To the great man who loves his country passionately
To the icon of the Egyptian Industry
To the Pioneer of the Egyptian Private Higher Education
To the God father for many who got to know you closely
To the great man who represents the true meaning of humanity
I dedicate this research report to
Mr. Mohamed Farid Khamis
as a small gesture of love and appreciation.
Previous outbreaks of infectious diseases have prompted widespread school closings around the world, with varying levels of effectiveness. It happened before during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic in the United States, the 2009 H1N1 Flu pandemic, the swine flu outbreak in 2009 in the UK, but nothing can be compared to COVID-19.
The staggering impact of Covid-19 on educational systems around the world is unlike anything we have seen in the post-war era. More than 1.7 billion students have been affected; demand for online learning has skyrocketed. In one month there were 10.3 million enrollments in courses on Coursera, up 644% from the same period last year. It looks like the educational world is turning upside down.
As country after country decrees partial or total lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of universities and colleges switching to e-learning has soared. Few of these institutions were well prepared for this sudden disruptive move. There was a lot of scrambling and improvisation as administrators and instructors struggled to implement based online teaching. Students also struggled to adjust to this new teaching method.
Higher education leaders in the Middle East and neighboring regions are generally upbeat about the results of the experiment of online education that the Covid-19 pandemic forced on them, but many say that the experience also exposed a number of problems that need to be addressed for e-learning to be used effectively.
When it was time to convert completely to online teaching, BUE was better prepared than many other higher education institutions in Egypt because blended and Interactive learning was already embedded in almost all modules. When it was determined that there was no way to continue the traditional face-to-face teaching, and in order to ensure educational continuity, a swift decision was taken to move to online teaching. BUE’s administrators and staff members grasped immediately the challenge and put their heart and soul to accomplish the task to the best of their abilities. Although, nothing is perfect and some things could have been done better, overall, BUE’s administrators, staff, and students met the initial challenge admirably.
The smooth switch from the traditional face-to-face method to online was voluntarily appraised through social media by BUE’s students and their parents. Not only that, there was agreement among, even the competing higher education institutions in Egypt, that BUE is the champion when it came to finding innovative solutions to the educational problems in the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic associated with the swift urgent decisions.
Many wonder whether the rapid transition to online learning brought about by the COVID-19 crisis will ultimately transform colleges and universities into digital institutions. However, many believe that COVID-19 pandemic will bring about substantial changes in the way higher education institutions operate – in both the short and long term.
Before COVID-19, when higher education institutions thought of digital transformation, it was to achieve greater access, global reach, personalized instruction, and rapid improvements in pedagogical practices. Since nobody knows for sure the possibility that students will be allowed on campus in traditional ways, teaching online will become an equally important driver of digital transformation. With COVID-19, we are seeing how yesterday’s disruptors can become today’s lifeguards. While traditional institutions once viewed online education as a threat, it has come to their rescue.
A realistic view of the current pandemic is not to consider it as an once-in-a-lifetime crisis whose effects will disappear in a few months. Many educational experts hope that this COVID19’s crisis will serve as a wake-up call to reassess the vulnerabilities of the higher education sector and the challenges of living in a global and interdependent world. It is true that that COVID-19 pandemic has forced universities to bring their courses online – a step along the road to emergence of a new educational paradigm, resulting in a new delivery model in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. But now it is time to look to the future: and consider the coming challenges carefully.
Assessing the present through surveying academic staff and students is a much required first step in this direction. It may help to start the transformative journey of higher education. The experiential learning of BUE’s staff, together with the gathering of data on students’ opinion, perception and perspectives on online teaching and learning will provide a valuable contribution for leaders and decision-makers in Egypt in their pursuit of transforming higher education and in a way that is capable of achieving set educational objectives.
The Community Service Committee of the Faculty of Business Administration, Economics, and Political Science (BAEPS) was inspired to undertake this research project based on information from those who have the information and knowledge: that is, the academic staff, in the first stage and then the students in the second stage. The major objective is to generate empirical information about BUE’s online teaching experiment during the second half of the second semester of 2020. It is anticipated that the Study and information will be of value to both BUE’s Senior Management Team and staff in helping them develop a realistic, ambitious, educational vision for BUE specially at a time when the BUE is preparing its next five-year Strategic Plan..
In this exploratory study, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods are used to assess BUE’s academic staff opinions, perceptions and long term perspectives regarding their experience with online teaching after campus closure. Before the development of the study questionnaire, in-depth semi-structured phone interviews with 10 educators experienced in online teaching were conducted. The objective of these interviews was to gain more insight about online teaching in order to help developing the study’s instrument that covers all aspects of online teaching.
