(MENAFN- Sherpa Communications) Pearson, the world’s largest learning company, recently hosted an insightful panel discussion on “Is Higher Education Changing?” as part of its inaugural Higher Education Conference in the Middle East and Africa 2022. The theme of the event was “Growing Together”, as part of Pearson’s commitment to bringing the ecosystem of education at large and to help shape the future of higher education in the Region. He invited the participation of some of the major industry leaders and leading academic institutions, including the University of Jeddah, Khalifa University, Mancosa University and MEF University.
Six key takeaways from the discussion
• The pendulum is moving from brick and mortar to digital. Educators, learners and institutional partners are demanding better online experiences.
• Students want to take ownership of their learning and develop a more career and entrepreneurial mindset.
• Better user design, interactive digital content and ways to assess students in online and blended environments are the way forward.
• Increased demand for soft and job-related skills and more emphasis on learning English as seen by industry.
• Increased preference for short courses or micrograms and other affordable options by those seeking to re-enter the labor market.
• Today’s educators should focus on critical thinking, project-based learning and encourage peer-to-peer learning, ie the creation of a learning community.
Today, the global higher education sector has undergone a profound transformation as a result of the recent pandemic and rapid technological disruptions across all sectors. A World Bank report shows how countries in the MENA region have responded resiliently to this change by going digital and with some universities in countries like Saudi Arabia offering more than 7,000 virtual classrooms at around. 1 million learners during confinement. The demand for digital content and ratings is on the rise and the government. Agencies are now exploring how the gap between education and employability can be bridged through upskilling and reskilling programs and aligning learning outcomes with dynamic market needs. A survey conducted by PwC indicates that 81% of CEOs in the Middle East identify this lack of skills as a major business threat, especially for a future where 5G connectivity, cloud computing, AI and more advanced technologies will grow in popularity. . In this context, the roundtable uncovered valuable insights into the prospects for 21st century higher education in a post-Covid-19 world.
Sharing his thoughts on the session, Majid Mneymneh, Vice President, Higher Education Middle East and Africa, said, “The next few years in higher education are about to herald a technological revolution and major changes. We are now moving towards a world where on-the-go learning models will become predominant, and seamless integration of content, virtual platforms and immersive technologies will be required. At Pearson, we recognize our responsibility to contribute to this evolving education ecosystem, which is why we are initiating these conversations with relevant education industry stakeholders, to understand demands and build relevant partnerships, update our offerings, introduce new courses and work with the wider university community to help learners prepare for the future job market. The ideas discussed during the panel will help us understand the current needs of institutes, faculty and learners and, therefore, come up with innovative solutions to create an outcome-based learning framework.
Panelists including Professor Ramzi Al Saedi, Dean of the College of Sciences, University of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Dr. Asli Hassan, Director of Center for Teaching and Learning, Khalifa University, UAE; Prof Zaheer Hamid, Director, Academic/Director Academic, University of Mancosa, South Africa; and Prof. Dr. Erhan Erkut, Vice Rector, MEF University, Turkey, discussed many topics under the umbrella of higher education progression. Panelists discussed the importance and need for flexibility that has emerged over the past 2 years and the growing demand for easy access to more interactive digital content so students can learn on the go. One-on-one online tutoring proved extremely popular as it meant that students could get one-on-one attention anytime, anywhere. The discussion also covered evidence of the need for a wide range of programs ranging from full-time and part-time learning to micrograms, boot camps, blended and online learning. All panelists agreed that blended learning is undoubtedly the future of the education sector. In such a scenario, choosing the right partner is crucial to improving the landscape for students and faculty as they play at the intersection of delivering innovative digital academic content and essential skills for employability. This can help educational institutions, especially when it comes to customizing courses at the institutional level, to meet a market-driven need.
Over the past two years, the MENA region’s economic recovery has been rapid and mostly technology-driven, with digital nomads and entrepreneurs playing a central role. Partnerships with institutional alumni and businesses in both the private and public sectors have proven essential in providing employment and semester courses are slowly becoming obsolete as students seek to gain or upgrade market-oriented skills at lower cost in shorter lead times. Pearson, as a learning company, has been instrumental in providing the education community with quality content, courses and innovative platforms to navigate through this digital transformation.
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