“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ― Winston S. Churchill

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According to a 2014 United Nations Development Programme document, “Arab Knowledge Report,” a state of urgency exists among the 100 million Arab youth throughout the Arab world: increasing unemployment, decreasing career opportunities, growing economic pressures, expanding irrelevance of traditional curriculum, intensifying military conflicts, broadening refugee displacement, and widening threats to the Arabic language are the main challenges.

And yet, there is reason to be hopeful: according to a 2016 Cisco report, “Where to Begin Your Journey to Digital Value in the Private Sector,” the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) represents USD $363 billion in digital potential! The key to Arab youth unlocking this opportunity is online education. While the infrastructure for online education has only begun to emerge in the Arab world it presents vast potential.

One emerging online education option is Kwn Education. Launched in 2016 Kwn — the Arabic word for ‘create’ or ‘build’ — is an online, STEM focused Arabic language university for Arab youth powered by the Open edX Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform.

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As defined by Educause, a MOOC is ” a model for delivering learning content online to any person who wants to take a course, with no limit on attendance.” edX is the result of a nonprofit partnership between Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Open edX is the open source version of the same platform.

Kwn offers three diplomas all delivered in Arabic that provide Arab youth with the technical knowledge and soft skills they need to capitalize on MENA’s growing digital economy; each three-month course from the 16 course diploma is USD $100 and is accredited by BTEC Pearson.:

  • Digital Transformation in Organizations
  • Digital Entrepreneurship
  • Digital Consultancy

Notably, I met with Kwn’s developer, Mohammed Alsiddiq, a founding partner of Eight Creative Technology, in Dubai last this past July. Mohammed bought my book, “edX E-Learning Course Development” on Amazon.com to help him design, develop, and deploy his edX initiative.

This lead to my introduction to Ms. Hala Alturki, CEO of Kwn, and the rest of her impressive team. I was invited to join them at the Innovation 4 Impact Competition during the Global Islamic Economy Summit on October 11, 2016 in Dubai.  At this event, in which Kwn was one of five finalists, Ms. Hala “pitched” the concept to a panel of judges and the audience members in the hope of winning a $20,000 US prize. Kwn did not win the competition. However, Ms. Hala gave an excellent presentation at the Innovation 4 Impact Competition you can watch below:

Kwn launched its first two courses on October 31, 2016: Introduction to Computer Programming Principles and Computer Interface Design Principles. Additional courses including Visual Communication in Art and Design and Website Creation and Management launched 30 days later.

Shortly after the first courses started, on November 8, 2016 at the Westin Mina Al Seyahi in Dubai, Kwn won the 2016 Enterprise Agility Award for Innovation in Education from Entrepreneur Middle East. A description of the Enterprise Agility Awards follows:

Organized by Entrepreneur MENA, the 2016 Enterprise Agility Awards recognized and honored enterprise leaders and individuals who have distinguished themselves and shown sector significance and outstanding business conduct across a variety of industries that are key drivers of the Middle East’s economies. The Enterprise Agility Awards, Entrepreneur of the Year seeks to acknowledge agility across a variety of industries including retail, healthcare, construction, hospitality, aviation, education, banking, and energy, amongst other key drivers of the Middle East’s economy.

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Evaluating the impact and potential for Kwn Education it appears to echo the idea communicated in the Winston Churchill quote at the beginning of this blog post: Ms. Hala Alturki and her colleagues at Kwn have creatively confronted the challenges facing Arab youth with optimism and innovation.

Mumtaz!

In a November 13, 2008 article on the Inside Higher Ed website, “As Economy Wavers, Online Enrollments Climb,” writer Andy Guess highlights the tremendous growth of enrollment in online education programs.

The article provides insight into the results of a report, “Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008,” prepared by the Sloan Consortium, an organization which tracks online learning trends. Summarizing the findings in the report, Guess makes the following observations:

In fall 2007, the study reports, some 3.94 million students enrolled in at least one online course, an increase of 12.9 percent over the previous year. That falls between the 9.7 percent growth for fall 2006 and the 19.7 compound annual rate since fall 2002. In comparison, total student enrollments increased 1.2 percent in the year leading up to last fall, while the compound annual rate for all enrollments since 2002 was 1.6 percent.

