Domino effect

E-learning has finally arrived at the Dubai School of Government, with its new Blackboard implementation. But before the school could go live, it had to first install a completely new infrastructure.

Tags: BandwidthE-learningHewlett-Packard CompanyMicrosoft CorporationUnited Arab Emirates
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Domino effect PABICO: When we were doing the migration, the faculty or the staff had no idea how difficult it was to do.
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  December 20, 2009 Arabian Computer News Logo

The world of education has come a long way from the days of chalk-and-talk. In the past, the blackboard was the chief instrument of the teacher as a means of conveying information to a class full of students.

Chalk in hand, a good instructor could explain complicated theories or ideas while still maintaining all-important eye contact with pupils. At the end of a lesson, a sweep of the duster is all that’s needed to move on to a completely different subject.

But today, these visions of classes past are set to become as dated as a cassette tape in the age of MP3. For the modern professor and student, technology is now indispensable to the learning process, and while you can still find whiteboards and markers, they are no longer the sole means of information delivery.

One such institution to adopt this new concept is the Dubai School of Government (DSG), which has completed installation of a new Blackboard e-learning application. But before it could even begin installation of the system, the school faced an bigger challenge: to transition to a new IT infrastructure. This was necessary because the school previously depended on servers based in the Prime Minister’s Office in Emirates Towers. Rodel Pabico, acting IT manager, explains why it made sense.

“Generally we have independent IT infrastructure, because it’s better to have our own infrastructure if we’re running an educational institution. We are all based on HP products – so we have HP servers and Microsoft-based applications. Of course, for the academic institutions we also have the e-learning applications, which is the Blackboard system provided to us by Edutech,” he states.

It’s quite a challenge to build a new infrastructure, especially when you only have three IT staff as in Pabico’s case, supporting 50 users. Fortunately, the IT demands of the school are not overly complex, requiring mostly wireless networking access and use of the Blackboard system, which he describes as essential in an age when students expect their schools to be constantly available.

“This is a new era. You don’t need to go to the school now to have education. You must be able to access anything anywhere you work – coffee shop, school, at home. That’s one of the key points why we looked at having Blackboard. The ease of use is one of the things that we are looking at – users or students must be able to use the applications without any problem requiring staff interaction or the faculty members,” says Pabico.

The timeframe for the Blackboard system was especially tight. The new IT infrastructure had to be launched  in January this year, while the e-learning applications needed to go live just four days later, before  enrolment of the students began in earnest. All in all, Pabico and his team had just two weeks to bring the Blackboard systems up.

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