“This crisis is perhaps the first sign of a real awareness to tackle the digital revolution in progress, and my humble contribution to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is capturing any possible development for my Home University so that tomorrow we can be better equipped to recover and provide as quickly as possible the adequate responses to any further unexpected situation”. Mahdi

Undoubtedly, we are all facing an unprecedented situation, brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic which hits the whole world. It is also a difficult period with potential risks, the consequences of which cannot be assessed today. Faced with such a situation, individual solutions do contribute effectively to us and our intimate conviction is that together we can face them to cushion the shock caused by this unexpected event. My concern, in these troubled times, is to support each other, to show our empathy for less fortunate areas/countries, to support ourselves to endure the restrictions imposed by the need to save human lives. This common solidarity and mutual support will allow us to bear the difficulties in progress, to minimize costs, and to keep hope in the advent of better days.

In response to the expected and foreseen upcoming challenges of teachings at Higher Education, I focus towards strengthening the teaching capacity building by applying the 21st Century skills at my Home University. My plan for the academic year 2020/2023 is to set a scheme that influences decision-makers to accredit modern teaching methodologies with embedded virtual training that should magnify students’ attribute abilities to match with the local and international labor enterprises’ demands and expectations. 

Objectives for the 2020/2023 academic year is to strengthening co-operation among international academic entities in teaching and good use of Virtual Training as part of developing and bridging Globalized Citizens in support of modernization, accessibility, and internationalization, as well as foster regional integration and cooperation across different regions of the world through joint initiatives, sharing of good practices and cooperation; establishing entrepreneurial learning with a solid platform for the identification and exchange of good practices; and promoting the start of practical entrepreneurial experiences in education, training, vocational, and virtual exchange among youth work initiatives in relevance to the labor market.

Information Technology innovation and entrepreneurship are necessary as part of the national, regional, and international universities’ educational strategy, but they cannot be solely responsible. This initiative’s main goal is to raise the competencies of individual learners to become active members of the knowledge society by enhancing the learning process of students and acquiring 21st Century competencies to become autonomous and active learners, besides improving the quality of teaching and learning at the universities. Strengthening electronic education across the region using blended learning, flipped classrooms, e-learning pedagogies (E-class) and online learning, competency-based learning, problem-based learning, product-based learning, project-based learning, MOOCs, approaches to integrate entrepreneurship in teaching methods, and to fostering cooperation between universities and policymakers to establish a common agenda for change.

Bridging my Home University strategy to better engage with internationalization planned in response to the COVID-19 crisis.  I aim to influence the development of future actions and initiatives for higher education institutions in the region. Concurrently, the output/outcome of developing the Human Resources Management Course report will contribute to a better understanding of how the institutions address changes in teaching and learning and in international cooperation, which predictably, will be a key topic in post-crisis policy debates on higher education, and also a priority for regional, national and institutional development.

Currently, I teach business courses at Bethlehem University with a special focus on developing young Palestinian leaders of tomorrow. My call is to enhance and reinforce the potential of applying synergy in education, have it accessible as a multi-disciplinary course, through teaching business courses’ outcomes in the development of employability via adopting an entrepreneurial mindset and smart use of virtual training. This takes place via structuring the dialogue among academic and non-academic staff, career officers, and incubators staff with direct beneficiaries from students and alumni.

I completed in Fall 2019 my Erasmus Plus Virtual Exchange Facilitation Program. During the coronavirus pandemic lockdown Spring 2020, I completed my co-facilitation practicum and obtained a badge* in Global Crisis. Now I know better on know-how to integrate learning into virtual and actual teaching methodologies as well as the good use of flipped classroom style and blended learning pedagogies that will attract and engage more students for its functionality and adaptation to reality. *This badge is awarded for participation in ‘Social Circles – Solidarity in the Current Global Crisis’ included two online live group meetings and several short assignments. Through online facilitated dialogue participants engaged in constructive communication with individuals from different cultures and countries over a topic ‘Solidarity in the Current Global Crisis’. Participation in this activity builds competencies in Intercultural competence; Openness to cultural otherness, Empathy and sensitivity, Knowledge and critical understanding of self in the world, Tolerance of ambiguity.

