Adopting a blended learning approach for the future

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Jamal Al Jassmi is the general manager at Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS)

As the world resets to ensure business continuity following the disruptions caused due to the Covid-19 pandemic, among the sectors most severely impacted is education. With the growing risk of infection since early-2020, governments across the world temporarily shut the doors of educational institutions in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus that has affected more than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries.

In the face of the unprecedented shutdown, universities across the world quickly adapted to an emergency remote teaching mode to ensure academic continuity for their students. For many, the key challenge was dealing with inadequate digital infrastructure and the lack of online teaching tools. This situation also led educators to step up the scope and scale of digital transformation like never before.

Rising up to the challenge, the EIBFS launched the Insight platform, which offers about 100 courses to date and intents to add 150 courses by the end of 2021. 

Now, as schools and universities start to reopen following the easing of lockdowns, educators around the world are still grappling with an ever-evolving barrage of questions: What is the future of education going to be? Will students – or perhaps, parents - ever want to see a return to the classroom in its earlier format? And, will the existing curriculum remain relevant in a post Covid-19 world?

Given the current scenario, a blended learning approach – one that seamlessly integrates classroom and online learning - seems to be the preferred and most effective model. Undoubtedly, a blended approach will improve access to education in the UAE and across the world. Not just that, this approach, will ensure that students are kept engaged throughout and are increasingly making a connection between what is taught inside the classroom and the outside world—translating to more students becoming ready to enter the highly competitive labor market.

On the economic front, the adoption of a flexible education model will foster a culture of lifelong learning with more people taking up shorter and frequent courses to enhance their skill set to fit the current market requirements. However, for this approach to work, higher-education institutions must evolve and take a hard look at their overall learning ecosystem. 

Swift decisions need to be made to build digital capabilities, reimagine courses and ensure that online learning complements classroom learning instead of replacing it. Moreover, universities must develop new partnerships and flexible ways of working with different educational institutions around the world, to explore how tools such as Gamification, Augmented Reality (AR) and simulations fit into the larger knowledge mix.  

In this context, earlier this year, EIBFS introduced a new Leadership Development Program in collaboration with Saïd Business School, University of Oxford to equip young and aspiring local talent in the finance sector with the right skill set and empower them to take on leadership roles in the new world. Moving into 2021, EIBFS is adopting a mixed learning approach and is exploring new resources and strategies such as microlearning, flipped learning, blended learning journeys, and self-paced e-learning apart from exploring the potential of AR in training bankers.  

As educators continue to work in a concerted manner to shape a learning education model for the years ahead, the upcoming months remain crucial in terms of planning, boosting their digital infrastructure and taking into consideration what their students want. Most important, it is a time to take a step back and assess the changing needs of society and ensure that our future generation is well-equipped to pivot through any crisis, well beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.



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