Ramadan Mubarak to you and your families. May this holy season bring peace, joy and good health to you all.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the University. We continue our focus on keeping our students and colleagues safe. However, no one is immune to this virus and, unfortunately, we now have a total of three student cases, all off-campus, and one confirmed ADUHC staff case on campus. The affected cases have either recovered or are making good recovery. Appropriate protocols, including sanitization and, where necessary, isolation, are being adhered to strictly and those affected are being supported by the University in every way possible. We request that you continue to follow precautionary protocols. In addition to existing protocols, hand-held temperature readers are in operation at all entrances to the University including the gates to the residences.
A key source of pride for us in recent weeks is how we have faced our challenges as a cohesive, supportive community. While everyone is contributing in different ways, here I want to highlight our HR colleagues’ work in reaching out to individual colleagues across the University, especially those who are new to ADU, checking colleagues’ wellbeing through video or telephone calls, running ‘virtual coffee sessions’ and holding webinars, including well-attended sessions run by LinkedIn – I was most impressed by the quality of debate on integrity in academia, with outstanding contributions from panelists (Drs Hany, Ghazal, Avraam, Deena and Petra) and penetrating questions and comments from participants. I would encourage you to attend these and other sessions being organized for our benefit. With a focus on students, our Student Affairs colleagues are doing a sterling job, both for on-campus and off-campus students. Some of you will know that, before the Corona crisis, Student Affairs were running a physical fitness competition that included colleagues from across the University, including the Chairman and members of the Executive. I’m pleased to tell you that the competition is continuing remotely, with the top performers (including a colleague who performed over 1000 squats in one go!) about to be announced for the finals!
- Both distance learning and remote working are now well embedded into our daily working lives. The size of the operation is evident from looking at some statistics:
- Since we began distance learning, 6M mins of video time have been shared on Microsoft Teams
- Screen sharing time amounts to 2M minutes
- 90,000 group meetings and 29,000 one-to-one virtual meetings have taken place
- 300,000 messages have been exchanged from student to student/faculty/or staff, outside of course channels
- 500,000 messages have been exchanged within course channels.
What we are achieving on a daily basis is no mean feat. That it is progressing smoothly is a credit to all of you: students, faculty, and staff alike.
As distance learning stabilizes, the Distance Learning Task Force is shifting focus to assessment and planning for the future. Assessment, on the whole, is going to plan and problems are being addressed as they arise. Some students have raised concern about the use of web-cameras to ensure the integrity of remote exams; however, feedback from students who have used the system is positive. Colleagues have worked hard to balance the integrity of the assessment process against the personal privacy of students; I commend the Acting Provost, Deans, Campuses Director and other colleagues on the care and sensitivity with which they have addressed assessment.
We need now also to give attention to other challenges, including securing the Summer revenue, keeping costs in check, and planning for the next few years. Term B recruitment, supported via virtual information evenings, is going well. Three postgraduate virtual information sessions were conducted in the past two weeks, with 263 interactive participants and an additional 750 who watched the recorded session on YouTube. Led by Dr Hamad Odhabi but with participation by a number of faculty colleagues, we will be running nightly online sessions during Ramadan, aimed at engaging potential students and other stakeholders. Work is in hand to enhance our capability to recruit online, at both postgraduate and undergraduate levels. We will need to show great ingenuity and tenacity to ensure that we can recruit well next year and beyond.
Distance learning and remote working will continue for the rest of this academic year. We have decided therefore to introduce unified summer course fees, with UG programs pitched at Al Ain and PG programs matched to Dubai fee levels. Given how well we have performed in recruitment so far, we hope to do well in the Summer recruitment; however, as you would expect, we are being prudent in our revenue assumptions and reducing costs wherever possible. For the Summer, we have clarified that our own faculty members can deliver courses, whether they are here or abroad with families. We are also in the process of providing a credit to student accounts or a refund in certain cases for services that were billed and subsequently not provided.
Moving forward, we continue to look for potentially transformative interventions, opportunities for automation and prospects for increasing online education at the course and program level; the last two projects are being run across all ADU Holding Company entities. Planning for the next 3 year cycle (2020-21 and beyond) is continuing with preliminary scenarios to be submitted to ADUHC by 10 May. People and organizations are aligned in predicting that COVID-19 will have a significant impact on the economy. We will be keeping this in mind in our assumptions related to student numbers, credit hours sold and overall revenue, in relation to our budgets and forecasts for the next 3 years.
