The world is still living under exceptional circumstances in its open battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, which imposed its agenda on the course of events and every aspect of our lives, particularly in education of all kinds and at all levels. It has forced the world to reexamine its calculations and schedules, and seize the possible opportunities for change in response to the reality of the situation.
In this regard, Princess Sumaya University for Technology was one of the first universities to quickly take action and respond to the pandemic conditions, thanks to its strategy of transforming trials into opportunities. Thus, it was able to bypass that sharp turning point, quickly, accurately and smoothly, by adopting the distance learning system, without missing a single day of work.
PSUT’s president, Prof. Mashhoor Al-Refai, points out that since the first signs of the pandemic, and under the guidance of HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, Chair of the University's Board of Trustees, the University sensed that events would impose themselves on the situation, altering the methodology and method of work. For this reason, it set about preparing its platform for the full transition to distance learning, preparing the faculty members and students in a highly accurate and rapid hierarchy.
Al-Refai views distance learning as an important strategic turning point in life, and as an initiative that can be framed and institutionalized. He also believes that this form of education is set to become an essential part of the future university education system, stating that education after the Coronavirus will never return to its former state.
The president of the University says, "We are a technology university that has employed all its capabilities in order to overcome the difficulties it is facing. We have even managed to teach laboratories via distance learning by adopting online programs that are compatible with the nature of the work of those laboratories."
The biggest dilemma faced by most of those involved in distance education has been to conduct successful tests that are able to truly measure the knowledge and skills acquired by the students. PSUT’s experience has been excellent in this regard thanks to its adoption of special tests capable of measuring knowledge and skills while observing in an ordered and transparent manner. Students are divided into groups of no more than 20 with an observer for each group, using cameras and audio devices as observation support tools.
On this point, Al-Refai says that, happily, we do not find a big discrepancy between students’ results in the online tests and those of the tests previously carried out in the classroom. We are looking forward to benefiting from the agreements concluded with international universities on the issue of e-learning, optimizing the use of available information and data, encouraging scientific research, archiving all course lectures, providing technical support to teachers and students, cooperating with local and international institutions to find creative solutions to difficulties, integrating effective systems in the field of online exams, establishing a national e-learning center, and thinking about blended learning, which is a mix of classroom and online learning.
The Director of the e-Learning Center, Dr. Adiy Al-Tweissi, who was chosen as a member of the National Committee formed by the HEAC to lay the principles and regulations for e-learning and blended learning in force in the Kingdom, says that the center took it upon itself to announce the general policy for the safe use of the e-learning system, and to train faculty and students during a two-week period before the full lockdown.
Al-Tweissi added that the switch to distance learning was successfully completed within the regulations and with great flexibility that guarantees that work can be reprogrammed when any change is called for, either by a new decision issued by the Council of Higher Education, or the issuance of a new defense order.
Regarding the measures taken by PSUT to support distance learning, Al-Tweissi says that the University provided a subscription for each faculty member as the Meeting Host on the Zoom platform, in addition to activating an account for each student on the same platform. It also provided a full-featured 4-month subscription for each faculty member on the Cisco Webex platform, and accounts for students and instructors to access the Coursera system and the Big Blue Button virtual lecture system as a backup tool.
PSUT responded to the university e-learning initiative of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Chairman of the Higher Council for Science and Technology, under the title “Teach Yourself”, and began broadcasting its lectures in several study courses to all students of Jordanian public and private universities from the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis.
The University also helped students obtain internet packages at the rate of 10 GB per student, in addition to equipping 25 classrooms as Smart classrooms and supporting them with modern communication tools ready to work with the Fully Online or Blended teaching system in preparation for a gradual return to work on campus.