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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Make way for a ‘blended’ educational experience

Photo: Randa Bessiso
Randa Bessiso, director for the Middle East at Manchester Business School writes, "Technology can easily remove all barriers in the spread of virtual teaching"


The world is changing through technology and this includes the world of higher education. ICT is helping to put students at the centre of the learning experience, more in control of the process and providing a range of options to access, consume and share this educational content — using smart devices anywhere, anytime.
Dubai is perfectly positioned to benefit from this trend with its prime geographical location, global connections through its airlines and the world’s busiest airport — and one of the world’s smartest cities.
Sitting at the crossroads of the real world and digital economy, the Dubai Smart City project will create a sustainable high quality of life built on six pillars — Smart Economy, Smart Living, Smart Mobility, Smart Governance, Smart Environment and Smart People. It will also connect students, teachers and institutions from all over the world through any device.

Dubai and the UAE are already competing effectively in building the infrastructure; the UAE was ranked the world’s 12th most competitive country by the World Economic Forum in its 2014-15 report; and even higher for infrastructure and government procurement of advanced technology (ranked third); attracting professional talent (also ranked third) and ranked high for technological readiness.

The WEF’s Networked Readiness Index score (24) means that Dubai is well positioned to be the world’s classroom — and a natural hub for higher and business education through a blended learning approach.

Today, with communications technology connecting people in so many ways, the possibilities of improving the blended learning ‘mix’ are growing by the day. Education has always been influenced by technology and has increasingly adopted a multimedia approach; It is clear that the future of learning is ‘blended’ ... but will more technology in blended learning improve or dilute the mix?

How can we be sure that it is the right mix, without forgetting that face-to-face contact for some purposes (such as a part-time MBA workshop, where students meet faculty and each other) in many ways is irreplaceable and still very highly valued by students as part of the overall learning experience.

Today, we are only seeing a glimpse of the future picture of higher education that is still emerging — these are still early days of the ICT-based blended learning approach. The technology is pushing the possibilities — but there is also growing demand pulling the process.