With the coronavirus pandemic still in full force, and with curriculums on the line, most schools and universities have been left with no choice but to commence the winter semester with students remaining at home. This means that distance learning is no longer a temporary solution, but a long-term one for the foreseeable future.
According to the United Nations, “the COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94% of the world’s student population, up to 99% in low and lower-middle income countries.”
As a result, we have seen many companies, both old and new, come to the forefront in an attempt to facilitate this new learning trend. Among these is none other than the tech startup that has taken the world by storm in 2020: Zoom Video Communications.
The US company recently introduced a new service it dubs Zoom Education that caters to the growing need for digital learning solutions, offering a retailored version of its usual video conferencing services that is more accommodating of learning online.
AMEinfo had the opportunity to speak with Sam Tayyan, Managing Director of Zoom in the Middle East and Africa, to learn more about what Zoom Education offers and the role it will play in the region.
Can you explain to us more about what Zoom Education is and how it builds on your core services and functionalities?
Remote virtual learning has become the new normal for many teachers, administrators, students, and parents. While the transition may not be easy, we want to provide resources to ensure users are creating secure and effective virtual classrooms using Zoom. Zoom Education helps universities and schools improve student outcomes with secure video communication services for hybrid classrooms, office hours, administrative meetings, and more. Zoom cares about our communities, their schools, and all students and Zoom education is one way to show that.
Can you share with us examples of how Zoom Education has been implemented so far (regionally if possible), and the results of this?
We can see that Zoom is becoming more and more popular not only amongst schools but also universities in the Middle East. Some of the regional universities hosted their graduation ceremonies over Zoom and we believe that such events are going to continue taking place as they are very important for students, teachers in lifting the spirit of people, and Zoom is here to support such important events. We have also observed that education sector players in the region are very positive about the ease of using Zoom and the speed with which they can shift towards e-learning without delays and excessive training requirements. We are happy that our solution is helping the education sector to maintain its momentum during these challenging times.
While the number of users from across the education sector has increased, we don’t have the exact number of new users or call participants for the Middle East. [However], on the 16th of March, Zoom lifted the 40-minute meeting limit on free Basic accounts for K-12 schools in the United Arab Emirates, allowing schools to transition into e-learning practices without complications and delays.
What’s the price structure for an educational institution looking to implement Zoom Education?
With flexible Education plans starting at 20 hosts for $1,800 annually, we can provide a solution to meet every school’s needs. We have also offered schools to request lifting minutes limit free of cost.
How do you ensure sessions carried out on the platform are secure?
Transparency is a core value and that’s why you regularly see us using our blog to clarify policies, advise users how best to use the platform and secure their meetings, and acknowledge and address issues when they arise. Zoom takes user privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously. Zoom was originally developed for enterprise use, and has been confidently selected for complete deployment by a large number of institutions globally, ranging from the world’s largest financial services companies, to leading telecommunications providers, government agencies, universities and others, following exhaustive security reviews of our user, network and datacenter layers.
As video-first communications becomes more popular and accessible, we feel a responsibility to help where we can. As more and new kinds of users start using Zoom, we have been proactively engaging to make sure they understand Zoom’s relevant policies and the best ways to use the platform, including many recent updates to Zoom’s security features that help users protect their meetings.
Zoom collects only the data from individuals using the Zoom platform required to provide the service and ensure it is delivered effectively under a wide variety of settings in which our users may be operating. Zoom does not sell users’ data, has never sold user data in the past and has no intention of selling users’ data going forward.
In a post-COVID-19 world, what role do you envision Zoom Education will play when students are back to schools and universities?
Regional governments highlighted on various instances that e-learning will continue being part of the existing and potentially evolved educational practices. While a lot of schools and universities had to face the reality of the current pandemic, I believe that the education sector tackled this challenge very well; looking at how well e-learning is working out for schools in the region and globally, the whole education model will undoubtedly change. Digital transformation drive will not stop with the end of the pandemic and the education sector will continue being part of this transition.
While social interactions and offline activities are very important, incorporating e-learning elements into the traditional education model would be very beneficial on many levels. This can reduce the cost of education, offer more opportunities for students to learn when they can’t attend physical classes for the various reason without affecting their progress, reduce carbon footprint by excluding at least 1 day of the week’s school commutes, and helping students, our future talent, to prepare for the digitally rich workplace that they will be transitioning into in the future.
All these aspects are just a few positive outcomes we can expect from the increased inclusion of e-learning into the traditional education system. A lot will change after this crisis is over, and I believe while this period is challenging for everyone. We can learn many positive lessons from this and leverage them to our long-term benefits.
The interesting thing is that we see many schools incorporating online education to be able to support students who are not able to attend physical classes. We also see much more demand from across universities and from the new breed of online only schools in the Middle East. While world’s leading universities are already offering online only curriculums, we would not say they can replace traditional educational institutions, especially K-12 schools. They will rather be complementary to the existing system. Students will benefit from learning additionally from home, go over existing programs and refresh their knowledge when they need to.