1. Tell Us about your experience in the Middle East
I have worked within Higher Education in the region for almost 15 years ,and was during this period quiet privileged to work on quite exciting projects and initiatives. Initially, I started my career as a faculty member teaching computer science related subjects and have slowly moved into leadership positions including acting as a director for e-learning, a dean for Learning and Technologies and Students’ services a provost and now a CEO for a newly established organization named CLICKS. Prior to the establishment of CLICKS (The Center for Learning Innovations and Customized Knowledge Solutions), I have been involved with leading the academic vision of the first online institution to be recognized in the UAE (the Hamdan Bin Mohamed Smart University) . During this period I worked extensively on matters related to strategic planning, policy development, academic portfolio development and enhancement, QA, accreditation and of course e-learning.
Today, leading an initiative such as CLICKS where we support institutional and individual capacity building for higher education across the Arab region has given me the opportunity to work beyond the context of one particular country and learn about various higher educational systems in different Arab countries and grasp a better understanding of regional reforms and developments undergoing.
I also have been fortunate to be involved in establishing and leading a number of initiatives including the Middle East e-Learning Association, the International Consortium for Teaching and Learning, the MENA Association of University Presidents among others. Today, along with other colleagues, we also run a bi-annual forum addressed at decision makers and leaders of higher education from across the region and beyond (The MENA Higher Education Leadership Forum).
I continue to engage with delivering keynote addresses, workshops, presentations, etc. both locally and internationally in line with my areas of expertise and research interests and act as a UNSECO consultant and a reviewer for accreditation commissions.
- Tell us more about your business?
The Center for Learning Innovations and Customized Knowledge Solutions- CLICKS was recently established with the aim of supporting the advancement of higher education and vocational learning within the MENA region. We support Universities, Colleges and other institutions of higher learning including vocational training institution in specific areas that are new, evolving and very much required to enable academic excellence. Currently the Center focuses on 5 key areas which involve:
1- Strategic Planning and Performance Management
2- Leadership Development and Governance
3- Quality and Accreditation
4- Technology integration in higher education
5- Research in Higher Education
In each of the above areas, the Center offers capacity building programs ranging from short courses to certificate programs, institutional mentoring and coaching, knowledge solutions and consultancy activities. CLICKS’ activities have so far reached several countries including: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Nigeria, Algeria, Jordan, Sudan, Iran, and of course the UAE and we are considering further expanding our outreach to other countries within North Africa in the near future. Our centre works through an international network of high caliber experts who are carefully selected and mentored to ensure their deep understanding of the region; and is guided by a high level international advisory board comprising 11 members.
Since2012, the Center has established a number of international partnerships including collaborations with the Leadership Foundation in Higher Education and the Higher Education Academy in the UK, the university of Texas at Austin, the Arab Association of universities, the New Zeeland Curriculum institute, among others.
- Who are your key clients?
Primarily our work is involved with higher education institutions including universities, colleges and institutes involved with delivering degree programs as well as ministries of higher education and other regulatory bodies. We also have started recently working with organizations involved with vocational learning across the region.
When involved in capacity building and training, we engage with all levels of the institutions from the leadership team to the staff working in supporting functions.
- What are in your views the biggest challenges facing HE in the region in the next 5 years?
- Address the Skill gap dilemma; there continue to be a need for higher education institutions to emphasis more on preparing graduates for the workplace. Despite being a ‘hot topic’ at the moment both regionally and internationally, aligning graduate skills and competencies with market needs continues to be a challenge in many countries which needs to be addressed.
- Technology advancement and the recognizing new forms of education; with the current developments in ICT, and the emergence of new forms of learning including hybrid learning, online learning and recently MOOCs; it will become crucial for ministries of higher education and accreditation agencies to start recognizing non-traditional degrees and set up standards and frameworks to regulate the quality of such programs.
- Strengthening research, knowledge creation and innovation as drivers for the growth of nations and a mean to shape the social and economic development of countries.
- Improving and sustaining quality of learning and the student experience in line with international standards.
- Continuing to build internal capacity among administrators, faculty and staff.
- What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the regions talent requirements?
I would probably want to focus specifically on skills and competencies needs for faculty and teaching staff and the importance of ensuring that HEIs across the region develop appropriate strategies to foster excellence and innovation within learning and teaching. There is a significant need for institutions to develop of adequate T&L frameworks and standards that are aligned with the overall institutional strategic objectives to help maintain the quality of learning and teaching, identify skills’ gaps, develop appropriate training opportunities for its teaching staff, provide adequate support services and develop strategies to assess teaching and measure the impact of such training opportunities.
There is no doubt that the large number of faculty members and teaching staff recruited within universities and colleges are experts and knowledgeable within their own discipline; however until recently the pedagogical aspect of teaching is often assumed to come naturally by being placed into a classroom and practice teaching. As higher education is rapidly changing and confronting new challenges such as student diversity, emergence of new ICT developments, imposed higher level of accountability, dissatisfaction with the quality of graduates’ knowledge and skills, establishment of accreditation agencies and national qualification frameworks as regulatory bodies overseeing the quality of the learning experience, etc. more attention needs to be given to developing faculty and teaching pedagogical skills.
Areas often needing attention involve curriculum design and development, understanding learning environments and learning styles and students’ engagement approaches, assessment, research, technology integration, educational leadership and management among others.International Cooperation Manage
Dr. Narimane Hadj- Hamou, CEO of CLICKS