USSaudiForum | Education and Technological Innovation Panel

Published: October 11, 2013

Share Article

Related Officials

Related Experts

Note: SUSRIS is providing transcripts, articles, interviews, and more from the 3rd US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum. They will be posted and distributed through the SUSRIS e-newsletter (sign up on the home page) and added to the Forum Index (Link Here).

Logo USSBOF Banner 1
US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum
Los Angeles, California – Sep 16-18, 2013
Education and Technological Innovation


Verbatim Transcript by SUSRIS

[Steve Clemons] Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us this morning at the first plenary session of the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum here in Los Angeles.

My name is Steve Clemons. I’m editor-at-large of the Atlantic – used to be known as the Atlantic Monthly – but now we’re only doing eleven magazines a year, so we dropped the monthly part to set expectations. I also want to say a big hello to many friends of mine here in the audience. For some years in the 1980s and ‘90s I was director of the Japan-America Society of Southern California, another part of the world, but a lot of the impulses around technology, thinking about education, thinking about building inroads and partnerships at that time were just as true with that area of the world as they are today, so a lot of people that hardly recognize me nonetheless have come up and said hello and I appreciate it.We have an outstanding panel today to address the broad issue of education and technological innovation, and purposely I didn’t tell them which direction I wanted to take this, because to some degree you can talk about technology in schools and technology in education – in fact one of our participants here today is one of the world leaders at the cutting edge of looking at how to personalize, individualize, and create immediate and direct demand in education, and it’s really about changing that entire experience.

There’s another dimension of technology in education about what kinds of innovation come from smart places? What kind of innovation do societies need to move them forward technologically and in other ways? And very frequently universities and the quality of students that go into those universities, the universities that draw people from around the world in many cases, make patterns and help sculpt the rest of society for all of us.

So there are two different dimensions – I see there may be more. We’ll have time for questions at the end. We have kind of a mathematical improbability here because the time that each person was given, if each person takes it, there won’t be time for my comments or the questions, so I’m going to encourage folks to shave where they can.

Just to my left we have Jay Bhatt, who is President and CEO of Blackboard, really an outstanding company. I know a number of people that are involved in universities all around the world that are using Blackboard to transform the whole methodology of education in the classroom, and to sort of deal with both how do you deal with mass and get to the micro and change the educational contour. So it’s a real pleasure to meet Jay, I’m a big fan of what he does.

We then have just to my left, His Excellency Dr. Hamad Al-Sheikh, is Vice Minister for Male Education for the Ministry of Education, also someone who has been internationally educated, has been at the University of San Francisco and Stanford, an economist, has written – I’ve been spending the morning looking at many of the papers he wrote, at least references to them, because a lot of them were in a language that I’m not – I do Japanese, not Arabic – but there are many of the papers that he has done on everything from nomadic farming to very serious treatments of mathematics and economic modeling. So it’s a great pleasure to have him here.

Then just to my right we have Linda Katehi, is the Chancellor of the University of California-Davis, has been a pioneer in electronic circuit design, came here from Greece. You know one of the interesting things we talk about in America is really the magic and the miracle of bringing many of the world’s smart people into the American university scene, and the international dimension of that, and the Chancellor is an embodiment of that in her own right, but I think the U.S. educational system is one that’s been a great public good for the world and something we can talk about.

People USSBOF Education Plenary Clemons Bhatt Hamad Al Sheikh Hagan
Steve Clemons, Jay Bhatt, Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh, Linda Katehi, Dr. Willie Hagan

And then to my right, the anchor of the panel is Willy Hagan, the President of Cal State-Dominguez Hills. He came in January 2012. I was reading up about him, exceptionally popular among his students and staff at Cal State. It’s fun to read about him because the enthusiasm in that school for his coming in when he was needed is palpable.


Steve Clemons of The Atlantic discusses Education and Technological Innovation – #USSAUDIFORUM from U.S.-Saudi Forum – Los Angeles on Vimeo.


So I think with that, thank you panel for being here. We’re going to start with presentations from each and then we’re going to come and I’ll moderate a discussion. Let me invite Doctor Hamad to join us first.

[Dr. Hamad Al-Sheik] Salaam Alaykum. Excellencies, honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

People USSBOF Education Plenary Clemons Bhatt Hamad Al Sheikh HaganI’m honored to participate with you today in the third U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum. Over the years the forum has become a key platform for government, academics, and businesses in Saudi Arabia and in the United States to meet shared experience and identify business opportunities for working together in the best interest of our two countries. I am sure this year’s forum is no exception.

Education is a very high priority on the development agenda of the government of Saudi Arabia. A high quality education system is a prerequisite for the long-term success of its social and economic development and reform. It is the pillar on which these reforms depend critically. It is no surprise therefore that the education sector has received unwavering support and commitment from the government and its top leadership.


H.E. Dr. Hamad M. H. Al-Sheikh – #USSAUDIFORUM from U.S.-Saudi Forum – Los Angeles on Vimeo.


I hope this forum will provide an opportunity for the U.S. and Saudi education services, firms, institutions to identify new opportunities for investment and partnership to accompany us in our education reform journey.

Saudi Arabia is an active G20 member, has embarked on a very ambitious journey of social economic development. The journey is guided by the vision of King Abdullah to make human capital development the key lever for transforming the country into a knowledge-based society whose prosperity depends less on natural resources of oil and gas and more on ingenuity and creativity of its youth and people. Saudi Arabia is a very youthful nation – fifty percent of our population is under the age of twenty, which provides a very strong foundation for building capabilities, skills, and assets that our country needs to compete in an increasingly globalized world. The creativity, talent, and innovation will strengthen and sustain our country’s competitiveness.

