Higher Education

Industry News

Blackboard Establishes Center for Excellence in the United Arab Emirates

By Cait Etherington
August 06, 2018

Despite slipping numbers of users in the United States, Blackboard remains a major player on the learning management system (LMS) market. This is especially true on a global level where Blackboard only lags behind Moodle in terms of market dominance. The Blackboard Center for Excellence at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stands as yet another reminder of the company’s significant presence in the global edtech market.

Blackboard Teams Up With the Higher Colleges of Technology

Founded in 1988, the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is now one of the UAE’s largest applied higher educational institutions. At present, approximately 23,000 students attend UAE’s 16 modern, technology-oriented campuses in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Fujairah, Madinat Zayed, Ras Al Khaimah, Ruwais and Sharjah. The campuses serve both women and men and offer a wide range of programs from Applied Media and Computer Information Science to Education and Engineering Technology & Science.

Although many foreign campuses that have been established in the UAE over the past decade, including NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, the UAE is also home to local postsecondary institutions, including the HCT, which serve as critical hubs for training people to work in the UAE’s expanding economy. Due to the UAE’s rapidly expanding economy but relatively small size (the UAE has the 30th largest economy in the world but is home to less than 10 million people), over the past decade, the UAE government has made a concerted effort to scale its training to match its strong economic growth and potential. In 2010, the government launched UAE Vision 2021, which outlined the government’s plans to support its expanding knowledge-based economy. Among other initiatives, the plan called for a transformation of applied higher education, which includes a shift to both blended and online learning models. Blackboard’s new collaboration with HCT directly responds to the Vision 2021 mandate.   

The Blackboard Center for Excellence in the Middle East

On August 4, Blackboard and the HCT announced that Dr. Abdullatif Al Shamsi, Vice Chancellor of HCT, Dr. Jihad Mohaidat, Executive Dean of Ed Tech at HCT, and Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, CEO and President of Blackboard had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an agreement to create a dedicated facility to support UAE teachers in their quest to improve their knowledge of edtech solutions. Specifically, the Center of Excellence will leverage Blackboard’s eTeacher certification program to train HCT instructors on key elements of digital teaching and learning, including online course development and implementation.

In a news release about the memorandum, Dr. Al Shamsi, said, “This agreement with Blackboard is an important milestone. Our organizations have been working closely for many years and this MOU will further strengthen our partnership and empower our educators and staff with the necessary knowledge and tools they need to be successful today and tomorrow. Eventually, this will also benefit our students, equipping them with much-required skills.” 

Robert Speed, Regional Vice President of Blackboard, is also enthusiastic about the new initiative and its potential. “A critical figure of this digital revolution is a competent, well-trained, and digitally fluent educator,” said Speed. “Institutions recognize that it is no longer acceptable to have only a handful of technologically capable instructors if they want to attract students and help them become more employable and successful. The Center of Excellence will empower educators with the right competencies to successfully use technology in their pedagogical approach.”

The Blackboard Center for Excellence at HCT may be a new initiative but the two organizations are not new partners. Blackboard has been working with HCT for nearly two decades. This newest initiative will simply serve to extend and deepen Blackboard and HCT’s longstanding partnership.