How did I bridge my Home University strategy to better engage with internationalization by Reinforcing Home University scheme through shifting current teaching methods from a teacher-centered approach to a learner and virtual training center approach.

Nowadays, globalization poses new challenges to universities. As Palestinian University we are aware of the challenges especially in the presence of the disabling factors (acts) that delay progress and development. Living under occupation and COVID-19 reduces the possibilities of advancing education especially that international experts and scholars are denied access to travel. Restriction on mobility controls the socio-economic and education sectors in Palestine, which affects employment rates, particularly within fresh graduates. Accordingly, as academics, we are committed to preparing students, teachers, and researchers for the local and international networks via reinforcing the links between education and research as perceived as a need in the region.

My plan is to further strengthen Bethlehem University with a specialized in Virtual Training, it will be a great opportunity to start with bridging experience via training courses, workshops, and exchange opportunities to overcome the obstacles that the occupation puts to hinder the process of academic development in Palestine. We can take advantage of designed virtual programs to increase the culture of our students to become globalized citizens, and we can take this one step further to improve our competences and capacity as academics and administration.

This Virtual Training approach will aim to improving and developing Higher University to become responsive to labor market needs, national and international standards, bridge the gaps in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training’s (TVET) outputs (service suppliers) and the labor market needs (service demand), and to leverage quality of service presented to the Palestinian population. This attempt will not only bridge the capacity to teach share and learn, but it will also improve our management skills and the quality in the preparation, implementation, monitoring and follow up with technical skills, all part of applying internationalization best practices.

To reach this level of integration, we (as academics) constantly need to prepare ourselves as either educator and/or facilitators for the 21st century. Therefore, I embedded the Erasmus+ Virtual Training Project to further empower my skills that are demanded by the local and international labor market to succeed in my academic career during the information age. I forecast to be an international globalized citizen moderator, international and professional educator, trainer, educator, and virtual facilitator.

In terms of dissemination, I have a plan to enable other educators and students to establish a deeper understanding for the perspectives of global and social challenges and development of employability skills such as self-reflection, active listening, respect, critical thinking, and effective communication including language practice, and collaboration across differences, cultural stereotypes, youth aspirations, religion, poverty, migration, gender, climate change, media, politics, and daily life, among others.

Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange is a ground-breaking project enabling youth in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean to engage in meaningful intercultural experiences online, as part of their formal or non-formal education. The Virtual Exchange Program aims to complement the traditional physical mobility program by expanding the scope and reach of the program at Higher Education who would not have the opportunity for such an intercultural learning experience. By employing a wide variety of technologies and educational pedagogy nowadays, the Virtual Training makes full sense to be integrated into our Palestinian Higher Educational system. It is a necessity to implement for its accessible nature that best serves primary administrative staff, educators, undergrads, and postgraduates to have meaningful, transnational, and intercultural experiences. Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange is an important international opportunity for administrative staff, students, and academics that are not able to have a physical mobility experience, including students with special needs. Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange offers a safe online community to participate in facilitated discussions, increasing intercultural awareness, and building 21st-century skills through Virtual Exchange.

