Dubai schools invest in tech as learning goes online amid Covid-19

Dubai - Educators explain how it provides quality learning to pupils remotely.



By Nandini Sircar

Published: Tue 8 Dec 2020, 9:30 AM

Last updated: Tue 8 Dec 2020, 9:54 AM

Schools in Dubai are transforming learning amid the unprecedented coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak. Academic institutions are advocating the widespread use of exponential technologies, making digital-related investments the new normal.

Preparing students to use technology effectively is an essential real-world skill especially under these unprecedented circumstances, as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality, data science and computing systems gain traction in a widely connected world powered by the internet of things (IoT).

Schools are investing in these programmes, as they ramp up to develop ed-tech solutions aimed at helping pupils to succeed academically.

Pedagogy has vastly become an online exercise

A host of school groups explained how technological advances have become imperative to provide quality remote learning to pupils.

Krishnan Gopi, Group Chief Disruption Officer, GEMS Education, said: “Our technology disruption journey is aimed at creating agile, scalable and future-ready technology capabilities for the education needs of today and tomorrow. The successful execution of our financial year (FY) 18-20 initiatives has helped us achieve significant strides in enhancing the end-to-end customer experience, process efficiencies, generating additional revenue streams, cost optimisation, technology standardization, control improvements and fortifying corporate data and assets.”

He added, “In addition, we have built an innovative intellectual property suite of products and solutions, which includes: Phoenix, an end-to-end school management platform; Phoenix Classroom, an advanced learning management system; Pulse, an education customer relationship model (CRM); Connect, an enterprise mobility platform; a health and safety and child safeguarding system; a digital re-purposing platform; a unified view of our education apps; and GEMS Alumni, a platform to connect GEMS alumni.”

Schools revamp network infrastructure & invest in R&D

Dr Brian Gray, Principal, Springdales School, Dubai, said, “We have made some significant expenditures to support online learning from latest models of laptops for all the teaching staff, revamped the entire network infrastructure and doubled the bandwidth capacity to eliminate lag time, increase speed and do away with incidents of drop out.”

The school is also investing in research and development (R&D), as AI-based permanently mounted cameras, which have the capacity to move with the teacher, have been installed. The device can also be voice activated to Zoom, an American communications technology company headquartered in San Jose, California, on the interactive whiteboard in real time.

“A budget of over Dh1.5 million has been allocated towards this. We have remained committed to using Microsoft Teams, although we are now able to see up to 96 students and other staff such as school leaders online in the one call. Our strategy is to spend our funds wisely by increasing training and building expertise on using ‘teams’ for the foreseeable future,” Gray said.

Institutions spend on subject-specific applications

Institutions are also enabling improved file-sharing modalities within secure digital learning spaces, promoting connected learning as part of a dynamic learning environment.

Brendon Fulton, Principal, Dubai British School, Jumeirah Park, said, “Additional investment for the school has come in the form of subject-specific applications and programmes, which further support the provision of distance learning. As a school we have always proactively engaged with technology to support learning and so have continued to use our already embedded systems to support families during distance learning.”

Digital learning hubs free of cost

Even not-for-profit schools are committed to offering high-quality affordable education, planning a series of digital initiatives to upgrade their existing IT infrastructure including software and hardware.

“Significant investment has been made by our group with Microsoft for a subscription of secure cloud-based services. The school will provide these services free of cost to all our learners and staff,” said Punit MK Vasu, chief executive officer (CEO), The Indian High Group of Schools.

“A key feature of the newly acquired services is a Digital Learning Hub providing access to different digital content and assignments. This hub also has a range of learning tools that support reading, writing, mathematics, communication and other required features of an inclusive classroom,” he said.

The school is also providing 100% free access to India’s Central Board of School Education (CBSE) textbooks and learning resources in digital form at no additional cost to all its students for the entire duration of this academic term, he added.

Schools select resources prudently

David Wilcock, Head of Primary, The English College Dubai, echoed similar sentiments.

“In terms of costs, teachers and students have discovered a vast wealth of free digital resources applicable to learning from the foundation stage (FS) years to the sixth form and how best to use these in online and classroom-based sessions. These are complemented by carefully selected resources that come at a cost but are fundamental in ensuring a progressive curriculum can meet the specific needs of each and every student,” he said.