Using technology to empower education
March 06 2016 11:18 PM
USI
VIRTUAL LINK: Mathew Boice, Vice-President (Middle East & Africa), Ellucian.

By Anand Holla

Working with a range of institutes in Qatar, including the Community College of Qatar and Qatar University, Ellucian delivers a broad portfolio of technology solutions, developed in collaboration with a global education community.
By providing strategic guidance to help education institutions of all kinds navigate change, achieve greater transparency, and drive efficiencies, Ellucian has more than 2,400 institutions in 40 countries around the world look to it for the ideas that will move education forward.
Community caught up with Mathew Boice, Vice-President (Middle East & Africa), who has extensive experience in Qatar and works closely with universities to ensure they are meeting their intuitional goals, to know more. Excerpts:
 
In what ways can technology solutions improve the education system and facilities in Qatar?
Higher education in Qatar has continued to thrive, develop and grow in recent years, and the increased adoption of technology has helped to ensure that institutes are delivering educational experiences that are not only of world-class standards, but also help students engage while learning and successfully complete their studies. Today’s students are entering higher education with high expectations for their future careers and development, and are looking for an experience that’s personal and leverages their native use of smart technology. Most students inherently “look” to smart mobile devices and online resources when learning, which means that universities need to have solutions in place to interact through these platforms. The right solutions not only help students with their learning experience, they help institutes streamline administration activities, track student success and assess the performance of the institution by leveraging data insights and analytics.
 
From your experience of working with institutes in Qatar, what sort of changes do you feel are needed to equip the students for the increasingly competitive market outside?
Education is one of the leading forces behind economic growth. It’s important that institutes implement solutions and strategies that respond to the current needs of the country, but also help students enter gainful employment on completion of their studies.
Qatar, like many countries in the region, has developed a skills gap as a result of the speed of economic development and emerging economic development priorities. Higher education can help to resolve this issue by creating a talent pool of graduates that have the specific skills and a capability to adapt and learn that meet the needs of the current and emerging jobs available in the market.
For universities to better equip students with the right knowledge base, there is a pressing need to continue to deepen the connection and the collaboration between industry, institutions, students and graduates. Communication from these different perspectives helps facilitate discussion on the skills needs, connect alumni with possible job prospects, define feedback on the curricula of programmes and courses, and determine where specialist training and skilling is required to meet workplace requirements.
In Qatar, higher education is an active partner and participant in this process, with both the national university, the specialist provision within Qatar Foundation and the innovative work of The Community College, all providing important parts of the overall national needs.
Of course these requirements need to be exposed to students in an effective manner that helps them define a clear learning path to success. This helps students understand the importance and relevance of their studies, as well as the needs of their future employers. The right solutions can allow institutes to intervene pro-actively to help promote student success, alert staff to student difficulties for early resolution and create a more personalised learning experience for the students.
 
What is unique about the university scenario and student scene of Qatar?
The Qatar higher education landscape is one of constant improvement, with the presence of leading global universities, a well-regarded national university and a booming community college sector. The sector is constantly pushing to innovate the way that they deliver learning to improve outcomes for students and for society.
This proactivity is backed by impressive commitment from the leadership of the country and through multiple government initiatives including the National Development Strategy, the Qatar National Vision and an overarching goal by all government bodies to make Qatar a knowledge-based society. This ongoing support and aligned strategies from institutes and government bodies are impacting the way students make their choices, creating a more motivated and connected community of learners that is constantly striving for success, thus improving the role that education plays in their future career path.
 
Could you share some of the top trends to be expected in the region’s education sector in the coming 12 months, such as the move towards competency-based education, and what they could cause?
Ellucian believes that there will be multiple trends in higher education over the next 12 months, as a result of institutes in Qatar taking proactive steps to stay abreast of education best practices and their commitment to delivering the best possible experience to their students. Many of the trends that are forecast revolve around the student experience.
Firstly, the modern student of today is tech savvy and is looking for a personalised experience. These requirements mean institutes will be looking at technology that facilitates better student connections and tracks their developments throughout the length of their learning. Technology solutions such as analytics allow real-time monitoring of student information and performance, which can be leveraged by institutes to deliver feedback and guidance.
 
Can you elaborate more?
We predict that this will manifest in two discrete areas of needs for institutions in Qatar, better CRM systems for recruiting and student success and also through specific tools that support student advising and guidance. Secondly, there will be a rise in competency-based education (CBE) models in the country. The CBE approach moved the focus from the traditional learning approach of grades and hours spent in the classroom, to a more skills based approach that incorporates existing competencies that students may already possess. This new style of learning that has taken off across Europe and the US responds to the skills required by specific industries, and makes sure that students can enter the workforce with the right knowledge base. Finally, the growing popularity of cloud-based solutions and benefits of a virtual approach will see multiple institutes looking to use the cloud to also support university administration tasks.



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