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Professional learning and development service for the Middle East College (MEC)

Professional learning and development service for the Middle East College (MEC)

Course title: PgCert in Higher Education Professional Practice
Course information: 12 month accredited Postgraduate Certificate course
Location: Muscat, Oman

Summary

The Middle East College (MEC) delivers a large amount of validated provision for Coventry University. It
 has to deliver a programme of education that meets the University’s quality and standards. MEC wished to build employee capacity within their institution to undertake this delivery programme and met with University representatives to establish what solution could be provided. Coventry University designed, accredited and delivered a programme of continuing professional development for MEC, which combined intensive workshops in Oman with work – based learning.

About the client

MEC is the visible expression of higher education in 21st century Oman. Their students are the flag bearers of a country that aims to be at the cutting edge of technology within the Middle East region. MEC is situated at the Knowledge Oasis, within the IT Park of Muscat, and works in collaboration with Coventry University to offer a wide range of programmes in different areas of technology, communication and business management, primarily catering for students in the Sultanate who are interested in embarking on successful careers in these fields. The challenge MEC had a requirement to build capacity for employees to deliver Coventry University validated provision, thus they required a certified pathway of continuing professional development for employees to meet these needs. Their employees are mainly Omani, Indian or Pakistani in origin and they needed instruction to become suitably adept in the mechanisms and procedures for quality assurance and to become less didactive and more student - centred in their approach to teaching and learning. MEC delivers a large amount of validated provision for Coventry University. MEC’s senior team visited Coventry for a week long taster course to gain an understanding of the capability and content the University cou
ld offer them as a partner.

A number of specific tailoring requirements were evident. It was really important in the context of this client’s programme to provide an international perspective rather than a UK one. Exemplars, for instance, needed to be global in nature. Understanding the cultural context of the delegates was a core requirement - recognising the need to integrate with Arabic culture for greeting, managing class and other expectations. Careful consideration was also required in the selection and use of online learning technology in an Arabic context. Additionally, English was not the first language of many delegates, and in some cases they would require support for academic writing styles. It was known that none of the delegates would have been through UK academic training before. Flexibility of approach to allow for these situations was important.

The solution

It was important to develop a tailored provision for MEC, which met their continuing professional
development requirements and appreciated both the working schedules of the employees and the region’s culture. To assist the University in the successful design and implementation of this solution, the first sessions were held with senior management for setting out the expectations of support for their employees. These sessions enabled the University to complete initial tasks and set up the environment to be suitable for application of the UK teaching methodology including, for example, access to online material via YouTube and other services that had restricted access due to firewall conditions.

The University quickly discovered initial learning was also required for the styles and techniques used during delivery of workshops, such as using flipcharts, post - it notes and audience response systems, as these were novel to the delegates. It was noted at this point that response systems were perfect for the Arabic culture and would enable better engagement with the delegates during the course.

This initial senior management engagement was an important step as they would act as mentors to their employees, the course delegates. Learning from these sessions was embedded within the cohorts that followed.

The course, a PgCert in Higher Education Professional Practice, was designed to help the delegates deal with the varied issues likely to be encountered in their academic practice at MEC. A range of models and approaches to learning and teaching were employed to help delegates develop a critical and informed awareness of the strengths and limitations of any particular strategy. This was to enable delegates to increase their repertoire approaches appropriate to their own disciplinary context and community of practice. Two modules were studied during the course, as follows:

  • Introduction to Higher Education Professional Practice (20 credits)
  • Advanced Professional Practice (40 credits)


These were delivered via an intensive block of workshops at the start of each module, on site, in Muscat, Oman – over a four day period for the first and five day period for the second bigger module. After the workshops the delegates entered a work - based learning phase to further explore and embed their learning through practice led learning and delivery.

The workshops were timetabled outside of key term dates so that delegates could engage with the course as well as continue with their teaching practice obligations. The topics covered in the workshops included:

  • how students learn
  • effective teaching practice
  • assessment and quality assurance procedures
  • giving and receiving feedback
  • technology enhanced learning
  • academic identity
  • curriculum design for Higher Education


Both modules were supported by online learning via the University’s virtual learning environment and adapted Learning Objects were used for delivering an engaging and enhanced learner experience.

