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The Educational Trend Setters

In conversation with Sheikh Abdulla Bin Khalid Al Khalifa, Executive Director, Technology and Innovation, University College of Bahrain

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In today’s world, it is hard to find a modality of life where technology hasn’t had its influence. The way our current education structure has embarrassed the power of technology is more than what anyone may have anticipated in the past. University College of Bahrain (UCB) has gone one step further setting a new trend of having the technology advancement of the modern world being used to the utmost, thereby making the life of students and instructors efficient and easier. When Bahrain This Week met Sheikh Abdulla Bin Khalid Al Khalifa at the UCB campus in Saar, he shared with us the details of using modern technology advances to revolutionize the field of education.

Coming from a Telecom-IT background, the first project that Sheikh Abdulla Al Khalifa undertook was to rework the fundamentals in relation to the communication scheme at the university. “When I joined the team, there was no right connection among the staff, faculty and students. The information or the knowledge was either lost or misunderstood. I managed to look at the technology relation in communication and started looking at companies who provide support on this especially for the educational sector.” Sheikh Abdulla Al Khalifa continued detailing on the collaboration UCB has with Google. “We signed with Google for their apps a year and a half back. It includes Gmail, Hangouts and all the apps that should help students and the faculties to interact properly and get better results.”

UCB is providing email ids and a storage space of 1 TB per student, with the support of Google. For the first time in the history of universities in Bahrain, email ids provided for students at UCB lasts a lifetime, thereby creating a strong alumni foundation and a great way of helping students to stay in touch even after graduation. “It becomes easier for us to get in touch with our old students and they too can catch up with each other anytime even after years.” He explains.

When students register for a course at UCB, each are provided with access codes for websites that provide virtual bookshelves for their course materials. These e-books are easily viewable in laptops, tabs and smart phones thereby taking the place of printed materials. The staff and faculties have been specially trained by experts from abroad to make use of these tools.

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“Students these days are incredibly familiar with the technologies available and it is now comfortable for them to not carry textbooks like the old days.” Sheikh Abdulla Al Khalifa shares the advantages. “They can use Google hangouts for group studies and work out on assignments.” “It has even empowered our faculties to be available for students after college hours. The teachers can click a button and be there online clearing doubts of their students. More than that, we earlier had the servers kept here at the university campus. But with the rise in traffic, we had to upgrade the bandwidth nearly 8 times and there is extra cost incurred with the maintenance. But with everything now on the Google cloud, our minds are free and we are able to get uninterrupted service 24×7.”

The other interesting information we received from Sheikh Abdulla Al Khalifa was the use of Grammarly software by the students and staff that encourages them to submit original works when submitting assignments and projects.

Very soon UCB will be launching CISCO and Microsoft certification courses that the students shall be able to take online. “Not only can our students but working professionals also enroll for these courses.”

There are many new and versatile projects including Virtual Field trips and online course adviser software waiting to be released for the advantage of the students and faculties at UCB.

He also marveled at the way the young generation starting from the elementary school level, are excelling in IT. “I am astonished to see kids as young as 8 years old doing presentation and documents using Google apps. It’s almost the same thing that we have here in our university.” Added Sheikh Abdulla Al Khalifa.

“Gone are the days when students used to come to classes with books and teachers used to write on black boards. In the next 5 years, the whole education system will be revolutionized with the advances in technology. ” He noted. UCB is presently working with the ministry of education to begin online short term, bachelors and masters programs. “Our ministry has always been supportive and encouraging new ideas. We are looking forward to have new advances that would benefit the education structure of the Kingdom and have Bahrain as the education hub of GCC.”

Sheikh Abdulla Al Khalifa, the man who has travelled around the world gathering the latest IT information that could be capitalized on the educational methods, is all out to create a revolution. A global revolution that should not only benefit team UCB, but also should encourage other institutions to be part of the same.

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