health Sciences
- Advanced technology, and vital technologies related to food security
- Computer Information Science
- Applied research and more
- Recruiting teachers and experts from different parts of the world to work remotely, in key fields, thus eliminating the need to bring them to the UAE, while reducing hiring costs.