Clearly, with changing demographics, fluctuating gas prices and an unstable economy, people are looking to online education as a means of improving themselves while keeping their out-of-pocket costs low and their potential for success high.

By coincidence October 30, 2008, marked two very special events in my professional life: my first anniversary at DeVry University in Bakersfield and the day on which I learned that I was hired as an adjunct instructor by National University.

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My tenure at DeVry has been nothing short of life altering. For me, being hired at DeVry marks the moment when I officially became a “real live” classroom teacher. Although I had already been hired to teach online courses for Axia College of University of Phoenix, there was something incredibly validating about being in a classroom.

I suddenly felt like a legitimate teacher — as if I had finally emerged as an educator.

I can partially thank my experience with Axia as one of the reasons why, as a relatively unproven teacher, I was hired at DeVry (though I did teach traffic school, so that must have counted for something, right?).

I must also acknowledge Center Dean Barry J. Bailey for taking a chance on me.  His decision to let me initially teach two courses on a trial basis has fundamentally changed the course of my career (and, to be honest, my life).

Since embarking on my relatively new career in academia, each new school at which I am hired leads to another opportunity. There is something affirming and encouraging about this experience (and it is one that I hadn’t encountered for some years prior to venturing into teaching).

I have also realized how intertwined my experiences have been at every school where I have taught and am teaching: I continuously learn from each situation, thereby improving my overall aptitude as an educator.

Whether it is sharing best practices with colleagues, receiving guidance from my supervisors or as simple as listening to my students, I am in a constant state of learning.

In the year since I started teaching at DeVry there I have taught 16 sections of the following business, computer and English courses:

  • BUSN-115 (Introduction to Business and Technology)
  • COMP-100 (Computer Applications for Business with Lab)
  • COMP-129 (PC Hardware and Software)
  • ENGL-032 (Developmental Writing and Reading)
  • ENGL-092 (Intermediate English)
  • ENGL-112 (Composition)
  • ENGL-135 (Advanced Composition)
  • MGMT-303 (Principles of Management)
  • MGMT-404 (Project Management)

I continue to grow and mature as an individual and instructor at DeVry and look forward to many more years at this respected and forward-thinking educational organization. I am also anticipating teaching some new courses in the coming months, which should provide added energy and excitement to my experience there.

National University promises to be another exciting step in my career development.  Once again, I have Los Angeles Craigslist Education and Teaching Jobs to thank for this lead and Bettina Moss for giving me another wonderful opportunity.

Again, I can’t stress the impact that a few key individuals have had on my professional progress. Their generosity is even more notable considering that other individuals who I already knew and asked for assistance have sometimes been less than helpful. This is definitely a lesson in “paying it forward!”

As explained on it’s website:

“National University is the second-largest, private, nonprofit institution of higher learning in California. Founded in 1971, National University consists of five schools and one college, including the Schools of Business and Management; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and Media and Communication; and the College of Letters and Sciences.”

Additionally, National is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and is also non-profit — a notable distinction. I previously had known National University as a resource for individuals seeking a teaching credential and an avenue for active educators seeking advanced degrees.

However, National University also offers more than 50 graduate and undergraduate degrees — with more than 1,200 courses online.

National University courses are a quick four weeks in duration: eight four-hour classroom meetings during the week and two four-hour Saturday sessions.

In comparison, DeVry courses are eight weeks in length (with one or two physical meetings a week depending on the course type) and Axia courses are nine-weeks of entirely online education.

I am also teaching for another school, Florida Career College, which recently launched an online program with six-week sessions.

At first I will be teaching traditional classroom-based courses at the Los Angeles Campus (which is near Los Angeles International Airport), but eventually I might teach in a hybrid model similar to that which DeVry uses.

The courses I was hired to teach include the following (though as of today I have only been scheduled to teach one section of the first course, COM-103, Oral Communication, which is set to begin at the end of November.

And, so it is with great gratitude that I look back to my last year of teaching at DeVry and even more excitement that I look ahead to another year of continued career development!