Finally, the Al Ain Campus continues to make progress. All being well, we are planning to move in at the end of July/early August and expect to welcome students to the new Campus in Fall 2020.
Once again, my thanks to all of you for the way you are responding to the challenges we are facing.
Professor Waqar Ahmad
We are now used to the new realities of distance education and remote working. With the exception of the odd issue, both are going well and emerging issues are being addressed.
I am sorry to report that two of our students were confirmed to have contracted the virus. We wish these students and their families well and I would like to thank faculty colleagues and Student Affairs for extending support to the students at this time. Thankfully, I am not aware of any confirmed cases among faculty or staff.
HR have sent communication to colleagues requesting that you respect arrangements for working from Campus. You will remember that we are required to have no more than 20% faculty and 10% staff on our Campuses and flouting this can result in serious repercussions for the University. While I appreciate that there may be unavoidable reasons to go to the Campuses, please adhere to the Ministerial requirements which are designed to keep us safe and protect us as a community. While the ADU community’s health and wellbeing is our greatest concern, we also have to guard against other threats. Unfortunately, cyberattacks are on the increase with our IMTS colleagues working hard to keep us safe. However all of us have to remain vigilant to ensure that our systems and data are not compromised.
As distance learning continues, we have shifted our focus to assessments, labs and studio based courses, internships and exams. Our assessment plans were developed in consultation with the Student Councils and adhere closely to the MoE stipulations. The MoE requires a strong focus on exam integrity, to be confirmed by the use of monitoring equipment, including web-cameras. As with students of other universities, some of our students are unhappy with the use of monitoring systems, complaining that these invade personal privacy and are a cause of stress to them and their families. We have taken seriously the task of remaining in communication with our students. The Acting Provost, Deans, Campus Director Al Ain and Dubai, Student Affairs, Registration, the Library and other services have communicated with students on a regular basis. Student Affairs have worked hard to ensure social and emotional support is provided to students. OPS has run a survey of students’ views about distance learning. The Acting Provost, the VC and the Deans are regularly in touch with members of the Student Councils. I joined one of the classes on Tuesday and engaged in a conversation with the students. Last Thursday, an online student town-hall was organized by the Student Councils with the support of Student Affairs. I along with my Executive Colleagues, Deans and other colleagues, was pleased to attend to answer questions and address student concerns. A similar town-hall was arranged for the Al Ain Campus. In Dubai, we are closely adhering to instructions issued by the KHDA.
While dealing with current challenges occupies us, we are also planning for the rest of the year and beyond. To guard against uncertainties over revenue for the rest of the year, budget holders have scaled back significantly on discretionary expenditure to mitigate against any future losses of revenue. Alongside this, we are working hard to secure our future revenue. In the absence of the ability to undertake face-to-face recruitment, we are strengthening our capacity to recruit virtually. We held a virtual open day for postgraduate business programs, an experiment that was run highly professionally and, with some modifications, will be repeated for other Colleges and programs; my thanks to Drs Sherine, Salam, Hamad, Ms Laila and the Admissions team for their great work. Virtual open days will feature strongly on our website, including the functionality to run interactive sessions with prospective students. This is an important project that is making good progress.
As a further enhancement of our website, last week we launched ‘Saif’, our AI assisted chatbot. Since its launch, Saif is being increasingly used by visitors to the website, including questions on COVID-19. While Saif is a fast learner, its creator, Dr Hamad is keen for colleagues to interact with Saif so that we can enhance Saif’s accuracy and reach. Please take a few minutes to interact with Saif and provide feedback to Dr Hamad Odhabi to assist in further enhancing Saif’s capabilities.
We are also focusing on preparations for the rest of the year and beyond. The Summer term will be offered via distance learning. In the next couple of weeks we will be announcing revised fee arrangements for the Summer term. Work continues on budget-setting for 2020-21, now with understandable uncertainties over revenue and student numbers. While we will face many challenges in the months to come, we are also keeping an eye on potential opportunities. Projects are in hand to identify ‘quick wins’, to develop programs and courses which we may be able to offer online and achieve great efficiencies through greater levels of automation. Online education is likely to remain a feature of higher education. We are looking at opportunities for online education both at program and course level.
We continue to balance internal and external communication. Last week, we issued a press release on how we are maintaining a focus on academic support and student experience through distance learning. Similar messages are also being carried in our social media posts. The dedicated web pages on COVID-19 have also been updated.
