BPEC Integrative Model for Enhancing Learning Experience and Employability
The disruptions from COVID-19 pandemic created opportunities for broadening approaches to teaching and learning within higher education and professional development space. Globally, learning institutions were challenged to rethink and digitalize teaching and learning approaches to enhance student learning during the pandemic season.
As a Registered Training Provider (RTP) in Abu Dhabi, Business Professionals Education Center (BPEC) delivers programmes in Business Management, Tourism & Hospitality Management, and Information Technology at certificate, diploma, graduate, and post-graduate levels. These programmes are delivered to a distributed and diverse group of learners. To cater for the diversity of learners BPEC has diverse administration and academic staff. This article explains the approaches to teaching and learning at BPEC and how these approaches enhance learners’ employability.
Approaches to Teaching & Learning
- Faculty-led Learning
Faculty members use the student-centred learning sessions as a methodology to facilitate explanation, engagement and expectation clarity across learning outcomes and assessment criteria. In these sessions, the faculty member act as professional inspirer and feedback giver using an eclectic toolbox of teaching and assessment techniques. In view of the competency-based learning model, faculty-led sessions emphasize module learning outcomes in terms of the development of leaners’ knowledge, skills and abilities. The course content is discussed and learners engage in group discussions, brainstorming sessions, group and individual presentations, role plays, and peer feedback. Faculty members use Zoom break out rooms to facilitate such interactions with learners.
- Brainstorming Sessions
Brainstorming sessions are used to enhance learners’ cognitive and people skills as the learners engage in open conversations while documenting ideas that each learner contributes. Learners are encouraged to engage in design thinking through co-creation of novel alternatives regarding the case or scenario given for deliberation. Brainstorming sessions are facilitated in both programmes delivered by BPEC. During the brainstorming session, faculty members 1) observe the group interactions; 2) ask penetrating questions to evoke learners’ curiosity, imagination, and enlightenment; 3) respond to any doubts raised by learners, and 4) facilitate the presentation of outcomes.
During the day-to-day classes in BPEC, students have the chance to collaborate and discuss with fellow students regarding lessons. (This photo was taken before the pandemic.)
- The Circle Way
The circle way is used to create space for open conversations as a faculty member sits with all learners in a circle and engage in learning processes. This has been an effective method to help learners reframe their perspectives regarding the relationship with the faculty members. BPEC faculty members apply this technique in both in-person and virtual sessions.
- Student Presentations
Student presentations (individual and/or group) are an amazing way to facilitate learning and research skills among learners. BPEC adopts student presentations to improve learners’ presentation and public speaking skills. BPEC introduced the Wednesday of Words (WoW) to provide opportunities for students to make presentations aligned with their programmes and/or areas of passion. Faculty members observe the learners and together with other learners, provide constructive feedback in an interactive, open learning environment.
In order to promote learners’ divergent thinking and enhance cognitive and people skills, faculty members make use of debate sessions on topical issues in learners’ fields of study or any areas at the margins of their discipline.
- Action Learning Projects
Though used in all fields of study, Action Learning projects are mainly used with Information Technology students. Through this technique, learners are involved in web development, programming and other IT related projects. The IT learners also facilitate workshops to support the development of IT skills on learners from other study disciplines.
- Guest Sessions
BPEC also organizes guest sessions with practitioners from different fields and countries. The purpose of such sessions is to bring fresh perspectives to the learning environment and allow students to interact with industry experts. Guest sessions were held with practitioners from USA, Kenya, Pakistan, and India. The Guest Sessions are aligned to course learning outcomes and it is the role of the faculty members to engage learners, explain the significance of the guest sessions, and clarify expectations on the part of learners.
- Industry Visits
The need to effectively integrate theory and practice necessitate industry visits and internships for all learners. COVID-19 pandemic limited the exposure of learners to different workplaces. However, the guest sessions and leadership interactions helped to bridge the gap created by the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, learners got exposed to the manufacturing industry, tourism and hospitality environment, and technology sites (Dubai Design). These activities are organized by the student-led Career Coaching and Guidance Centre (CCGC).
- Leadership Interactions
The development of future leaders is one of the specific focus areas of BPEC learner development. Learners are encouraged to conduct in-depth research on successful leaders and make group presentations identifying key traits that others can emulate. In order to address the shortcomings of desk research, learners are encouraged to engage in interviews with business leaders across the globe. Examples of leaders that learners interacted with include Nicole Heimann (Switzerland), Chaze Nalisa (Namibia), Patrick Trottier (Canada), Dr. Cornel Malan (South Africa), Allen Fernando (Sri Lanka), Bonifacio Enriquez (Philippines), Mohamad Jameel Al Ramahi (UAE), Mohammad Abdalla Al Zaabi (UAE), Ghazal Shaheen (Afghanistan), Annie Dizon (Philippines), Irene Olipendo (Philippines), Daisy Sayo (Abu Dhabi), Dr. Preethi D’souza (India).
- Social Learning
Joline Godfrey beautifully said, “All work and no play doesn’t just make Jill and Jack dull, it kills the potential of discovery, mastery, and openness to change and flexibility and it hinders innovation and invention”. BPEC, through the Student Representative Council (SRC), facilitates social activities including sporting events and online games. SRC and CCGC also engages in club activities that include Marketing Club, Tourism Club, Dance Club and so on.
BPEC Spring Night where the students received recognition awards for academic performance and at the same time showcased their talents in dancing and singing. (This photo was taken before the pandemic.)
In conclusion, it is important to recognize that the learning environment is rapidly evolving and educators need an eclectic toolbox of teaching and learning methods. Adopting multiple methods of learner engagement enhances learning and facilitates the development of employability skills. BPEC learning approaches prioritize the need to enhance creative problem solving, entrepreneurship, interpersonal skills, and innovativeness.
Dr. Justine Chinoperekweyi
BPEC Academic Director