Vice President for Internationalization and Engagement and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Prof. Rami Abboud delivered a keynote lecture at the opening session of the International Web Conference, 24-25 June 2020 where the theme was: “The Evaluation of Distance Education Experiences at the time of COVID-19: Effects, Challenges and Perspectives”. The conference was organized by the Mohamad I University in Morocco and brought together leaders in higher education institutions from Morocco, UAE, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Tunisia, Canada, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Algeria, and Switzerland to share their respective institutional experiences in transferring to online education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the conference, speakers emphasized that in the time of crisis, higher education institutions had only one choice: to innovate solutions to salvage the academic semester while upholding their quality standards.
During his presentation, Professor Abboud spoke about the University of Balamand’s experience in delivering online classes with a focus on its own novel and unique online assessment that was designed and developed by the GIS Center at the Faculty of Engineering within the particularly challenging constraints of the Lebanese situation: slow internet, power cuts, socio-economic hardship and change. The University of Balamand was the only university represented from Lebanon at the conference where Professor Abboud articulated the structure and the team effort put into the design, delivery, and administration of the online assessment, which proved to be the only presentation highlighting innovation in online live proctoring promoting ingenuity and teamwork as a better option for success that money cannot buy.
Professor Abboud emphasized that this was a university-wide effort led by the Online Assessment Task Force that he had headed as per the directive of the University President, Dr Elias Warrak, who is a staunch supporter of online education and assessment in time of unorthodox situations. Chat comments during the presentation were highly commendable for what the University of Balamand has managed to achieve with a particular comment from one other keynote speaker stating: “I would highly recommend if Rami creates a manual on how to move from point a-z showing best practices, methods and reflecting best practices. This will be very helpful to other universities in the region with similar situations and challenges”. Professor Abboud concluded his lecture by thanking the on the ground online team and eluded to the significant achievement of the University of Balamand, as a young university of 32 years of age, to be ranked 2nd in Lebanon in the QS2021.
Throughout the conference, experiences from leading universities were shared. The discussion also focused on the potential for collaboration in research and academic administration between the different participants. It was also a platform to showcase the University of Balamand’s leading efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in supporting students, local communities, and national epidemiological surveillance.