The highway to new benchmarks
AMSI is creating new benchmarks in introducing new technology solutions including Blockchain in schools it manages
By R. Narayan
For over 40 years, AMSI, a collaboration of academicians and educators who bring together a wealth of experience and international expertise, has been dedicated to raising the standards of education in its community and building a foundation for the future of its children and young people through the provision of a complete and comprehensive educational solution. Today, AMSI manages the Al Mawakeb schools and The International School of Arts and Sciences - ISAS in Dubai, in addition to a number of schools in the UAE and the region providing high quality education to over 200,000 students.
True to its policies with pioneering new benchmarks in Educations, AMSI has relied on brining in new technologies that enhance the processes of instruction, learning and certifications in Education.
“In our alliance, we have learnt to value creativity and the active pursuit of excellence.We have a passion for our industry and for what we do. We utilize our skills to search for and apply new technologies, approaches, and business solutions, which will contribute to the betterment of the educational industry. The organization’s widely heralded successes in the field of ICT integration into the mainstream educational processes is testament of this fusion,” says George Akhras , Chief Information Officer at AMSI.
The ICT integration process at AMSI includes a comprehensive software and hardware synergy that binds multiple solutions together at academic, operational and managerial capacities.
“Starting with a student enrolling into a school, through the procurement processes and the creation of inventory tracking and asset management, and ultimately the implementation of E-learning curricula in a classroom and the linking of the required databases, our ICT integration aspects allow for the seamless flow of operations and diligent supervision of these processes, while adhering to the highest codes of quality implementation,” adds George.
As early as 1999, the first school portal was unveiled and the e-communication age started. Students and parents were able to check homework, classwork, daily schedules, exam requirements, grade report cards, perform pre-registration tasks, book appointments with teachers and administrators, and much more.
Then in 2000, the document center solution was introduced; a comprehensive one-stop shop that allows a school the ability to efficiently print and archive, while maintaining a high level of quality. This enabled complete control without compromising on flexibility for the user; cutting costs associated with stockpiling and upholding the integrity and security of the printed material.
Their pioneering efforts at digital transformation initiatives have been duly recognized over the years.
As early as 2004, the group deployed an Award winning project ‘Notebooks for Books (N4B)’ This solution transforms the traditional learning environment into a state-of-the-art, interactive, multimedia learning center that is conducive for creativity and innovation.
“At the high school level, students carry notebook computers that are loaded with a digitized curriculum connected to a centralized network. The classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards that capture and transmit real-time data to the students' laptops, a wireless network that allows students and teachers to share information dynamically during the lesson, group control software that allows the teachers to monitor their students' work in the classroom, and an online data library with ample resources that is available for teachers and students to access and use. Such an advanced environment helps make the learning experience more thrilling and captivating and heightens the students' academic performance,” elaborates George.
Three years later, in 2007, the group introduced another Award winning project ‘Self-Paced Learning’. This was on the pedagogical aspect of teaching ICT at high school level where AMSI developed an innovative solution that remedies the imbalance in student knowledge attainment in computer subjects.
“By dividing each unit into smaller lessons to allow learning in small 'chunks', students of different achievement levels can co-work in the same courses without affecting each other's performance. This project evolved through the years and currently all the subjects benefit from the dynamic of this platform that provides the student with the ability to learn anywhere, at any time and with the proper rhythm of his skills, knowledge and tendencies,” says George.
In addition, AMSI and its schools have been working on reducing the number of paper used across all its schools through various ICT integrated solutions. In 2015, the school app was launched allowing parents and students to stay in touch with just a click on an icon, keeping them informed and up to date on important tasks & events with push notifications.
AMSI’s credentials as a pioneer in Education processes is further endorsed by its deployment of Blockchain in its certifications for students.
“At AMSI, we share a passion to give and our belief in technology integration into the mainstream classrooms sparked the drive for all the solutions we implemented. It was and continues to be about trust and commitment. Our story has grown with Dubai over the last five decades; and with the vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum of making Dubai the first city fully powered by Blockchain by 2020 (Dubai Blockchain Strategy 2020) and the UAE Blockchain Strategy 2021; we endeavored in the ambitious project to digitize the academic credentials of our graduating students of Al Mawakeb schools and the International School of Arts & Sciences, and to apply Blockchain to the issuance, management, and exchange of those credentials, such as certificates and diplomas.”
AMSI’s graduating class of 2019 will be the first class to have their school diplomas issued digitally on the Blockchain – in addition to the traditional ones.
“We wanted to empower our graduates to be fully in control of the academic records they request and receive; while decreasing the complexity of the administrative processes. Credentials will be requested online, released in real time, and shared as deemed necessary instantly without any third party’s involvement. Recipients from other schools or universities will be able to verify the authenticity of those credentials on our dedicated verification portal,” says George.
This system will reduce the processing time and cost, and significantly increase authenticity and trust.
He adds, “The new system is at its early stages and involves many stakeholders around the globe. While entities in the UAE may be ready to take this leap to the future, other international bodies may not be as ready to embrace this technology yet. Having said that, the current traditional issuance of the academic records cannot be replaced with the new technology. Both methods will have to co-exist for a few years, before digital takes over and becomes recognized worldwide”
To support the process, AMSI schools have implement Academic-Integrated ICT Solutions, and partnered with a global leader to deploy a publishing server, a secured storage server, and an online verification & authentication portal.
In terms of digital transformation, the Group has gone further than its peers in the field of education and has to plough its own path ahead without extant models to emulate, truly marking it as a leader in Education.
George says, “Being the first k-12 school in the world to digitize the academic credentials of its graduating students and to apply Blockchain to the issuance, management, and exchange of those credentials, we did not have any previous practices to rely on or benefit from. However, with the support of our partner, the project deployment went as planned. The pilot started in December 2017 and included the staff training workshops and technical implementation. The first digital diploma was published and shared in May 2018. The testing phase was completed in September 2018 and the system is now completed and is deployed.”
This solution encompasses a series of tools that enables AMSI schools in Dubai to securely issue digital academic credentials, students to store and share them, and recipients to instantly verify them. While the school issues and shares digital diploma with student, the student keeps copy of digital diploma and shares it with other schools or universities and the University verifies the authenticity of diploma on the school portal. This process significantly reduces the processing time, costs, and provides value to all stakeholders.
AMSI intends to extend this digital transformation to other departments within its network.
George says, “As education becomes more diversified and decentralized, there is an increase in digital academic records. Our HR and Finance departments will be next to use this technology to share documents securely and transparently and save a huge amount of effort and time. The new deployments will give a better understanding of our core values that drive our teams and increase the sense of commitment to well-being and happiness of our parents, students and alumni. Restructuring the administrative processes to a massive open, online and secure database will enhance the services we are providing to our schools.”
A strong vision and ambition is fueling the group’s constant endeavor to push the envelope as far as enhancing its processes across departments goes. That is taking AMSI further ahead in empowering the student community it serves and creating new benchmarks.