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How IT is transforming the education sector in the Middle East

How IT is transforming the education sector in the Middle East

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Digital technology is enabling teachers to utilise more interactive learning materials

Ashith Piriyattiath, Group Head of IT at Dubai-based Al Masah Capital, tells Intelligent CIO how digitisation is impacting the education sector in the Middle East.

The term digital transformation has been widely heard in the academic sector in the last few years but most people have conceptualised it in the wrong way so that the content of learning is getting changed completely to equip the students to adapt with the technology trends.

But in reality the digital technology is not basically changing the content of learning- it is changing the method of the learning ‘process’ by making it more technologically fashionable where students will get more exposure to the technology in the early stages – making learning more interesting and interactive with the concepts thoroughly dealt with in a fraction of the time of the traditional education system.

Digital technology is enabling teachers to create more interactive, engaging, flexible learning materials in a range of digital and multimedia formats and make them available to students online.

Educators are also able to teach in a variety of different ways in the classroom, using in-class technologies, online materials and students’ own mobile devices. These changes are enabling educators to have a more diverse set of pedagogical approaches to support their learners, which means that they can be more inclusive in their teaching methods.

I have seen wide usage of the concept ‘BYOD’ in the education sector in the year 2017, where the schools encourage children to bring their own device or procure their own device, as per the standards specified by the school, to enhance interactive digital learning. Also, even schools are procuring devices for the students directly from the principal vendor in large volume to get educational/academic pricing benefits.

Apart from digitising the traditional curriculum, the schools in the region started including the latest technology trends as optional/additional subjects for the students to get a flavour of them in the  early stages. A few of the schools have already started training on robotics, 3D modelling and printing etc from the early grades. To equip the ICT lab for meeting these requirements and to train the staff on the technological trends are key challenges for us as an IT team.

MDM (Mobile Device Management) solutions were also marketed well in the education sector in the year 2017 as most of the schools adopted digital learning as the key method for interactive learning. Most of the MDM solutions in the education sector are focused to enhance the safe and secure usage and control over the devices, content filtering and publishing the learning contents in a centralised fashion.

Another area I have seen in 2017 is the wide usage of mirroring/casting devices like smart interactive TVs, smart interactive boards and short throw and laser based interactive projectors in the class room. Most of these devices are about having the option to share the content with the students’ devices and thereby they can directly interact with teachers during classroom sessions from their devices themselves.

All these trends point towards the eradication of carrying heavy school bags and shrinking a number of books to just one iPad/tablet.

Traditional Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) trackers are moving towards a completely different version with more software controlled IoT based functions where one RFID device is sufficient to track the student, the assets, transport and can even be used as an e-wallet where students can use it for purchases from school stores and canteens.

Even Bluetooth technology has also grown to a stage where it can replace the functions of RFIDs with small beacon kind of devices and tags with much less cost. A few of the schools have started using the technology already in the region.

Most of the above points are the examples of the outer view/student-front model of digitisation in the academic sector. Whereas digitisation is happening in backend activities it is also occurring in terms of the utilisation of cloud infrastructure for storage, content hosting, security etc.

Compared to previous years large numbers of schools and educational institutions have already migrated their datacentres on to the cloud and some have opted to keep disaster recovery sites on cloud too. Most of the school management system vendors also started to insist on cloud and SAAS models in the region.

And last a point I should not miss in terms of digital transformation is the money the educational groups are spending on digital marketing and online reputation management. SEO/SMO and other digital marketing and online reputation management techniques are heavily used to retain and enhance ranking on all internet platforms.

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