Welcome to the Hub

Spring 2023

Rudina Antoun (BArch ’09) used to be fascinated by designing buildings. Now project manager of AUB’s Abdulla al Ghurair Hub for Digital Teaching and Learning, she focuses on designing processes. “We are creating online learning opportunities from scratch,” she says, “and we are making a difference. This is remarkable.”

Within the university-wide AUB Online focus, the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture partnered with the Abdulla al Ghurair Foundation (AGF). Launched in June 2021, the Education Hub promotes innovation in online STEM education and increased access to high quality education for Arab youth, specifically underserved youth of the region. The objectives are two-pronged: to launch online programs and to digitize residential courses.

Antoun says it’s challenging “to make education accessible for a diverse population. How do we do that for people who cannot relocate to Lebanon, or to those who require financial aid, for refugees, for first-generation students? How do we reach our target audience, make it financially feasible for them to enroll in courses, and most importantly, find the courses that best serve them?”

Recently, the program has outfitted two studios in the Munib and Angela Masri Building, where faculty can record material, create content, and work with an instructional designer. The first is a “one-button studio,” which faculty operate by themselves. The other is a stateof- the-art studio with an experienced production manager.

The director of the Hub, Dr. Issam Srour, says it’s been hard to learn how to create an e-commerce experience for students while also getting an understanding of the world of digital marketing. “And we have to create courses at the desired pace, but with limited faculty availability.”

Despite the challenges, Srour says the biggest reward is making a difference in the lives of students who would not make it to AUB other than through online education. In less than six months, they attracted more than 130 students to the Project Management Professional Diploma and 50 students to the AI & Data Science Professional Diploma. A free Python programming course attracted 1600 applicants in two days, 250 of whom enrolled.

Mohamad Yateem enrolled in the Project Management program last fall at the recommendation of a relative. “It seemed affordable, accessible, and prestigious,” he says. Yateem put his learning to work as a new member of the Hub staff, coordinating two online programs. He “is in constant contact with our team to close loopholes and to address student concerns. I know the loopholes and can use my own mistakes and tweaks to improve the student experience for others.”

Antoun says the Hub has been most successful with first-generation students signing up for professional diploma programs. “More courses with Arabic subtitles would help us tap into the underserved community,” she says. “And we’re exploring an online English course to help people meet the proficiency requirement.”

The Hub team proudly points to five online programs, 40 partial and full-digital versions of residential courses, with 15 more residential courses in the pipeline. They’re working as fast as they can, keeping an eye on the reward of extending the boundaries of AUB and empowering Arab youth for sustainable regional development.