1.Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East?
I am an American teacher and trainer with more than 25 years of experience writing, speaking, and consulting. Guided by the motto “learn continuously, live generatively” I develop undergraduate and graduate courses in communication, management, and marketing for delivery on campus, online, and in blended learning environments. Leveraging active learning strategies, I also facilitate corporate training on business writing, creativity and innovation, and emotional intelligence for entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 employee, and government officials.
Embracing an expat opportunity in 2014 I first taught management and marketing courses at Jumeira University in Dubai, then started teaching similar business courses at the American University in the following year. In the summer of 2018 I shifted to teach general education courses including happiness studies, innovation and entrepreneurship, and study skills. I have continued teaching entrepreneurship and marketing courses online for various universities in the United States. In 2015 I published my first book, “edX E-Learning Course Development,” a 300-page manual for university teachers and corporate trainers designing, developing, and deploying a MOOC course for edX.
When asked why teaching is my tenure I explain, “education empowers me to shape the lives of others while giving my life greater meaning.”
2. How would you describe the culture of your business?
The culture at the American University is based on nine core values: improve quality of life, respect and dignity, equal opportunities and recognition, openness, trust and integrity, innovation and creativity, persistence and entrepreneurialism, stewardship and economic viability, safety and environmental responsibility, teamwork and partnership. With these values as a foundation,
AUE operates with a very student-centric strategy; this aligns with my approach to education as well. AUE’s approach is tailored on a student-centralized stance which puts the needs of the students in the forefront. The aim is to elevate student outcomes of the students, encouraging and aiding their progression through hands-on experience and an on-going connection to the many partnerships of the University.
I reflect a similar standpoint in my classrooms. As a lifelong learner who entered academia after a decade in industry, I teach undergraduate, graduate, and professional development students practically and purposefully. Sensitive to the unique experiences, challenges, and learning styles of adult learners, I assign projects relevant to their personal and professional perspectives. Leveraging active learning strategies, I integrate my experience managing people, products, and projects into the traditional, online, and blended courses I develop and deliver.
3. What are the biggest challenges in the next 5 years?
I envision three big challenges facing higher education and corporate training in the next five years; they are broad in scope, but specific in application and can be characterized as: pedagogical, practical, and portable.
The first, pedagogical, means that all learning activities should be anchored to educational objectives; these provide parameters for the development of curriculum and metrics against which assessments can be measured. As educational offerings continue to embrace entertainment, it is essential to ensure there is still value to that experience.
The second, practical, acknowledges that learning should be useful and applicable to the real world; it might not be immediately actionable, but it should be relatable to the learners taking the course. Giving a nod to the influx of entertainment in learning, learning should leverage all technology and tools to make it as engaging and entertaining as possible — without sacrificing the integrity of the instruction.
The last challenge, portable, speaks to increased use of mobile devices as delivery devices. At the most basic level educational offerings should be developed using responsive design principles to ensure their accessibility on as many devices as possible. Ideally, learning modules will be specifically designed for mobile devices via customized apps, technology, or tools. Consideration should also be given to making content available offline and for users with low-bandwidth connections.
4. What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the region’s talent requirements?
Innovation and entrepreneurship combine to form an engine of opportunity for individuals, organizations, and even nations. At their core is a commitment to experiential learning that encourages critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and the development of soft skills. These are two concepts of such relevance to the region’s talent requirements that the Ministry of Education and Prime Minister’s office initiated a noteworthy educational program to support the growth of both in the UAE.
In the fall of 2015 a team from Stanford University partnered with the UAE Prime Minister’s Office and the UAE Ministry of Education to launch the “UAE-Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education Program.” Based in design thinking principles, this custom curriculum will be used to train three annual cohorts of UAE-based educators on Stanford’s innovation and entrepreneurship pedagogy. Participants are given a syllabus for a model “Fundamentals of Innovation and Entrepreneurship” course and are then coached on its content along with its unique pedagogical approach and learning techniques. The goal is to facilitate the creation of a more innovative and entrepreneurial mindset among UAE university students, thereby fuelling such an ecosystem across the UAE.
In conjunction with other faculty acting as program ambassadors, participants partake in workshops in the UAE and at Stanford University which equip them to initiate their own efforts to grow the innovation and entrepreneurship mindset within the UAE. I was recently selected to participate in the third and final cohort of this exceptional program; in additional to local workshops I will travel to Stanford University in July for four days of idea and activity filled experiences. I look forward to putting these ideas into action in my classroom, at my university, and throughout the UAE.
5. What is your Philosophy?
Motivated to “learn continuously, live generatively” I embrace education because it empowers me to shape the lives of others while giving my life greater meaning. Embracing Søren Kierkegaard’s idea that “to be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner,” I join with my students on a journey of generative learning. Sensitive to the unique experiences, challenges, and learning styles of adult learners, I assign projects relevant to their personal and professional perspectives. Believing education should create community, not competition, I combine learning with laughter to create a collaborative classroom. Acting as a guide on the side and not a sage on the stage, I invite engagement and encourage my students to own their education.
6. What’s next on your agenda?
In addition to my full-time teaching at AUE I am managing four primary projects: 1.). Develop an 8-hour corporate training workshop about emotional intelligence for in-person delivery in Dubai; 2). Redesign an online digital marketing course for UCLA Extension to align with their new UCLA Global initiative which is a more structured and sophisticated online education effort; 3). Create and teach an online strategic management course focused on human resources and non-profit perspectives for a private law school in Southern California; and 4). Collaborate with Raj Kotecha, Managing Director of Creative Content Agency, to launch his “Four Ps of Content” workshop which helps C-level teams understand how to plan, produce, publish and promote social and digital content on the key platforms driving business today.
7) How can people connect with me?
To learn more about me please visit my website at http://www.matthewagilbert.com, connect with me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewagilbert, like my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/profmatthewagilbert, follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/matthewagilbert, or view my Instagram pictures at https://www.instagram.com/matthewagilbert/