The future of digital education is personalised and hybrid

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Alaa Elshimy, Managing Director & SVP – Enterprise Business Group, Huawei Middle East.

“In the Middle East, governments are already investing heavily towards the education sector and are allocating nearly 19 percent of their budgets to education,” says Alaa Elshimy

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all industries, and the education sector has been no different. In fact, over the last year or so, about 1.5 billion students — 90 percent of all primary, secondary and university level students worldwide — have been unable to attend their classes in schools or university campuses for at least some period of time.

Digital transformation was already taking place in education before the pandemic. However, there is no doubt that the global health crisis accelerated the transformation and forced education providers to seek solutions that can ensure learning continuity for all students.

Today, education is ever-more personalised and hybrid. Hybrid learning, where some students attend class in-person, while simultaneously, others join virtually from outside the classroom, for example, from their home, or any other place that has internet access, has been implemented in many countries during the pandemic.

The digital journey of the education industry has accelerated and there is a huge demand from both students and teachers to have teaching and learning resources available anytime and anywhere. This, in turn, has also led to higher demands on the construction and maintenance of advanced education ICT infrastructure that can enhance education platforms, campus learning environments and teaching methods.

In the Middle East, governments have already been investing heavily towards the education sector, in line with national transformation goals that aim to develop a ‘knowledge-based economy’ and are allocating as much as 19 percent or more of their budgets to education.

Digitally transforming education

The use of technology in education isn’t a new trend, but now it is no longer about remote teaching and learning only. More advanced technologies like VR and AR are going to pave the way for interactive learning environments – both on and off campus, making the teaching and virtual lab experiences easier by immersing the students in an interactive audio-visual 3D experience.

These transformations would require that communication infrastructures are upgraded to cater to the increased bandwidth demands, and move towards wireless coverage everywhere by implementing 5G and Wi-Fi 6 technology. A converged and all-wireless network can also help automate operations and enhance efficiency and user experience in campuses by incorporating integrated security, all-wireless coverage and predictive AI-based Operations and Maintenance (O&M).

Using Wi-Fi 6 technology enables gigabit wireless communication for all devices used anywhere on the campus facilities, be it a mobile phone, laptop, tablet, printer, interactive whiteboard screen, AR or VR headset, or an IoT device.

Advanced AI-based analytics can enable contactless attendance records, social distancing, face mask detection, and digital identity management. Cloud and intelligent applications are increasingly critical, supported by innovative ICT that can transform the education industry.

Realising intelligent education using ICT

By working more closely with ICT pioneers, educators are now getting the best out of their existing digital infrastructure, and investing more wisely in digital solutions that enable them to leverage the full potential of emerging technologies to facilitate innovation in teaching and learning management.

As a partner to many academic institutions in the Middle East and beyond, we’ve seen a specific desire for all-scenario solutions that combine cloud, AI, big data, and IoT to accelerate modern education. For example, Huawei has partnered with Ankabut—the UAE’s Advanced National Research and Education Network (NREN) and has deployed a full cloud stack solution, including a cloud platform, software-defined networking (SDN), a high-speed data centre network, and high-performance all-flash storage, enabling Ankabut to offer outstanding cloud services to their partner institutions.

The UAE Ministry of Education (MoE) has also partnered with Huawei for an all-wireless network solution to quickly connect people and environments, ensuring the continuity of learning and achieving more streamlined, robust services. And with the launch of the MoE School Campus and Wi-Fi Innovation Project — which covers over 400 schools — the intelligent education revolution is well underway.

In fact, at Huawei, we have been providing advanced ICT solutions for global education customers for more than 10 years, from the most advanced classroom where the future of education is unfolding, to the least developed country where we helped expand the basic universal education to the next generation. Together with ecosystem partners in the education industry, Huawei is working with customers to transform faster towards all-scenario intelligent education.

Unlocking knowledge — Everywhere, for everyone

In the future, teaching, management, and research will become fully aware, fully connected, and fully intelligent. Hybrid learning is about to become the new normal of future education, bridging the gap between physical and virtual learning environments and allowing for on-demand learning.

With further advances in technology and connectivity, going forward, students will be able to receive education in a way that suits them best despite cultural and geographic barriers, and adjusted to the specific needs of each individual, eventually improving both the quality and equity of education.