Universities in the Middle East are struggling to keep their curriculums up to date with technology as it rapidly changes, according to Hisham Elaraby, the regional director for MENA at online education platform Udacity.
Speaking to Arabian Business, Elaraby said it is difficult for universities to make monthly changes to their curriculums due to factors ranging from accreditation to printed text books.
“What universities are having a hard time with is being able to keep their curriculums up to date with the pace of technology. For example, when you’re learning how to be an android or app developer, the challenge is that the technologies actually change not an annual basis, but on a monthly basis,” he said.
“Google or Amazon launch a new feature on a monthly basis. The challenge for universities is that every time they change their curriculum, it needs to get accredited by the crediting body, and they need to print the textbook etc. The rule of thumb is, if you’re learning the latest in tech from a text book, it is mostly likely outdated. So it’s very difficult when a technology changes on a monthly basis to keep up with that,” he added.
The Silicon Valley-based education technology company offers nanodegrees that cover an array of subjects ranging from self-driving cars and AI to data science and digital marketing. Content for their programs, which is created in partnership with leading organisations including Google, Facebook, Amazon and IBM, aim is to upskill students for jobs of the future, but also update current skills of older workforce.
Since Udacity is not bound by constraints faced by universities, its programs are regularly updates by their partners as part of their agreement.
“That’s how we ensure we are always teaching the most updated skills and technology,” said Elaraby.
However, he added that the firm does not compete with universities, but complements their offerings instead.
“We’re certainly not claiming that students should no longer go to university. What we do and what universities do is very complementary. We have already started working with universities in the US, Brazil and India whereby we complement the offerings they already have,” he said.
“If you’re studying to be an engineer, for example, your university can add curriculums from other players, as opposed to sticking to the ones it has developed,” he said, adding that the move could bridge the existing gap between existing skills and skills that the market needs.
Udacity has several partnerships in the region, though the catalysts for its growth have mainly been government entities, according to Elaraby. Its partnerships include the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Egypt, the non-profit MiSK Foundation in Saudi Arabia and the Dubai Future Foundation in the UAE, among others.
So far, it has had over 3,400 nanodegree graduates from MENA in the past year and a half since it launched, with the number expected to increase to 5,000 by the end of 2018.
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