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Next generation learning

(Staff Reporter) / 14 January 2013

Education and innovation in technology have continued to amaze academics and students across the world with the changes it has brought to the learning pedagogy.

With technology cementing itself as one of the leading tools in communication and information, the UAE has been making strides in mobile learning with the use of iPads in federal universities, which has now become an increasingly common sight.

The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) — one of the three federal universities in the country — is now raising the bar a notch higher, by introducing the concept of paperless classrooms and learning environments.

Starting from the second semester, its 17 colleges will follow the move as part of its ‘learning by doing philosophy’ in 2013.

The move will see the introduction of mobile technologies, as learning tools, for all HCT first-year students studying Bachelor of Applied Science programs. They will join over 6,000 HCT Foundation programme students who are already using the tablet learning devices.

HCT Provost, Dr Mark Drummond, said the introduction of the technology to students beyond the Foundation classes was designed to assist with the gradual integration of mobile learning education into HCT curricula and a students’ learning experience.

“We will see a seamless transition, using mobile technology, from the Foundation programmes right throughout the Bachelor programmes. Our Foundation students will have the untold benefit of using tablet technology as a learning tool right through their education at HCT,” Dr Drummond said.

At the start of the 2012-13 academic year, in September 2012, HCT introduced mobile technology, in the form of Apple iPads, to approximately 6,370 Foundation programme students across its 17 campuses. This next rollout of mobile devices will benefit around 1500 new year-one Bachelor’s degree students.

“This is a wonderful way to celebrate our 25th Anniversary — an institution renowned for its cutting-edge and innovative use of technology in the classroom,” said Dr. Tayeb Kamali, HCT Vice Chancellor.

“The success of the initial mobile learning project, with positive feedback from both students and faculty, has been the catalyst to include the technology for all first year Bachelor’s programme students, starting the second semester next month,” he added.

The expansion of mobile technology to the Bachelor programmes is part of a series of initiatives to engage students and improve their educational experiences. Other steps include the Curriculum Conference and Curriculum Institute, held in November 2012, which brought together experts in the fields of e-learning and looked at a greater shift to more interactive projects for students through the use of mobile technologies; and faculty e-learning training events.

However, the integration of the mobile technologies will not replace the teachers or faculty in the learning process. In fact, the teachers’ roles are vital as they will facilitate the students’ engagement with the new technologies, supervise learning and provide assistance and direction.

“I have noticed increased concentration during reading, as well as more students working with others to solve a problem. The students are starting to find out ways to answer their own questions without automatically asking the teacher,” said one Foundation programme English teacher.

A common response was the portability of the learning tools and environment, and the savings on paper: “It replaces books, pens, notebooks and laptops so the students come ready to class,” said another teacher.

“The students like it. It’s easy to carry everything around on one device,” said a colleague.

One of the major benefits to the project has been the engagement of faculty in the new learning paradigm: “I have learnt a lot more about my students’ interests and skills. I am learning from the students and there is much more creativity and critical thinking going on,” a teacher said in a survey.


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