Sunday, November 10, 2013

Working With SEU Faculty

As I have written about in the last few posts, I have been in the town of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia working with faculty of the relatively new Saudi Electronic University (SEU). SEU has formed a partnership with Franklin University, and I am one of 6 instructors from Franklin who traveled to various cities in Saudi Arabia to teach. My role was to share best practices and technologies for effective teaching in a hybrid environment in higher education. The specific focus is promoting active learning in an online and hybrid environment. The class was scheduled over 4 days, and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. I will share highlights of my experiences with the faculty in this post.
This is the door to the building where we held the class. Because the university is so new, they are using classroom and office space in another school until their own building is ready for them.

The Faculty
First I will write about the faculty at Saudi Electronic University. These faculty come from several countries in this region of the world. There were faculty from Pakistan, India, and Saudi Arabia in the class. From memory, I believe that among the faculty were professors of Management, Accounting, Discrete Mathematics, Healthcare Informatics, and Economics.

Members of the Class Strategies for Teaching in a Blended Learning Environment. From left to right: Dr. Moin Uddin, Dr. Shahid Husain, Dr. Muhammad Mansoor Alam, Dr. Joel Gardner, Dr. Ahmed Albarrak, Dr. Mohd Saeed Khan, Dr. Saad Alnefee, Dr. Fahad Sikander, and Dr. Khaled Alghamdi. Mr Fahad Saeed is not present in the photograph but also participated in the class.

Many of these faculty members have a great deal of experience as faculty members and as travelers. Some of them had taught at multiple universities and in multiple countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. They all brought their experience to the classroom, and it really made the class more exciting and engaging.

I was very impressed with the dedication and purpose of these faculty members. Several of them left their home countries to come and teach at SEU. Some had been there only a few days while others had been at the university for only a few months. A few had had to leave their families at home to make preparations to have them come with them to their new home. The class that we held lasted all day, and several of the faculty members would then hold several classes in the evening, making for a very long day. And yet they were all quite present and engaged in the course. It was clear that they were thoughtful and reflective about their learning and were beginning to bridge our class topics to their own classes.

The Course
As I mentioned, my role has been to share best practices for engaging students in a hybrid learning environment in higher education. I also shared many of my own experiences and expertise in effective teaching and instruction. Because of my educational and professional background in instructional design, instructional technology, and learning sciences, as well as teaching and training, I was able to draw on my own expertise as these faculty members extended their expertise in hybrid teaching.

Building Community
I realized as time passed that this course provided a way for these faculty members to really build unity and form a sense of community amongst themselves - a professional community. As I mentioned above, these faculty were all relatively new to the university, and they hadn't had the time nor the format to really get to know one another. The workshop format was an outstanding way for them to build their relationship around their common roles at the university: teaching their students effectively.

The Food
One of the highlights of this trip was the excellent food - so delicious. This is my style of food - it seems to usually include a meat, rice, bread, and sauces of some kind such as Hummus or Ganoush. There was always an excess of food, and it was absolutely incredible.

I absolutely loved Cabsa, a favorite Saudi Arabian dish that includes rice, meat (chicken in this case), raisins, and several spices including Cardamom. It was very impressive and I certainly ate my fill. :) The portions of food were generous, and I ate with gratitude.

Saudi Electronic University
I am very impressed by how quickly the university seems to be moving forward in their goal to extend education to the men and women in Saudi Arabia. From what I gather, their plan is to significantly increase the number of students in their university each year for the coming 5 years. The faculty are dedicated to their students, the administrators that I met were also very impressive and quite qualified to lead the university forward. I will be excited to see the university continue to progress and move forward.

This is a photograph of one of the posters for the university.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. I  am humbled by the excellence of the people and the culture in Saudi Arabia. Everyone was kind, thoughtful and giving, and the land is beautiful. I am also pleased that my university gave me the opportunity to be there and serve. I am grateful that I have spent the last 8 years studying and applying the technologies, theories, and models that will hopefully benefit these faculty and their students for years to come.

No comments: