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Kuwait 2019 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

The Australian College of Kuwait is using innovative teaching methods and technology to prepare students for the challenges and questions of the future.

Prof. Isam Zabalawi
BIOGRAPHY
Prof. Isam Zabalawi is the President of ACK. With a PhD in electrical and electronics engineering from Leeds University, he specializes in analog and digital signal processing and communication techniques. Zabalawi is a Fellow of Engineers Australia and The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), a Higher Education Reform Expert (HERE), and a part of the European Commission and Erasmus+ (Tempus) Office, Jordan. His interests include the communication industry, information technology, technology transfer, and higher education development and reform.

What makes project-based learning (PBL) such a unique methodology? What benefit can ACK graduates obtain from it?

PBL is an experiential, hands-on approach to education, which not only ensures that students gain requisite knowledge but also applied skills and a workplace team focused attitude. Within increasingly competitive and globalised markets, employers now expect graduates to be productive from day one. Therefore, the traditional emphasis on academic knowledge is not sufficient to empower students. To bridge this gap, PBL is a learning methodology that involves the application of classroom theory to a workplace related scenario. Students, either individually or preferably in groups, are assigned an ill-defined project. They are then required to interpret theory and undertake further research as needed to fine-tune the task and then develop an industry standard solution.

To what extent is ACK implementing the CDIO approach and what motivated the decision to apply it to ACK?

CDIO is a holistic, experiential approach to learning that links the lifecycle phases of conceiving, designing, implementing, and operating a product, system, service, or process. CDIO may be regarded as an umbrella model that takes into account the wider formation of students so they are not just technically competent but also have the ability to sit back and consider, as a contributory team player, workplace situations from an evolving lifecycle perspective. This involves taking an embryonic idea through all the various steps associated with research, design, development and introduction, through to final ongoing operation. Beneath the umbrella approach of CDIO, various methodologies have been used to apply the model within particular learning contexts. At ACK, CDIO has been applied through PBL, internships, either locally or outside Kuwait, as a result of our membership of the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE).

How is ACK promoting diversity within its institution? What have been the benefits of it creating a global and international community within the institution?

The name 'Australian College of Kuwait' confirms the link between our local infrastructure with the international community through the highly regarded Australian education system. Currently, the ACK family includes over 3000 students from 34 nationalities and over 400 staff from 47 nationalities. As a result, there is a rich diversity of cultures and backgrounds on campus. The Student Life team organizes a cultural celebration each year and invites all students and staff from any background to have an information booth and communal activities to raise awareness and understanding of their culture and traditions. Each semester, the Student Life staff arrange for participation of ACK student teams in international sporting competitions and other gatherings. Faculty are actively encouraged and supported to attend and present papers at international educational and professional conferences across the globe.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

Every student and every staff member at ACK is important. Accordingly, from an infrastructure perspective, we are doing our best to continuously improve the learning and living environment for all, recognizing that they spend more time at ACK than they do anywhere else during the semester. Later in 2019, ACK will co-host the third Symposia of Private Higher Education - Road to Excellence (SPHERE) event in association with the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS). The central theme is e-learning, and this topic is of special interest to ACK as our programs across engineering, business, aviation, and maritime studies are all directly influenced by advancements in knowledge, technology, and electronic communications.