Students, teachers and regulators explore new ways of learning in education’s digital world

Students, teachers and regulators explore new ways of learning in education’s digital world


  • Third episode in the Canon Frontiers of Innovation 2020 series discusses the challenges and opportunities facing education in a post-COVID environment


Dubai, UAE; July 05, 2020: The future direction of education is one of the key issues arising from the coronavirus crisis and three leading directors discussed the challenges and opportunities facing all levels of learning during the third Canon ‘Frontiers of Innovation Forum 2020’ online webinar.


Since remote learning became the norm in March, debates have swirled about the merits of online learning, education’s role in a post-COVID world and how to avoid ‘digital divides’ among students of all ages.


The three panellists – Michael Gernon, Chief Education Innovation Officer, GEMS Education, Raya Bidshahri, Founder & CEO, Awecademy, and Ashwin Assomull, Partner, L.E.K. Consulting – shared their contemporary learning and industry insights with viewers on Canon EMEA’s LinkedIn page (


Gernon said GEMS Education has invested US$500 million in technology in the last 10 years and the transition to remote learning was relatively smooth. “We didn’t change any piece of technology and wanted students and parents to use the same tech that they use every day in school – continuity is really important”


Bidshahri – whose Awecademy is designed to prepare learners, educators, and industry leaders for a radically different future – said remote learning provided the chance for a reset. “When I hear about students’ disengagement levels I ask ‘how engaged were they previously?’. If you digitise the same content, it’s going to be futile. A lot of people blame distance learning where in fact it’s the underlying ways, offline and online, that’s actually broken.”


Gernon said the future of education is less about knowledge and subject content, and “what you do with that knowledge to be solution- and real-world focused”. To that end, GEMS Education has launched five Centres of Excellence in Dubai, focusing on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics; Digital Industries and Sustainability; Aviation and Space; Performance and Theatre Technologies; and Entrepreneurship and Youth Start-Ups. Gernon said the emphasis has to be on creating new pathways.


“What we are hoping to get is a series of credentials that shows this person is skilled in these areas – that’s a much better preparation for the world of the future, but there needs to be a change in mindset that examinations are not the only way of measuring student success” he said.


Awecademy has developed partnerships with Al Futtaim Education and ADEK in Abu Dhabi. “Students are saying it’s filling in a lot of gaps in their curricula – but 80-to-90% of their time is with core subjects which creates bottlenecks,” said Bidshahri.


She added another hurdle is regulation with many governments globally mandating subject-based knowledge and sticking to old methodologies.


Assomull highlighted its report with the Jacobs Foundation, showing how public and private sectors are working together to deliver “amazing programmes” in Nigeria, Pakistan and Colombia. “The most important thing is that it’s sustainable and doesn’t require the same investment year on year. There is scope for the public and private sectors to work closer together to share best practice in more developed countries too,” he said.


Gernon said more leading companies and universities are embracing change, citing Harvard University’s decision that it wouldn’t require undergraduate applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores next year.


“This is the first time ever that students have gone to university without taking exams, yet they’ve been able to demonstrate their academic prowess in different ways. There’s a great opportunity to re-examine our industry and standardised testing.


“What’s most important is having a clarity of vision about what should a learner look like in future and how should you prepare for it? We’re in a system that doesn’t quite do that. We can spend US$5.7 trillion per year on education but what is the impact on the future of schooling, if nothing changes?”


The next discussion on ‘Future of Communication’ will be held on Wednesday, July 8 (18:00 GST). Tune in to Canon EMEA’s LinkedIn page ( The forum is moderated by Etithne Treanor, Founder & CEO, E Treanor Media.


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