In my conversations with the entire faculty and staff community during the last two weeks, there was one comment which for me sums up our approach to the current crisis: a colleague stated that in the last couple of years, we have succeeded in becoming a community. Strong communities are always in the making, requiring constant efforts. We will need to retain this community spirit along with the imagination and resolve to get through these tough times. My thanks to you for your continued professionalism and support, and for your commitment to our students.
Professor Waqar Ahmad
Some of you have raised concerns about arrangements for examinations, in particular the requirement to use cameras during examinations.. I want to assure you that the faculty and management of Abu Dhabi University understand your concerns, worry and anxiety at this difficult time for you, your family and friends. At all times our guidance to students takes place in the context of ensuring your best interest. We know adapting to a distance learning environment has brought new challenges. Last week we sent you our assessment and grading guidelines for the distance learning period, and protocols for online assessment. Students at every university in the UAE have had to make this swift transition to distance learning, including assessment processes that would be new to students.
Our assessment and grading policy and online proctoring protocols have been developed to comply with Ministerial Decree No. (237): Application of Distance Learning in Higher Education Institutions Until the End of the Academic Year 2020 issued by the Minister of Education. It states:
- ‘The institution must implement appropriate procedures and use the necessary tools to monitor remote assessment processes, particularly the use of tools to detect plagiarism and academic dishonesty in the work submitted by students, and the use of electronic monitoring/proctoring tools (such as the use of cameras) during exams.
- Students must follow policies, regulations, and procedures governing remote assessment processes, including the consent to allow the use of electronic monitoring/proctoring tools (such as the use of cameras) during exams.
- Inspection and monitoring the compliance of Higher Education Institutes will include making sure that the objectives of the courses are covered, that there is a mechanism for achieving the educational outcomes of programs, that appropriate online platforms are used in exams to ensure academic integrity, the level of exams, and the presence of faculty qualified and trained in the use of distance education’
Where there was scope for flexibility, we have opted for forms of assessment that fit well with the circumstances in which students are studying. Developing our assessment and grading guidelines, and online assessment protocols, is motivated by the need to ensure the integrity of your online exams for your benefit, and to ensure from a regulatory perspective that we comply with Ministry requirements. To comply with the Ministry’s direction and to protect academic integrity, I am afraid there is no alternative to what we and other universities are proposing for examinations.
Thank you. Stay safe and keep well.
Dear ADU Community,
As we are all aware of the MoE instructions about distance learning and working remotely, currently and unfortunately there is no presence for students or visitors at our academic buildings. In addition, only limited number of employees and other workers are required and allowed to operate from the academic buildings.
In response to these instructions and changes, the following measures will be effective tomorrow Thursday, April 16, 2020:
- Reduction of maintenance personnel
- Reduction of cleaning staff
- Reduction of security guards
- Redeployment of ADU drivers at critical security posts
- Cease operations of the clinic service providers at our campuses in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain
- Other contractors and service providers will have limited access to perform urgent work only
- Female side entrance at the main academic building is the only access for the academic buildings (Main Building and Umm Al Emarat) at Abu Dhabi Campus
- All gates and entrances will be closed from 20:00 till 06:00
Thank you in advance for your understanding, cooperation and support.
Please stay home, stay safe. Let us stop coronavirus.
We are impressed with the commitment with which you are adapting to distance learning. This has been a period of adaptation for all of us. We know that many of you have been concerned about assessments and examinations. I am pleased now to share our approach with you. In making these proposals, we have tried to protect the integrity of the program assessment strategies while recognizing the changed circumstances in which the assessment process will take place.
The Deans and I have consulted with the Student Council and faculty to develop our assessment and grading approach during this exceptional period. Our motivation has been to ensure that you are not disadvantaged in any way academically and to ensure that you are able to continue your education without hindrance, through distance learning. Our decisions are aligned with the Ministry of Education decrees, which applies to the Spring semester and Summer term. Consequently, we have taken the following steps:
Course assessment: Colleges have developed course assessment strategies which meet the course learning outcomes, and are introducing assessment instruments suitable for distance learning. Recognizing differences between courses, different assessment methods may be used across different courses, such as individual and group projects, open-book examinations, online presentations and case studies etc.