A broad range of perspectives within contemporary higher education were addressed during the course,
 which provided a framework for encouraging and supporting individual teachers to develop the professional knowledge, applications and skills to become reflective practitioners. The course both acknowledged and built upon the delegates’ richness and varied experience to promote discussion of models for effective learning, teaching, assessment and research. As far as possible, the course modelled good practice during its learning and teaching and assessments during the work - based elements of the course allowed the delegates to engage with 'real' pedagogical issues in order to achieve the intended learning outcomes of each module.

The course ethos was highly participative, collegial and enquiry - based. Delegates were expected to contribute actively to both the “real” and “virtual” learning environments used in the programme. Sharing experiences and working collaboratively helped fulfil both the course aims and delegates’ personal and professional goals.

Delegate learning was embedded in a number of ways, especially through the work – based learning elements of the course where they practised their new skills. The engagement with senior management set the scene for embedding the education outcomes for the delegates, as it demonstrated their commitment to see the skills implemented within MEC.

The course was assessed in two ways - firstly through an Innovation Conference and secondly via the submission of a written coursework portfolio. The Innovation Conference was held for MEC employees to attend and course delegates were given the opportunity to present posters that demonstrated where and how they had innovated in their practice. College employees then voted for the best presentation piece and the posters were formally assessed. The written coursework portfolio was comprised of a range of work – based components including teaching observations, engagement with professional development activities and demonstrating research - teaching linkages. The MEC delegate assessments were completed alongside the University’s own UK based PGCert delegates. The course was formally accredited by the UK’s Higher Education Academy. Standard end of module and course evaluations were completed, as per the University’s policy, with feedback contributing to the improvement of future courses.

The impact

There has been impact on the individuals, MEC as an organisation and the University. On an individual level the delegate graduates have become Fellows of the Higher Teaching Academy. They have demonstrated visible improvements in their teaching practice, professional development and overall professionalism to the senior management team. This has also benefited the learner, through improved results. Delegates have embraced the shift in perception of what teaching means – from previously focusing on the teacher driven knowledge
to the realisation that a student centred approach is more effective. The fact
Oman based course delegates generally achieve a similar level of performance as native UK based students is testament the course delivers significant impact.

For MEC, the increased level of professionalism within the employees and their enhanced capabilities is fully in line with the institution's development strategy. Improving learner experience and attainment has been demonstrated in students who have experienced the new teaching methods. It has also meant that capacity to deliver Coventry University validated provision has increased.

The University is also in discussion with MEC with regards to the next steps for institutional development and an accompanying Employee development programme to underpin it. University representatives have met with the MEC’s Registrar, Dean and Head of Research to discuss configuring a roadmap for the next stage of the College’s development - looking at its leadership and research capability. This has been brought about through the recognised impact the University has had in developing the institution’s capabilities to date.

Since working with MEC the University has also begun implementing similar solutions for institutions in Ghana and Jordan.

Quotes

The PgCert is a very good course. It will change your teaching style, attitude and you will become a wise teacher.”

Course delegate, Middle East College

The Oman Academic Accreditation Authority commends Middle East College of Information Technology for introducing the Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice to support the professional development of its staff. The Panel met with a number of staff who had either enrolled or completed this programme and heard that it has had a significant impact on academic professional practice at the College. It has played a role in stimulating classroom action research and encouraging academics to monitor and develop a clear awareness of the impact of their teaching approaches. The Panel commends the College’s efforts to professionalise its teaching staff.”

Representative, Oman Academic Accreditation Authority



*Coventry University Higher Education Corporation offers services through subsidiaries which form the Coventry University Group. Delivery of the above mentioned services will therefore be via an entity which forms part of the  Coventry University Group. The Coventry University Group includes, but is not limited to Coventry University College Limited, Coventry University London Campus Limited, Coventry University Enterprises Ltd, CU Services Ltd, Serious Games International and formerly ACUA Ltd and  Acua Solutions Ltd. The Group delivers teaching, research and commercial services.