All aspiring students of subjects such as business, accounting, education and environmental management, can enroll at Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University for its undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses which are being taught completely online.
From the current semester all of the Dubai institution's academic programmes will offer a mix of live classes and independent learning - all online. This allows for a more personalised experience for students while also given them constant access to course materials, HBMSU said.
A virtual classroom for live teaching features audio and video chat, file and screen sharing, individual and group discussions, webinars, instant messaging, video conferencing and interactive stories. Live teaching will account for half of the programme.
For the other half, interactive independent learning will be through email, file sharing, discussion forums, blogs, e-wallets, podcasts, recorded videos, presentations, simulations, and educational games.
Regular communication between students and professors is encouraged. Final exams will still be conducted physically however.
Previously there had been a mix of online and face-to-face teaching at HBMSU.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, is President of HBSMU. The university has been a hub for smart learning for 18 years and last month announced the "first-of-its-kind blended delivery model" using the latest technological innovations. It said the move "falls in line with the UAE's efforts to ensure the continuity of the educational process in a rapidly changing world".
The impact of Covid-19 related restrictions has meant that many universities have shifted more of their teaching online but the trend for distance learning is expected to continue even after the pandemic has subsided. According to Times Higher Education, which covers the global university sector, many schools are adopting a blended or hybrid approach to teaching this term.
Dr Mansoor Al Awar, HBMSU Chancellor, said that ensuring the continuity of education and business amid the global crisis had been a key achievement of the UAE under the "forward-looking vision" of the country's leadership, which has invested in the development of advanced technical infrastructure across various sectors, including education. Dr Al Awar said that HBMSU has also been a part of the support to maintain continuity of education during this period.
The launch of its new smart learning model follows on from HBMSU's efforts over the past two decades, which have helped reshaped the future of higher education based on "three key pillars of innovation, disruption and transformation", Dr Al Awar said.
"From our position as the first accredited smart university in the UAE, we continue to play our pivotal role as a supportive arm in the move to provide new, equitable and comprehensive education, offering lifelong learning opportunities for all and bearing in mind the importance of bringing change to the established rules governing traditional education."
"We also continue to provide a unique educational experience via the use of modern technology; restructure the role of learners and faculty members; and manage curriculum and educational environments to achieve our ambition of building generations of innovators, knowledge ambassadors, decision-makers, and builders of the future,” said Dr Al Awar.
“We look forward with confidence to this new and unique model, which will lay the foundation for sustainable learning during normal and urgent conditions according to a fully intelligent framework that meets the needs of learners at any time and place," he said. "Our achievements will not stop at this point, but rather continue to move forward in the advancement of education by taking advantage of technology and information revolution. Therefore, we are fully prepared and ready for the next fifty years with a, a generation that is scientifically, cognitively and technologically capable, working under a spirit that loves to reach the summits and does not recognize the word impossible.”
HBMSU's online bachelors, masters and doctoral programmes are accredited by the Ministry of Education. These programmes include a Bachelor of Business in Accounting, a Bachelor of Science in Health Administration, a Master of Management in Entrepreneurial Leadership and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership.