Dubai, U.A.E. – December 9, 2020: Launching the University Consortium for Quality Online Learning (UCQOL), the UAE Ministry of Education and the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE) signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with nine leading universities in the UAE as part of a comprehensive action plan to develop accredited online university programs.
The initiative was launched on the 9th of December in a signing ceremony with the presence of His Excellency Dr. Muhammad Al Mualla, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education for Academic Affairs of Higher Education, and Mr. Rashid Abdulla Al Ghurair, Member of the Board of Trustees of AGFE, as well as senior management of the American University of Dubai, American University of Sharjah, British University of Dubai, Khalifa University, New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE University, University of Dubai, University of Sharjah, and Zayed University.
The signing of the MoU marks the first milestone in the operations of UCQOL, the first of its kind initiative in the region that aims to support UAE universities to strengthen their online programs and make them accessible to a larger pool of students in the country and beyond. The goal is to launch high-quality online accredited programs for the benefit of Emirati and Arab learners who are seeking innovation in higher education.
On the occasion, HE Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of AGFE, said: “The launch of UCQOL underlines the Foundation’s social responsibility to make quality online learning more accessible for students and to support the vision of the UAE’s leadership to build a knowledge-based economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need to activate innovative learning platforms that can help harness the full potential of our young talents.”
His Excellency, Dr. Muhammad Al Mualla, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education for Academic Affairs, said: “With this step, we inaugurate a new phase of fruitful cooperation in the higher education sector through MoUs that will have a prominent impact on the quality of learning provided by an elite of our universities, and this partnership is of exceptional importance as the private sector is a strategic partner in this project, represented by the Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation for Education.
He stressed that through this initiative we seek to strengthen cooperation between our leading universities, by investing in the quality of education we provide by making accredited online learning programs available to a wide range of students, and making room for universities to develop accredited online university programs and launch them by the year 2022, which helps at the same time in crystallizing the possibilities that contribute to building the capabilities of the various universities in the country in the field of online learning.
He stressed that we should all collaborate, whether in the public or private sector, in the design of the future of education, in its various dimensions, and setting accelerators to achieve proactive achievement, pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic is a lesson for the world to prepare for the future, and we in the UAE, thanks to the vision and wisdom of the leadership, have taken a methodology of anticipating the future. A work and a way to compete against the time, and we have seen its impact during the health situation, our ability to overcome its challenges, and the speed of recovery from its effects compared to countries of the world.
He thanked the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education and our universities for their common commitment and constant eagerness to find a formula of understanding, in order to achieve complementarity, and for the continuation of our endeavors and tireless efforts towards taking an educational leading position on the educational map.
In addition, Mr. Rashid Al Ghurair, Member of the Board of Trustees of AGFE, said: “We are pleased to join hands with the Ministry of Education and leading UAE universities to innovate together and assure the roll out of high-quality online programs in the UAE in the next two years.”
Following the signing of the three-way MoUs, the universities will take part in a comprehensive Capacity Needs Assessment to identify the opportunities and challenges and determine the specific strengths and needs for developing online courses and degree programs. This will be facilitated by AGFE through the Instructional Design for E-Learning (IDEL) unit at the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium (CLCC), an independent entity consisting of a team of institutions working across the world to collaboratively design, promote and deliver high quality online learning while building local capacity for scalable delivery.
The rigorous needs assessment of the universities will be completed in early 2021, after which each university will receive a report to guide their capacity building, as well as program design and delivery journey in the next phase of the project.
Subsequently, the universities will have access to training of faculty, instructional designers, and other staff at the universities to inform the design and development process of online programs. Other activities will include a series of workshops on the best practices in online learning, a workshop on the accreditation process of online learning, AGFE grants to provide additional support to select universities in developing their programs, and more. These activities and others will assure that UCQOL serves as a model from design to delivery of high-quality accredited online learning in the Arab region and beyond.
The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education is considered a leader in online learning in the Arab region, promoting and supporting access to this model of learning since 2016. Through the Al Ghurair Open Learning Scholars Program (OLSP), it has provided over 370 scholarships to Arab Youth to complete postgraduate degrees and credentials at Arizona State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology online (MITx).
In this regard, Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and President of Zayed University, said, “This project will assist Zayed University and other higher education institutions in the UAE to develop high-quality degree programs that will be offered fully online to regional and international audiences. The universities will do so in collaboration with the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education and the Ministry of Education”
Also, Professor Kevin Mitchell, Chancellor of the American University of Sharjah said: “As a longstanding partner of AGFE, we know that the success of higher education depends on a concerted effort by governmental agencies, philanthropic organizations, and universities. The University Consortium for Quality Online Learning is an example of a partnership that will contribute to the advancement of the goals of all involved and most importantly, positively impact the experience of future generations of students.”
Moreover, Prof. Abdullah Alshamsi, BUiD Vice-Chancellor stated: “Digital technologies and online education have been considered an integral part of the education system worldwide. The opportunities in this field are huge. This will facilitate a more personalized educational system. It will allow for collaboration between institutions and academics locally and internationally. Students can connect from anywhere in the world. Also, academics will not be required to travel in-person to share their knowledge, but they can do that remotely. The exchange and transfer of knowledge will be faster and easier than ever.”
In addition, Mr. Charles Grim, Vice Provost for Institutional Research, Assessment, and Academic Affairs at NYU Abu Dhabi said: “We believe that NYUAD is one of the top institutions in the Middle East and has the potential to offer some of the top online programs in the region. This cooperative endeavor, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, seems an excellent way to help us and all of the other participating universities to engage in online learning effectively much more efficiently than would be the case were we to move in this direction independently.”
Dr. Eesa Bastaki, President of the University of Dubai commenting on this initiative said: “This will add a great value to the learning process in all senses of theoretical learning, practical implementation, knowledge digestion, and skills development. In addition, continuous training of learning enablers will enhance the program and will enable the instructors to develop their teaching skills and install in the students the ‘love-2-Learn’ atmosphere.”
In this regard, Dr. David Schmidt, President of the American University of Dubai said:” What the UAE has accomplished over the past 50 years has set the standard for the national development for the next 50 and the UCQOL and the alliance between the universities will play a fundamental role the nation’s trajectory forward.”
Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “Khalifa University is privileged to join with other higher academic institutions in the UAE to be part of the University Consortium for Quality Online Learning (UCQOL), a three-way public-private partnership initiative that aims to support sharing and exchange of knowledge and best practices in developing accredited online university programs. We will intensely engage with our partners to ensure continuous innovation in blended learning that will prepare a new generation of Emiratis to face future challenges.”
Also, Prof. Ghaleb Ali Al Hadrami Al Breiki, Acting Vice-Chancellor and Deputy VC for Academic Affairs of the United Arab Emirates University said: “The UAEU is committed to innovation in teaching and learning, with a strong focus on promoting emerging teaching pedagogies and supporting the adoption of online learning. This project provides a valuable opportunity for UAEU to augment its capacity to develop and offer a rich portfolio of high-quality online learning programs.”