In late September 2017, Executive Director of J-WEL, and Associate Dean of Digital Learning at MIT, Vijay Kumar, traveled to Cairo, Egypt in support of the work MIT is doing with The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education to advance online and blended learning across the region. In the region, The American University of Cairo (AUC) and The American University of Beirut (AUB) are the primary institutions who are supporting and implementing this educational innovation.
A key focus of the panel “Blended Education in Egypt: Challenges and Opportunities” , in which Kumar participated, was how online and blended learning methods can create a pathway to immense opportunities for those in the Middle East region and worldwide. Both Kumar and his co-panelists viewed online and blended learning as an essential step to widening access to education.
Through blended and online learning, Kumar noted, widening access is not solely measured by the increase in the number of students who can use educational resources as a result. Opening up access through transformational methods should also signal a diversification in those that can be reached; blended and online learning allow us to reach demographics that were previously beyond our scope. “What I see happening through these efforts is that we are able to address the learning needs of different kinds of audiences in different ways,” Kumar remarked.
The conclusion of the panel set the stage for a three-day online and blended learning design camp, where AUC collaborated with MIT, The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, and AUB to redesign two AUC and two AUB courses. Implementing elements of MIT modules into AUC and AUB curricula, the design camp teams worked with MIT and AUC faculty to design new lesson plans and gather feedback from one another.
Egypt’s education system is made up of over 22 million students, making transformational changes difficult to implement. If they are not fluent in English, as Maysa Jalbout, CEO of The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education pointed out, they are limited in the online content or MOOCs that they can participate in. However, course translation is rapidly expanding, both at MIT and universities around the world, so the outlook is optimistic for Egyptian schools and universities to successfully implement MOOCS and online and blended learning into their curricula.
Kumar’s return from Egypt was timely; it came just before the inaugural J-WEL Week, where access to education and finding new ways to reach diverse learners was a topic interwoven throughout many sessions. Educational transformation around the world, through collaborations and innovations, are important priorities for both MIT and J-WEL.