Introduction

Princess Nora Bint Abdul Rahman University or PNU is the world’s largest women-only university, constructed in 2011 and designed to cater for 60’000 students in its first phase of operation. The University located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has entered into numerous contractual agreements with programmes around the world, bringing academics from far and wide to deliver innovative programmes and disseminate their pedagogical approaches to the PNU staff. In 2012, Dublin City University Business School entered in to a collaboration with Princess Nora University to design and deliver two undergraduate degree programmes to the students in Riyadh - Business Studies International Finance (BSIF) and Marketing, Innovation and Technology (MINT). These programmes necessitate careful planning and extensive curriculum design from the outset, and the involvement of numerous academic and support staff at both sides of the partnership. Graduates of the programme receive a dual degree from both DCU and PNU.

Contextually, the transfer of knowledge and pedagogy to any international University, and to Saudi Arabia in particular, can be challenging. Many aspects of a course design and delivery must be meticulously created in order to be culturally sensitive and appropriate to the students involved who are Saudi nationals between the ages of 18-20 (for the 1st year undergraduate programme). In addition, programmes need to be designed with the logistics of the new university in order for them to be functional and indeed feasible. Programmes must be systematically monitored in terms of their performance standards, adhering carefully to the requirements of both partnering universities. Lastly programmes need to be designed with the intention of knowledge transfer at their core, as it is the intention of the DCU/PNU agreement to develop the modules and transfer the content and teaching methods to the existing PNU staff on site.

This project is unique and original in terms of the target audience, the collaboration and the approach being undertaken. It serves as a benchmark for cross-cultural collaboration.

Synopsis

Objective

Princess Nora Bint Abdul Rahman University or PNU is the world’s largest women-only university, constructed in 2011 and designed to cater for 60’000 students in its first phase of operation. The University located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has entered into numerous contractual agreements with programmes around the world, bringing academics from far and wide to deliver innovative programmes and disseminate their pedagogical approaches to the PNU staff. In 2012, Dublin City University Business School entered in to a collaboration with Princess Nora University to design and deliver two undergraduate degree programmes to the students in Riyadh - Business Studies International Finance (BSIF) and Marketing, Innovation and Technology (MINT). These programmes necessitate careful planning and extensive curriculum design from the outset, and the involvement of numerous academic and support staff at both sides of the partnership. Graduates of the programme receive a dual degree from both DCU and PNU.

Contextually, the transfer of knowledge and pedagogy to any international University, and to Saudi Arabia in particular, can be challenging. Many aspects of a course design and delivery must be meticulously created in order to be culturally sensitive and appropriate to the students involved who are Saudi nationals between the ages of 18-20 (for the 1st year undergraduate programme). In addition, programmes need to be designed with the logistics of the new university in order for them to be functional and indeed feasible. Programmes must be systematically monitored in terms of their performance standards, adhering carefully to the requirements of both partnering universities. Lastly programmes need to be designed with the intention of knowledge transfer at their core, as it is the intention of the DCU/PNU agreement to develop the modules and transfer the content and teaching methods to the existing PNU staff on site.

This project is unique and original in terms of the target audience, the collaboration and the approach being undertaken. It serves as a benchmark for cross-cultural collaboration.

Approach

The PNU programmes were based on existing accredited programmes offered by DCU. Notwithstanding this, they required two levels of redesign and changes in approach:

A. Pedagogical Approach
A team in Ireland and Saudi Arabia worked closely together to redesign programmes to accommodate:

- Stakeholder expectations and conceptions of learning and business education needed to be accommodated in to curriculum design, materials, and timetabling particularly in context of female education, roles in society and business
- Pedagogic competence - regular faculty training and workshops were held on ideas on learning, business education, and business experience as well as techniques for teaching teamwork and other softer skills to students
- Pedagogic practice: new practices for Saudi Arabia were introduced over and above traditional autonomous and whole class learning including paired work, teams and peer learning and global virtual teams (between Irish and Saudi students)
- Different representations of pedagogy, content and evaluation: introduction of industry engagement including global virtual seminars with IBM, synchronous and asynchronous elearning and new forms of assessment including off-site industry projects and conference presentations, portfolios etc.
- Content and construct validity