COVID – 19 Achievements

Erasmus Plus Virtual Exchange:  Bethlehem University sampled the Virtual Exchange program with 25 undergrads in Fall 2019 as an extra-curricular activity within one cross-disciplinary course under the title Human Resources Management. The attempt was to reach out and present to our students a diverse mindset to have a higher value and volume of education and engagement in the classroom with the best use of Technology. The Erasmus+ Virtual Training Program served well-presenting globalization and promoting internationalization within the main core course outline, and it well delivered the desired outcome. Spring 2020 during the pandemic coronavirus COVID-19, I successfully managed to enroll over 150 undergrads in several Erasmus Plus Virtual Exchange programs such as Connect Collaborate, Connect Express, Technology & Society, and Cultural Encounters, and influenced few academics and staff members enrolled in Introduction to Facilitation Program. I am certain there are few academic programs and activities available within our Palestinian universities that involve academics and students in a Virtual Training experience, but it will be more successful when it becomes part of a university’s strategy. I strongly recommend disseminating information about the opportunities available within the internationalization network especially the ones that support bridging globalization, internationalization, institutionalization with special focus on areas within our academia like foreign affairs and centers and /offices that support educational excellence and international student hubs.

On the side of academia, I started documenting mom’s oral history name Abla Dajani / Kleibo, collecting information about Jerusalem in the year 1948* from different perspectives as most of the information shared cannot be found in written sources. The video recordings included the following main areas: Childhood, Dynasty, Family, Mobility, Properties, Education, Lifestyle and living, Relation between family members, Relationship with maids, Residence interior decoration, Main events, Stores, Products, Songs, Religion, Weddings and Funerals, British Mandate, Occupation, Palestinian vs Jordanian back to back with British Soldiers during the British Mandate. *The 1948 Palestinian exodus, also known as the Nakba, occurred when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs — about half of prewar Palestine’s Arab population — fled or were expelled from their homes, during the 1948 Palestine war.


Under Progress 

IALU & COIL: In the times of this global outbreak we are facing, my challenge is to provide means to continue my international education and collaboration while maintaining the safety of our educational communities. International Association of La Salle Universities (IALU) and & COIL* launched an online training course for professors for member universities. The course started on 27th April 2020 for a duration of 6 weeks. This course will increase my understanding as a teacher to collaborate in couples in the creation of a learning strategy and to work collaboratively as a team on my Human Resources Management curricular subject. This methodology will allow the creation and planning of my academic course. By attending this course, I will receive a certificate for participation in this international experience. *COIL as a pattern that allows the creation of INTERNATIONAL and ONLINE collaborative learning environments that promote knowledge construction through the interaction of students from different cultures and countries, being those characteristics (international and online) essential to our sudden needs at our Higher Education Institutions.

I recently joined The Universidad La Salle México offer to represent my Home University in a worldwide group of teachers ready to become one of the few COILers in the world. This experience will transform the way I understand education and will make me part of this important group of experts in this growing educational model. Consequently, with more international partners as such as the La Salle International Academic Collaboration Project we will receive a higher quality of academics as a contribution to the economy to become both more capable and more inclined to follow the latest most updated educational learning and virtual training with best-shared qualities and practices trends that serve the local and international labor market needs and demands. 

UNIMED: I applied to join the new edition of the online course “Euro-Mediterranean Intercultural Trends”, produced by the Anna Lindh Foundation and UNIMED, the Mediterranean Universities Union. The course will start on 12 May 2020 and finish on 8 June 2020, lasting four weeks for a total of approximately 12 hours of study. By attending this course, it will increase my understanding of mutual perception between people from different European and Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries (SEM), about their identities, values, fears, women’s role in society, the impact of religion on their views and their inclination to mobility. Learn more about what actions people expect to reduce radicalization and increase multiculturality, taking into consideration different opinions. Expand my knowledge on what is the impact of different media on people’s opinion and which are the most reliable and trustworthy media in different countries. 

Dissemination: Based on my collective experience as the External Academic Relations Coordinator and as an official Virtual Facilitator and Coordinator, I can easily connect and accelerate the speed and spread of sharing experience and knowledge, as we will be able to get a broader understanding of policies, systems, and best practices internationally. I will be the link to connect between academia, develop research and innovation strategies for smart specialization within all courses to standardize virtual teaching integrated methods with special focus on developing knowledge in the methodologies of teaching and virtual training served to undergrads, academics and administration. Everything mentioned above lead to increase opportunities for professional and career development.

Shared by: Mahdi Kleibo