Online assessment: Online proctored assessment, which is similar to your typical examination with an invigilator, will be necessary for some courses. We have set a maximum of 45% online proctored exams and quizzes for any course, with the exception of mathematics and statistics courses which can be greater than 45%. In preparation for online assessments you must download the Respondus Lockdown Browser to a desktop or laptop computer with either a Windows or Mac operating system. Please note you cannot use a tablet or mobile device. You should ONLY download this software from this link provided by Abu Dhabi University:
Respondus Lockdown Browser Download Link
You will also need either a built-in camera, or a separate USB webcam.
Grading Policy: we are adopting a flexible grading policy during the distance learning period, as follows:
i. Courses will be subject to the usual Abu Dhabi University letter grading system and the GPA and CGPA calculations.
ii. Students will be able to choose a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) grading option on a course-by-course basis within one week of publishing the final grades.
iii. The Pass/No Pass grading option will not be included in the GPA and CGPA calculations.
b. Oral assessments: All oral examinations, presentations, capstones and thesis defense will be required to be presented virtually by the students.
Labs and studio courses: For some courses it is only possible to assess performance, and achieve all the course learning outcomes, in a practical setting. As soon our campuses are accessible, assessments will be scheduled to allow students to complete outstanding course assessments. Colleges will notify students when in-class assessments will take place and communicate arrangements.
Internships: Students who have internships secured, either working remotely or on their employer’s premises, should proceed as planned. If this is not possible, based on the approval of the college Dean, students can complete an equivalent work-related project which has learning outcomes aligned to the internship.
Like me, you will be relieved to learn that we continue to have no confirmed cases of the virus among colleagues or students. We continue to send reminders on precautionary measures, including updates on our website and posts on social media. Even though there is significantly less traffic on our campuses, cleaning of the facility is continuing. This week, we received a deep cleaning and disinfection completion report from a reputable contractor for all our campuses. Your cooperation in the effort to keep all of us safe has been and will continue to remain important.
Remote working continues with positive feedback all round (gentle reminder to those who have not provided feedback to do so please). I am pleased that colleagues are also using Microsoft Teams to maintain normal work-based social relations; examples include virtual lunches, and even a virtual birthday party! You will understand that we are following strict instructions from the MoE regarding the proportion of faculty and staff who can work from our Campuses. To keep within the stipulated numbers, we must monitor access to all Campuses and a request was resent from HR, reminding colleagues to adhere to the guidance provided. Dubai government has tightened restrictions on movement and Abu Dhabi may do the same, which will may make it difficult to work from our campuses; therefore, please make sure that you have what you need to be able to work from home.
We were pleased to get detailed guidance from the MoE on a number of key points in relation to distance education. Given that distance learning has been extended to the end of August, our Summer term will now be delivered as distance learning. Based on MoE guidance and working with faculty and our Student Councils, we have now issued guidance on assessment, including end of semester examinations, internships, and the assessment of lab and studio based sessions. Good preparation has served us well so far and is now being extended to the next phase of distance learning, including: the development of assessment and grading guidelines; training for Blackboard Collaborate; additional training for Microsoft Teams, including the prospect of earning a certificate (congratulations to those who have completed the certificate already); protocols for students for online assessment; and academic integrity guidelines. A number of colleagues have contributed enormously, alongside their normal duties, to providing training to faculty, staff and students; we are all grateful to these colleagues for their support.
As you know, I have been having conversations with you in the latter part of last week (session with CAS is in the diary). I continue to be impressed by your resolve, dedication and cross-university collaboration. A number of colleagues commented on the incredible community spirit, mutual help between colleagues and the commitment to provide great education alongside excellent co- and extracurricular support to our students. I want to mention the work of our lesser-sung colleagues, whose contribution is crucial and yet we are often only aware of this when things go wrong; I note, in particular, the work of colleagues in IMTS, HR, Procurement, Finance, BSF, Registration, Marketing and Recruitment, Library and our office staff. I have also been in conversations with my counterparts in other universities who have been impressed with our approach to distance learning, faculty and staff training, and quality of dialogue with our students. We have shared what we are doing with external stakeholders through press releases and social media and will be issuing a further press release highlighting the great work we continue to do, now online, in areas such as academic support, retention, advising, counseling, employability support, clubs and societies and health and wellbeing.
Looking to the future, as you know, the Corona crisis will have profound impact on the economy. As a responsible organization, we have to prepare appropriately to weather the economic downturn. We are currently assuming that all faculty and staff will continue to work remotely until the end of August which will lead to further cost savings in cleaning, security, utilities, facility management, etc. I thank you for your support in this regard.
