“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!

Delighted to have met Mohammed Alsiddiq, a founding partner of Eight Creative Technology, in Dubai last week on Thursday, July 28, 2916. This was the first time I have met a reader of my book, edX E-Learning Course Development, and by coincidence he also lives in the United Arab Emirates!

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Founded in 2015 and based in Twofour54 Abu Dhabi, Eight Creative Technology is Khalifa Fund‘s first initiative focused on digital innovation.

Their services include digital‬ strategy, platform development,‪ social media, business applications,‬ and ecommerce‬. They collaborate with industry leaders to deliver a broad range of training‬ programs and‪ workshops‬ in areas of digital marketing‬, social media and multimedia‬.

Mohammed is developing an Open edX installation for an online learning program that will soon launch here in the UAE. He bought my book, “edX E-Learning Course Development” on Amazon.com to help him design, develop, and deploy his edX initiative.

If you are evaluating (or have chosen) edX as an online learning platform for your enterprise or educational organization consider buying a copy of my book; you can get it on Amazon or directly from Packt Publishing.

The Pod(cast) people have returned!

satisfactionistThe second part of my appearance on The Satisfactionist Podcast with Ben Olmos has been published. Be sure to also read the blog post about my first appearance.

Once again it was a great experience and, it appears Ben and I might collaborate on future episodes of the podcast; more to come soon!

This is the second of two podcasts in which I will appear (the previous podcast was published one week ago). My interview begins at 22:58; listen to it on SoundCloud below or you can also hear it on Stitcher.

Topics tackled in this episode include:

The “Gig Economy” and my “minor league pitching” experience teaching traffic school where I developed my classroom management skills. This lead to my adventures as an adjunct instructor for 9 years — during which I have taught 3,000 to 4,000 students in 70 courses (with numerous sections) at 16 different universities in 2 countries.

This lead to my work designing curriculum and developing courses that I taught and those I was specifically contracted to create without teaching them. We chat about my favorite word — rubrics — although, as an instructor, I am careful about when I use them to limit students from obsessing about matching their rubric to a specific grade.

We then discuss how I found my way to Dubai where I have been teaching marketing and management courses since September 2014. My expat experience was inspired by the possibility of my participating in a program with UCLA Extension in which I would teach for 30 day cycles in Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately, that opportunity never came to fruition, but it did make me realize there was an entire world of opportunities outside of the United States — including two opportunities in Kabul, Afghanistan that I decided to pass on.

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We then explore my exceptional experiences living and working in Dubai where I have been widely welcomed by the local population and individuals from elsewhere who call UAE their home. I share details of driving the roads and roundabouts — including some Google Map misadventures!

I discuss the surprisingly temperate weather during the winter months (mid-October to mid-April) along with other aspects of daily life, including the impressive integration of SMS functionality and mobile phones into everything from paying speeding tickets to paying to park.

I also elaborate on my admiration for my students and the effort they invest into their education; they take their role as the next generation seriously and are focused on being prepared for the responsibilities with which they will be entrusted.

Notably, a large percentage of students at my current university — American University in the Emirates (AUE) — are Emirati (approximately 70%) and most of the remaining percentage are from other Arab countries or elsewhere in the world. In total I have students with 30 different nationalities here. It’s a wonderfully worldly experience!

Although it is challenging to be so far from my 10 and 12-year-old sons, traveling 8,000 miles from the life I had known to finally find a foothold in the life I had fruitlessly worked towards in the United States.

Similarly, contrary to the absurdity of the current election cycle in the United States, my experience in Dubai has been a rewarding and enriching one; I am grateful for this unique opportunity and am making sure to maximize the moment.

edx_logo_finalLastly I introduce and explain the ways my book, edX E-Learning Course Development, can be used by teachers and trainers to prepare, produce, and promote a course on edX or Open edX.

I explained my unique approach to starting each chapter with an anecdote, quote, or pop culture reference, additionally outlining how I worked from edX technical documentation, rearranging and re-imagining it in a way that aligns more accurately with the way an individual would create or convert curriculum.

We then boldly go on to discuss my experience as an extra on the upcoming Star Trek Beyond movie where I was on set for 17 hours straight!

Beam me up!