B. Country context

Similarly, country context had to be considered in all aspects of the project including:

- Language of the content, the teachers, and the learners - the programmes were delivered fully in English in Saudi Arabia
- The extent to which the content matches the curriculum and quality standards - DCU Quality Assurance Manager had to ensure that all programme content and assessment met Irish University standards and international accreditations that DCU were maintaining or striving for.
- Whether or not there is sufficient content for students in a particular country - new content and engagements needed to be designed to reflect the country and social content in Saudi Arabia and the pedgagogical approaches above.
- Other cultural-specific issues e.g. gender, religion, access to role models etc - Saudi Arabian culture provides unique challenges to be overcome not least relating gender and religious requirements. In addition, access to industry and role models can also be challenging given the age of the University (lack of alumni), lack of networks by DCU faculty in Saudi Arabia and conventional practice in Saudi Arabian education.

Engagament

The project involved faculty, administrative staff and students in both Ireland and Saudi Arabia. To date, 500 students and over 50 staff are involved in the collaboration. Over 80 companies are involved in various student projects. Four key elements form the project engagement:

1. Governance and Quality Assurance
There are cross-institutional teams that meet regularly virtually and in Saudi Arabia to ensure that the relationship and quality of programmes meet the expectations of both Institutions. Leadership from both Deans and dedicated staff to support quality assurance is key. A complete quality assurance system has been designed by DCU in collaboration with PNU and is implemented locally. This meets DCU's internal, national and international requirements e.g. AACSB but also PNU's NCAAA quality standards.

2. Programme Design, Management and Delivery
Dedicated DCU faculty and support staff are recruited internally and externally to design, manage and deliver programmes locally in Riyadh. It is critical to the success of the project that all DCU faculty and support staff are on-site for the duration of each semester in the same way that they would be in Ireland. This is crucial for cultural integration and education for the Irish staff, who may not have experience of Saudi Arabian culture. As DCU staff are embedded in PNU, similarly PNU staff are paired with DCU staff to address pedagogical and country context issues as they arise but also to support knowledge transfer.

3. Knowledge Transfer
A multi-level approach is taken to knowledge transfer. In addition to DCU and PNU staff being paired on-site, regular teaching and research seminars are held to communicate new teaching practices, evaluation methods and research in domain areas being taught. In addition, PNU Faculty attend courses in Ireland on various topics including learning technologies and other continuous professional development. The collaboration embeds a Teach In-Teach Out system for knowledge transfer. The paired DCU-PNU staff work together so that the PNU staff are able observe the DCU delivery in early phases. Subsequent iterations will be delivered by the PNU staff with assisted supervision by DCU staff. Utlimately, the PNU staff will assume responsibility for these modules.

4. Multi-level Institutional Engagement
1-3 above highlight engagement between faculty, administrative staff and support staff. However, a core part of the project is engagement with wider stakeholders. This is achieved by facilitating engagement with role models in Saudi Arabia and beyond through on-site lectures and seminars, online virtual seminars and student projects with industry. Industry projects are particularly important for future career development for the Saudi students on the programme. In addition, Saudi and Irish student collaborate on global virtual team projects. This student interaction has been extremely positive as students from both institutions learn not only how to participate as effective team members on international and virtual projects but learn about the two different countries and cultures. Students also attend DCU for intensive English courses in Ireland and being DCU students.

Impact

The project has been successful on a number of levels.

1. It has met the DCU quality review and PNU NCAAA standards for each year of delivery.

2. Over 500 students are on the programmes and student achievement is exceeding expectations. The programmes have proven extremely popular and there is a growing waiting list for participation on the programmes.
3. There is a growing list of companies interested in hiring the graduates of the programme. This is particularly positive as these students will not graduate until 2017.
4. Various elements, while common in Western education, are new to Saudi Arabia and challenge faculty and wider stakeholders. Notwithstanding this, these changes have been embraced and extended. As well as e-learning, industry engagement and portfolios, the programme has introduced global virtual teams and field trips in to female business education in Saudi Arabia. The programmes are an exemplar within Saudi Arabia and numerous other universities are seeking to replicate the approach, systems and model.
5. The programme has been nominated for 2 teaching and learning awards and has been the subject of a number of academic conference presentations and workshops. The first round of research papers relating to the programmes will be published in 2016.
6. A number of research collaborations at doctoral and postdoctoral level have commenced between PNU and DCU. 6 PNU faculty have commenced PhD studies and this number is set to expand.

