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June 2, 2020

University partner in Jordan gives 400 online classes per day

Adapting to a new reality in education during the COVID-19 outbreak: the story of one university’s transition to digital.

COVID-19 has managed to transform students’ lives across the world to a new virtual learning reality. The fast transition to a new way of education was not simple for anyone. Many schools, colleges and universities lack the experience, knowhow or technical capabilities to deliver engaging online classes in these hard times. However, our university partner in Jordan, Luminus Education, was ahead of the game.

Jordan has had one of the stickiest lockdowns in the Middle East, since 17th March all educational institutions were closed down. During the first two weeks of the crisis, Luminus was in constant contact with their students, of which 500 have received scholarships from SPARK in the past. Students were reassured that their classes would continue via hotlines, Luminus quickly switched to remote teaching via Microsoft Teams and Streams and teachers, professors and students were supplied with 13,000 tablets and access to the internet from their home. Luminus is mitigating the impact of the pandemic on education for thousands of young people in Jordan. They have turned a ‘forced’ experience into a new opportunity. 

Now, around 85 percent of Luminus’ 23,000 students, many of whom are vulnerable youth or refugees, are currently being supported via virtual learning. The college provides approximately 400 online classes each day and student attendance has been increasing since March.

CEO of Luminus, Ibrahim Al-Safadi, says the transition has been smooth thanks to the heavy investment in technology over the last three years. “For three to four years we have been planning to launch our virtual college by the first quarter of 2021, to reach the most vulnerable and low income youth around MENA. When we heard about COVID-19 crisis, we went live within a month”. The technology is integrated into one eco-system on the Cloud (MS Azure and AWS), meaning that Luminus can provide real-time data through the various touchpoints with their students.  

“We have managed to send the right connectivity and tablets to over 13,000 students”

In order to determine their student’s technical needs in order to receive online courses, Luminus quickly surveyed its alum. Of 5,000 respondents, 20 percent mentioned that they have no access to the internet and the rest indicated they had ‘limited access’ as a result of no home wifi, family members utilising the home broadband or power cuts. At SPARK, we asked youth in the Middle East a similar question and found that most (81 percent) have access to a smartphone and mobile internet. As such, all virtual education classes are being optimised for mobile use as much as possible. 

“Thanks to our donors, we have managed to send the right connectivity and tablets to over 13,000 students, to make sure that these students can continue their education”, said Luminus’ CEO, Ibrahim Al-Safadi. Currently, his team is also working on a bespoke app, which will allow students to access the system more easily. This development began when the data showed that more than 70 percent of the students are using their phones to access the Learning Management System. 

Story of Omar, 22, a Syrian Civil Engineering student at Luminus Education in Amman, Jordan © 2017, SPARK

As well as student’s bachelors or vocational courses, English language and study skills content is also being delivered virtually, and Luminus is also delivering theoretical aspects of studies this way too. These methods will allow students to return to their classes once it is safe to and still have the practical skills needed to enter the job market as quickly as possible. 

By providing a hotline for students to call, Luminus is able to help with all issues students might be facing, including queries, personal problems, stress and technical support. The support staff have been trained in IT support and have an FAQ list for technical support. 

SPARK and Luminus have been strong partners on previous scholarship programmes, and what sets Luminus apart is their focus on life after graduation. Creating stronger pathways to employment is essential for young people in the Middle East, especially for refugees. Luminus Education, and others like it, are leading the way in terms of blended and distance learning in the Middle East.