Emergency Remote Teaching: American University of Bahrain


Celebrating educational innovation and excellence across institutions in Bahrain. Read all about the incredible innovations enacted by them only on Gulf Insider’s platform – Education_bh.

Please share a brief background of your innovation.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Plato

At the peak of the coronavirus, UNESCO reported that 91% of the global student population were impacted by school closures – that is nearly 1.6 billion students in 194 countries. Global iconic American companies like Microsoft and Amazon were primed to adapt and provide their technologies to meet this new need for remote learning.

The pandemic changed the way that institutions operated globally, their delivery of education, and the way that students approach their futures. Once the pandemic took hold in Europe, the American University of Bahrain (AUBH) pro-actively mobilized its resources and technological tools to be ready to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning.

In February 2020, when the government temporarily requested for its population to isolate at home as a safety precaution, AUBH was one of the only institutions to seamlessly transition to Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT), without missing a single hour of class. Additionally, the University was the first in the Kingdom to ensure the continuation of education from a distance by delivering examinations throughProctorU, a U.S.-based AI-enabled secure online assessment platform which protects the integrity and credibility of high-stakes exams. ProctorU is used by more than 1,000 institutions and universities in the U.S.

Once the Higher Education Council (HEC) allowed institutions to reopen in September 2020, AUBH was the first University in Bahrain to welcome its students back on campus. AUBH implemented a unique operating plan which provided a safe, dynamic, student-centric environment to ensure students had access to holistic learning in the classroom and an engaging hybrid campus experience, with access to events, speaker series, individual counseling services, fitness training, and more. AUBH presented its students with options to choose from: study on campus or online, through a dynamic dual-modality experience, or attendextracurricular activities and services in a safe environment on campus, or from home, through the same technology. The objective: Give AUBH Students a choice of modality and sense of normalcy in thisunprecedented and disruptive period.

How was it planned?

AUBH launched a strategy for the campus re-opening, in compliance with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health, HEC, and National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus. The University had been working diligently on its return to campus on 13th September 2020, in line with its “Culture of Care” philosophy and had been exploring ways to support and protect the AUBH Community.

With safety and the student experience being at the heart of the University’s “Culture of Care”, AUBH launched a safe, engaging, and flexible university experience. A dual-modality setup was implemented. This allowed for normally scheduled classes on campus, and online synchronous participation for those unable to attend, or who prefer to study at a distance whether in Bahrain or abroad, using an in-classroom dual-camera system. One camera was installed on top of the classrooms’ smart screens with a view of the classroom and a second one had a view of the professor. 

Students who connected online had more inclusive experience, having a view of their classmates in the classroom, the professor and the presentation being shared. Students in the classroom had the ability to interact with their peers online and virtually saw them on the smart screen. The 75,000-sqm state-of-the-art campus ensured effective social distancing practices with adapted classroom seating, and reduced number of students per classroom, adopting a “stoplight system” to ensure class capacity was in line with safety regulations and would seamlessly evolve as safety guidelines were updated.

Simulation software had been added to laboratories to complement traditional classes. The AUBH staff, and the NHRA-accredited on-campus clinic, in partnership with Bahrain Specialist Hospital (BSH), had prepared a containment strategy for anyone showing symptoms of COVID- 19, with dedicated isolation rooms. The University had partnered with Le Meridien Hotel City Centre, to provide isolation facilities for new faculty and incoming students. The re-opening strategy aimed to create a safe learning environment, with the use oftemperature checks, increased sanitation, and masks worn at all times. A full protection strategy was also detailed for all employees and visitors to campus thereby safely continuing extracurricular activities andhosting hybrid events.

Throughout the pandemic, we emphasized our Culture of Care philosophy and kept health and wellbeing at the forefront of our student life and educational experience. AUBH organized virtual town halls for the AUBHCommunity to talk about wellbeing, offered access to “Headspace”, a mindfulness and wellbeing mobile application, and organized virtual fitness classes which were also launched on social media to support the wider population of Bahrain and beyond.

Fast-forward to September 2020, the University’s dual-modality strategy not only allowed students the flexibility to attend classes both on-campus or online at their convenience, it also greatly boosted the student body’s morale to return to a new kind of normalcy once again, as they were able to engage in-person with fellow classmates in a safe environment. Students had access to a safe classroom, student clubs and safely executed community events such as the President’s Run hosted in October 2020.

Since the pandemic hit Bahrain, and with high school seniors in mind, the University also created multiple solutions for them, as they considered the University in which they wished to enroll. In March 2020, AUBH launched a virtual tour of the campus to give high school seniors an opportunity to virtually visit the campus, if they hadn’t previously visited it in person. The AUBH Enrollment Department was also the first to launch video-conference meeting options with AUBH staff, for high school seniors and parents who wished to ask academic and admissions-related questions. 

Additionally, over 15 general assembly virtual information sessions were organized that year to engage with high school students, parents, and the wider public. This support system gave them a sense of “normalcy” and allowed them to make an informed decision, when enrolling in university.

Did you face any challenges in implementation?

“Empowering young people to thrive in the digital economy has been so instrumental” Ahmed Al Hujairi, Chief Executive Officer of ICT Firms in Bahrain.

When AUBH first began Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) online, both faculty and students had to quickly adapt to this new modality. This meant they needed to have access to a personal computer and reliable internet service in addition to specific training to learn how to use multiple platforms in a short amount of time. The University’s IT department held platform trainings for students and staff regularly throughout the semester and provided in-home support to faculty on both hardware and software related issues.

A brief assessment of your results

In all classes, a substantial portion of the overall syllabus assessment was carried out. The examination methods have been quizzes, homework, midterm exams, projects, open book examinations, or some combination of the above. The different types of assessment reflect the academic freedom and pluralism adopted by our university.

In 23 classes, thanks to AUBH’s dual-modality, in majority, students benefited from face-to-face learning as they have outperformed compared to those who were purely studying online. AUBH was very fortunate to have had the agility as a young institution and start-up to create this setup for students who had greatlymissed their campus when isolating at home.

Since AUBH built the competency to operate in dual-modality, it will remain as a resource and evolve in the way it is delivered. The training delivered to AUBH faculty and staff will be a welcome resource as the education industry evolves in Bahrain.

In hindsight, what were the most valuable lessons learned? Could things have been donedifferently?

AUBH adopted a new approach in conducting business as a higher education institution and creatively leveraged technology to create an engaging learning environment for students who were affected by the restrictions the pandemic created.

In order to build on the competency built at AUBH during the pandemic, all new faculty now undergo a training during their onboarding which teaches them how to best make use of the tools we work with, and how to best deliver an effective, engaging, and creative learning experience for AUBH students, regardless of modality.

The planning process at AUBH began prior to the arrival of the pandemic in the region which allowed for the delivery of an operating plan the University is very proud to showcase.

Furthermore, the resiliency and creativity demonstrated by faculty, staff, and students in itself is a lesson learned in how a community unified under the AUBH “Culture of Care” can continue to deliver effectively through adversity.

© Copyright 2024, Gulf Insider All Rights Reserved