Cisco’s Webex collaboration platform enabled the rapid adoption of new remote learning models by UAE universities and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. 48 educational institutions in the country delivered over 7.5 million minutes of meetings and close to 34,000 sessions over the digital meeting platform between March 1st and June 1st, 2020.
The Rise of Distance Learning
As 91 percent of the world’s student population was faced with the reality of not being able to attend universities and schools in person, distance learning became a vital way of ensuring continuity, and encouraged institutions to accelerate their investments in digital transformation.
In March 2020, UAE education authorities unveiled the first ever Distance Learning Evaluation (DLE) for schools, to determine the quality of online provisions available to teachers and students. Results of the DLE concluded that for the most part, institutions were either ‘developed’ or ‘partially developed’ across criteria such as how well students were learning, how well their learning was managed and monitored by teachers, and how well student wellbeing was being safeguarded. While the DLE indicated stable performance from the majority of schools, it also highlighted certain areas for improvement.
Recognizing the concerns of educators, which range from compliance and online safety, to student privacy and stimulating participation, Cisco’s Webex platform provided a vital link in enabling institutions to continue educating students in a secure manner – leveraging advanced security and authentication features to protect data and provide added peace-of-mind.
Webex empowered teachers to go beyond delivering lessons, allowing them to hold dialogues and interact with students, with features such as instant chat and polls to keep them engaged. Digital whiteboarding also enabled group work, while session recording functionality allowed students to access or revisit lectures at their convenience.
Creating Impact in the UAE
In the UAE, Zayed University recently held its Annual Undergraduate Research Conference on Applied Computing as a virtual event, using the conference platform capabilities of Webex Events. Over 168 graduate research projects were presented by students from 24 educational institutions in 7 countries across the Middle East, hosting over 500 participants over the two-day event. Cisco was the Technology Partner for the event and supported the university by presenting prizes and incentives to top performing students. These incentives included initial interviews for entry into Cisco’s graduate program, business courses and a tour of the company’s Innovation and Experience Center located in Dubai.
“Collaboration tools such as Webex have provided a much-needed lifeline for the education sector during the pandemic, enabling universities and schools to continue operating business-as-usual. Moving forward, it is clear that collaboration technologies will play an increasingly pivotal role in facilitating immersive learning experiences and we look forward to seeing how they can be leveraged further to ensure seamless and secure access to quality education,” said Dr. Hany El Kadi, Dean of the College of Technological Innovation at Zayed University, Zayed University.
Cisco also supported the UAE University Science and Innovation Park (UAEU-SIP) in enabling remote collaboration via its Webex platform. While UAEU-SIP traditionally offered mentoring and support for startups via in-person interactions, the impact of COVID-19 caused the university to move its services online. To achieve this, a series of webinars known as the SIP Talk Series was created by UAEU-SIP, which, in its first session, hosted two keynotes on the topic of agility within the entrepreneurship ecosystem during times of crisis.
Additionally, Cisco recently hosted its own Girls in ICT event from June 1st to June 3rd 2020, using Webex to connect attendees. With the support of the UAE’s Ministry of Education, four public schools were invited to participate in the virtual event, which focused on encouraging female students to develop careers in the IT sector. The event featured mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as keynote speeches from female executives at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“Due to the pandemic, educational institutions in the UAE have had to face the challenge of adapting quickly by deploying new solutions which have enabled students to continue gaining access to quality education. This required the collective efforts of the Government, local service providers and technology enablers, who worked tirelessly towards a seamless transition to remote learning for all,” said Shukri Eid, Managing Director – Gulf Region, Cisco.
Eid continued, “Deploying Webex, the powerful, interactive experiences that have been created by the UAE’s education sector have also proven that digital learning is not merely a temporary stopgap solution, but rather an invaluable part of the education experience, which opens up a new range of collaboration opportunities for educators going forward. This is possible when you use an integrated and secure collaboration platform that caters for the various interaction requirements and styles required by an effective education process.”