We are developing scenarios for Fall and beyond, assuming a reduced new intake and some level of reduction in returning student numbers. We are considering mitigating mechanisms, including enhancing efficiencies, automation and providing support to potential students to join University or to continue their studies. Enhancements to online recruitment will play a key role in our fortunes; the first virtual, interactive recruitment event, focusing on CoB, is being held this weekend. You will see improvements to our website in the coming days, with additional enhancements to follow.
My thanks to you for the spirit in which you are addressing the challenges we face and keeping our students at the forefront of our efforts. This same spirit will help us overcome the inevitable difficulties we will face in the coming months and beyond.
Professor Waqar Ahmad
Recently the authorities placed restrictions on travelling in Dubai which impacted admittance to the Dubai campus and prevented employees from gaining access to necessary work materials.
To ensure readiness in case similar actions are put in place in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, please make sure that you have all materials (Laptops, paperwork etc.,) that your require to work from home. This is a precautionary measure in the event that access may be denied to ADU premises.
Thank you for your cooperation and stay safe.
Dear ADU Community,
Following to our previous announcement, please be informed that Nebras Restaurant will also be closed starting tomorrow, 6th April 2020 until further notice.
However, the Circle K grocery shop will remain opened from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
In case of any further changes, we shall keep you updated.
The Ministry of Education has now announced that distance learning will continue to the end of the academic year (we are seeking clarification of exact dates from the MoE). We are therefore entering a new phase of remote working and distance learning, building on the successes, lessons and feedback of the earlier weeks, and preparing for challenges such as mid-semester and end of semester examinations, studio and lab-based education, and support for, including alternatives to internships. Our success so far rests on sound preparation alongside the dedication and professionalism of our faculty and staff, resourcefulness and adaptability of our students, and investment in appropriate technology platforms. We have started providing training and support to faculty and staff for these new challenges. The distance learning task force is finalizing our approach to assessment and grading which will be communicated to students and faculty this week.
With the extended period of distance learning, it is now even more important that we provide our students a rounded educational experience. Therefore, we will strengthen our support for student retention, academic success, e-resources, student experience, health and wellbeing, and employability. We are proud of our work in these areas and will be sharing this through a press release during next week. During the past week, we have issued a press release focusing on how our technology platforms facilitated the transition to distance education.
Think tanks such as the Dubai Future Foundation are beginning to predict that many of the changes implemented during the current crisis will become routine features of post-COVID-19 work and domestic life. We too will be looking to see how we may be able to adapt certain practices or technologies that may result in positive change in academic and administrative areas.
Through your hard work, we were among a handful of universities to meet our recruitment targets for the Fall and Spring semesters. We are now turning our attention to the Summer term. I know that we can rely on our collective efforts to do well; however, we have to acknowledge the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 crisis. With this prevailing uncertainty, it is prudent that we now scale back on discretionary expenditure. Mr Ian Mathews will engage with budget holders directly in this regard. We are also planning ahead for Fall 2020, considering various scenarios for enrollment numbers and credit hours sold, but also adapting our marketing and recruitment strategy and enhancing our ability to recruit virtually. There are challenges ahead; however, we will face these as a community, with realism, courage and sound planning.
Alongside distance education, remote working is going well having started with training on Microsoft Teams and comprehensive guidance from HR, and support to those who required access to technology at home. The MoE guidance on remote working dictates that only 20% of faculty and 10% of administrative staff can be physically present on our premises. We are abiding by this edict and are advising colleagues to work from home and only come to work where unavoidable. HR is conducting an evaluation of remote working to enable us to make improvements and provide support where possible. Training on Microsoft Teams has assisted the adaptation of remote working; virtually all colleagues have now received this training and HR have advised how you can earn a Microsoft certificate on Teams.
We are fortunate not to have any confirmed COVID-19 cases. However, we remain vigilant. Drills are ongoing across all campuses to prepare us to deal with possible suspected cases. Cleaning operations are also continuing. Regrettably, fraudsters are attempting to benefit from the crisis with phishing incidents on the increase. IMTS colleagues have provided guidance to all colleagues to help us remain vigilant. In addition to email messages, we are updating our website pages and sharing experience with external stakeholders through press releases (noted above).
I thank you for your resourcefulness and dedication. The spirit and resolve you have shown so far will carry us through this crisis. Please take all necessary precautions to keep yourselves, your families and your colleagues safe.
Professor Waqar Ahmad