This study is stage one in a larger research project that consists of two stages. A self-administered questionnaire was posted on the Goggle forum to electronically collect date from a representative sample from BUE’s academic staff from BUE’s 10 faculties. Respondents were given two weeks to fill out the questionnaire. A total of 285 academic staff participated.
The study questionnaire includes five parts. Part one includes classification questions. Part two includes questions about all aspects of online teaching to measure the respondents’ perceptions, opinions, and perspectives. The third part includes a list of areas that might need change as the result of the shift to online teaching as they are suggested by the literature review and the conducted in-depth interviews. The respondents were asked to check the number that reflects their opinions on a five-point Liker scale style. Part four includes satisfaction scale for online teaching. The last part consists of two voluntarily open-ended questions in which respondents are asked to state any problems they encountered when teaching online. In addition, they were asked to write their suggestions for improvements.
BUE’s academic staffs have gained a long solid ground of experience with e-learning, interactive, and blended learning. The opinions, perceptions, and perspectives that they have expressed when answering the research questions may be a good prescription for transforming the Higher education in Egypt to be able compete equally with the best well established educational systems in the world.
The following recommendations are based on a representative sample of BUE’s staff from its 10 faculties representing different areas of specialisations:
- Egyptian Higher Education Institutions must take in consideration, when selecting the best way to deliver education to their students, that a complete reliance on online teaching is inappropriate for all modules and different fields of studies. It is a must to think out of the box, be creative, and to take both staff and students’ opinion in reaching the best combination of online and offline teaching methods.
- Indicative guidelines based on examples of good practice within different educational institutions should be developed and shared across the country. It is clear that one teaching platform that fits all faculties is not appropriate and a balance of online and offline practices and procedures should be designed with consideration of the nature and characteristics of particular disciplines or specialisations.
- Bespoke staff training development opportunities at a range of levels must be introduced for those who feel ill-prepared and unready to meet the challenges of the new higher education online delivery environment in Egypt. The content of training and the tools employed should be design based on the degree of readiness and perceived qualifications for meeting the online challenges.
- It is imperative that the most advanced technology is used, especially in the area of monitoring plagiarism since this is one of the most serious problems facing online teaching.
- Academic staff has the responsibility to select the teaching tool that achieves best student interaction and engagement, and this should be encouraged. It has been proven that the case study, simulation, and working in teams assist in this regard. These modes of teaching lend themselves well to the appropriate technology.
- Egyptian IT system and the related basic infrastructure should be reviewed and enhanced to ensure that there are reliable Internet connections as a pre-requisite of the implementation of online teaching.
- It is imperative to have a common understanding of the meaning and impact of digitalisation by both Egyptian educators and their managers. Digitailsation does not mean uploading the same material used in face-to-face traditional teaching styles.
- Investment in the best educational technology should be considered a priority for all Egyptian higher education institutions in order to increase the effectiveness of online learning.
- There is a need for new qualifications and competencies for the academic staff and that HR policies should be reviewed and changed. In addition, online teaching requires redesigning the taught modules. All these changes should be accompanied with intensive new training courses and tools reflecting the shift to online teaching. The training will not only focus on teaching matters but should also include dealing with the emotional and psychological issues surrounding the shift to online teaching. Academic staffs believe that online teaching requires an extra mental effort and that working at home is stressful.
- The criteria for hiring new academic staff should be reviewed and revised. Prior experience and/or familiarity with online teaching should be added value when selecting the new academic staff.
- Results indicate that there is a need to develop new ways to assess student performance. Creativity and thinking out of the box are to be encouraged in this area in order to ensure fairness and objectivity.
- There is a need to reduce the risk of plagiarism, as trust relationships are not likely to change in the very short term. Blocking students from accessing resources cannot be easily policed and is technically unfeasible. Assessments should take into account the fact that in future, many exams will be open book, and focus more on the re-elaboration of course material rather than on the simple recall of what was covered in the class.
- The enhanced role and use of better teaching methods by academic staff in attracting students to the online teaching sessions. By employing better teaching methods and educational pedagogies, students can be motivated to attend. Using case studies, simulation, and group assignments supported by the use of appropriate educational technology is a must. Mandatory attendance and utilising advanced educational technology is an important recommendation in this respect.
- It is imperative that top management in all Egyptian higher education institutions listens to and responds to the problems and suggestions by the academic staff, as the experience of online learning grows organically. They are in the frontline of development and implementation in regard to online teaching. short-comings in the uses of educational technology, the level of student attendance, and poor student’ interaction and engagement are all problems that can be satisfactorily resolved through investment in and better use of educational technology. Improvements in institutional connectivity, adapting higher education institutions’ polices to new methods of monitoring student attendance and assessment, as well as appropriate staff development for online teaching are all achievable innovations.