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HBKU assures staff and students of highest safety standards

HBKU assures staff and students of highest safety standards

Ailyn Agonia
DOHA
With the recent start of the new academic year at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), the leadership of the institution has reiterated commitment to meeting the highest standards of safety for its staff, students and the wider community.
HBKU recently welcomed more than 360 students for the 2020-2021 Academic Year. Many of its colleges have noted a healthy number of students enrolled in many of its programmes despite the prevailing situation, including at the College of Islamic Studies (CIS).
In an interview, CIS Dean Dr Emad El Din Shahin told Qatar Tribune that they have taken active measures in line with the directives by the government and Qatar Foundation. These include requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE), blocked seating in common spaces, Ehteraz app checkpoints and a specific facility management protocol for the university’s physical premises.
Further on the preparations of the College, Dean Shahin said they are confident in their capacity to deliver a multidimensional learning experience with the CIS faculty working extensively over the summer to ensure their success in these unique times.
“The pandemic has certainly impacted university admissions across the higher education sector. However, through the strength of our programme design and the uniqueness of what CIS offers, we have yet registered a good number of students in our latest cohort for all our programmes. Our incoming cohort number of about 70 students, which approximately coincides with our pre-pandemic expectations,” said Dr Shahin.
On the new mechanisms and programmes put in place to ensure the students get to maximise their learning experience at HBKU, Dean Shahin said among them was undergoing enhancements in the content in their multiple programmes in reflection of new developments, arising challenges and fresh technologies in the field.
Meanwhile, at the College of Health and Life Sciences (CHLS), Dean Edward Stuenkel said they have been operating under the principle of delivering instructional curriculum and research training in line with best practices to sustain the health of the students and faculty.
He said, “The instructional activity will begin in an online format, while research activity within the laboratories will be performed to the highest standards of safety. Innovative and interactive methods will be employed to deliver educational material and to engage student learning. The CHLS will transit to a hybrid learning platform following the initial weeks of instruction, which is then to be followed by in-person instruction. We are excited to move into a blended digital and in-person educational curriculum as it opens new opportunities for us to reassess how to best advance learning and professional development of the students.”
CHLS has accepted 50 students for admission, that equates to 10 students for each of its degree programmes. Dean Stuenkel said the COVID-19 pandemic hindered a few students from being able to complete their bachelor’s degree at their undergraduate institutions and hence will defer enrolment until the Spring Term 2021.
“Students entering graduate training in the biomedical sciences, while concerned for the impact of COVID-19 on national, regional and global issues, should also be excited at the opportunities the health crisis presents. That is, the pandemic further emphasises the foundational need of highly trained, creative and productive health scientists to the global community. To begin the adventure to learn critical thinking skills, to collaborate across disciplines in research, to experience and engage in the state-of-the-art molecular and genetic techniques and to apply systems biology and precision medicine to address health challenges will be rewarding professionally and emotionally,” he said.
Dr Leslie Pal, founding dean of the College of Public Policy, said they have 30 students enrolled now.
He said he was anticipating a drop in applications, but their enrolment actually went up significantly and admissions exceeded their target by 25 percent.
“The entire university is preparing by offering all courses online for the first part of the term. The College of Public Policy also took the step of offering an online course over the summer for our students, so that they could get ahead of their requirements, depending on the challenges COVID-19 might pose in 2020 to 2021,” he said.
On the preparations of the College, he said, “We first ensured that all of our instructors had the opportunity over the summer to hone their online teaching skills. Many people still think that “going online” is just a switch from the classroom to the screen, but it’s much more than that.
“Learning materials have to be changed and sometimes this means an improvement since it encourages use of the vast amount of online resources that are now available on the internet. Second, we have altered teaching formats to introduce more variety and the appropriate pacing for online education. Third, our professors are increasing their direct one-to-one contact with students to ensure that everyone is progressing evenly and that any problems in comprehension or understanding are
addressed early.”

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