Next Steps

A number of major initiatives will be introduced in 2015/2016. These include:

1. Masters Programme
Building on the success of the undergraduate programmes, DCU and PNU will introduce a joint Masters Programme between PNU and DCU aimed at pre-experience business students.

2. New Innovative Modules:

(i) DICE - a Wharton-QS shortlisted nominee in 2014, this programme is aimed at undergraduate students and provides a multi-modal course on digital innovation, creativity and enterprise with a heavy industry element. The module introduces concepts, processes and methods relating to innovation, creativity and enterprise. Students are expected to attend both seminars and group meetings throughout the semester and will participate in four mini-conferences streamed live from Ireland. In this module students will develop knowledge and skills pertaining to project management. Students will engage with online learning and a group project facilitated by a postgraduate business student acting as mentor. By interacting with an online simulation game, students will evaluate how separate decisions taken in areas such as marketing, finance or production planning impact on the overall business.

(ii) Next Generation Management - a two-year course aiming to provide postgraduate students with the opportunity to develop the competencies required for successful management careers and to contribute to business success. Particular emphasis is placed on reflective and critical thinking, collaborating with people, creating and sharing knowledge and dealing with complexity. The module is structured around the major personal, organizational and contextual challenges in modern management and focuses on four key themes. 1. Personal and Career Development: Competence assessment, planning and development; 2. Global and societal awareness; 3. Research; 4. Digital media and communication .

Both DICE and NGM are part of multi-year studies in to measuring entrepreneurial tendencies, social loafing and enterprise education. The inclusion of PNU students will allow for new comparative studies in this area.

3. Technology Innovation

(i) The introduction of DICE and Next Generation Management will involve introducing a wide range of learning technologies including app studios, eportfolios and other technologies.

(ii) PNU will be trial site for two new innovation projects:

(a) The Online Peer Learning Personal Dashboard initiative is a 5-credit module (or equivalent contribution on larger modules) to support online reciprocal peer-learning. The key innovation is around In line with academic research, our belief is that an online reciprocal peer-learning platform with social scoring will help students:
• develop skills in organizing and planning learning activities
• communicate synchronously and asynchronously more efficiently
• work collaboratively online with others
• give and receive feedback
• evaluate their own learning and progress.

A programme of thematic discussions will be scheduled and facilitated by faculty over two semesters. These discussions will take place on an online collaborative platform (IBM Connections) on which each student will have a profile. Student activity, reaction, eminence and network will be scored and weighted. In addition, faculty will evaluate contributions qualitatively. These scores will be displayed on a Peer Learning Personal Dashboard which will also feed in to LOOP, DCU’s learning management system (based on Moodle). The autonomic scores and faculty scores will contribute to module grades (and final awards). Faculty will design a awards system that supports target behaviours both in terms of themes but also time e.g. we want consistent contributions not spiky deadline-driven contributions.

(ii) Robotic Telepresence - we will be trialing robotic telepresence to allow Saudi faculty and students participate in events (workshops, seminars and classes) and team activities in DCU and Irish faculty and students to participate in events and team activities in Saudi Arabia. This will be accomplished through the use of Double Robotics units in the respective institutions in Saudi Arabia and Ireland.

3. Research/Impact
In the next two years, we will have increasing data on the impact of this initiative from educational, collaborative and technological perspectives.

Other Information

YouTube Video - John McMackin discussing Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University Collaboration
Other - How students in Saudi Arabia are using analytics to create industry solutions
Other - DCU@PNU: An Irish university has a thriving partnership programme with Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh
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