Today there are about thirty-three thousand schools and programs serving close to five million students, almost one-fourth the total population of Saudi Arabia. The system employs about six hundred thousand teachers and administrators, which represents over one-half of the civil service employees. The growth rate of the last forty years has been remarkable. The number of students, schools, and teachers doubled every ten years, ensuring access to public education services for all Saudis, children, and youth, irrespective of their agenda, color, geographic location, or social economic status.

The social and economic dividends of these investments are very high. For one thing, illiteracy an early barrier to the country’ social and economic development has been eradicated. In recognition of this bold achievement, a 2010 report by the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, entitled the “Real World of Nations,” ranked Saudi Arabia among the top achievers in the world in education and health over the last forty years. Building on these quantitative achievements, today we have resolutely shifted our focus to improving the quality of education services our children receive.

Guiding our investment is a new education reform strategy, which has been spearheaded by King Abdullah bin-Abdulaziz Public Education Development Project a $2.4 billion government-funded initiative. The strategy covers multiple reform areas including curriculum reforms, science, technology, engineering, and math development, introduction of English in early grades, leadership and teacher professional development, integration of entrepreneurial and 21st-century skills, e-learning, expansion of early childhood education, support and health, and so on.

Today I hope to share with you some elements of our ambitious journey and outline some potential opportunities for U.S.-Saudi collaboration.

Ladies and gentlemen, strengthening the linkage between the education system, the demand of labor markets, and the development needs of our country is a key focus of the Kingdom’s strategy. Our efforts are guided by the country’s strategy to diversify its economy and build complementary resources of wealth in high-value areas such as information and communication technology, alternative water and energy sources, environmental technology, advanced materials, medicine, biotechnology and nanotechnology. At the Ministry of Education, we have launched an ambitious science technology engineering and mathematics or STEM initiative to lay the foundation for building the capabilities of the future pool of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers that our country needs to succeed in these fields.

People USSBOF Audience

As a first step we have aligned our science, technology, engineering, and mathematics standards and curriculum to the standard of the best reforming education system in the world by adapting a world class math and science curriculum, [unknown] which has resulted in a higher achievement for our students in these subjects. We have recently contracted with a world class math and science teacher and profession development, a provider to develop a blended program that combines face to face training with online learning to strengthen the capabilities of over one hundred thousand math and science teachers currently in service. Our teachers are our agents of change and we are committed to building their capabilities, providing them with the necessary teaching and learning tools, and improving their status to enable them to play their transformation role with their students effectively.

Fully convinced of the critical role of early intervention, we have also launched action to identify and nurture gifted and creative students who are the future leaders of science, technology, and engineering, and mathematics. Last year close to thirty thousand male and female students participated in our gifted and talented programs. Yearly we send a number of high school students to join gifted summer programs in the U.S. and in other countries, and to compete in science and engineering fairs. To strengthen these actions we have also started establishing science centers throughout the country. In addition to STEM initiative, we have also launched an entrepreneurial program called BADIR, a major employability and entrepreneurial skills development program targeting secondary school students. BADIR aims to prepare the student for a smoother transition to the labor market by providing them with better critical 21-century capabilities and skills such as critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

Ladies and gentlemen, strengthening the base of the English language in the K-12 curriculum is a key priority for the Ministry of Education. The Ministry recognizes that improving the speaking, listening, reading, and writing, the skills of all students is a high value investment that builds the capability of the future workforce to be capable to participate positively in an increasingly globalized labor market and economy. To this effect we have expanded the study of English language to start from fourth grade starting in 2012 academic year, expanding significantly the instruction time allocated to English language learning over the K to 12 time span.

Together with STEM and English, we are expanding access to early-childhood education at an unprecedented rate. Last year we opened one pre-school a day on average – our target for this year is about three schools a day. We are also working with the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a U.S. global leader in early-childhood education, to develop national standard for guiding the growth of the sector.

The physical well being of our children and youth is a priority for the Ministry of Education. In this regard we have developed a strategy to improve school sports in our country, focusing on both health and competition, with a long-term vision of using school sport as a breeding ground for our sport federations. As a part of our strategy we are leveraging the school sport infrastructure, in which we are investing substantially for community-wide purposes. In this respect, we’ve started establishing school neighborhood clubs across the country for male and female students during the days and for their parents, neighbors, and the community at-large during evenings and holidays. A public-private partnership model is being developed to manage these centers in order to scale up the initiative countrywide.

Also the widespread penetration of technology in all areas of our social and economic life coupled with increasing integration of our economy regionally and globally has led to a radical change in the way we work, learn, and interact with each other. These transformations have opened unprecedented opportunities for our youth to tap into the wealth of knowledge and expertise available on the web.

There are great opportunities for investing in building, owning, managing a private school, including early-childhood schools, and to date we have built Tatweer Holding Company and branched from it three other companies that are working in order to provide services in a private market environment to our educational sector.

Our strategy covers more initiative than I have been able to cover in this speech and this short presentation. Our overreaching goal is to promote student learning as a key focus of our investment. Our government is committed to being accountable to this goal. To this end, it has setup an independent evaluation agency, general avocation evaluation agency to provide ongoing independent assessment of student performance to improve policy and hold the Ministry of Education accountable for student learning. The Ministry of Education is determined to meet the challenge, and I hope these two days will enable you to identify opportunities to work with us to meet the noble goal.

[Steve Clemons] Thank you very much, Mr. Vice Minister. We’re going to engage in questions later, but I want to plant a question with you, because some years ago the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum was held in Chicago, and Princess Lolowah al-Faisal, who has been very active in women’s education in Saudi Arabia, raised a very provocative and interesting subject that I think would be interesting to ask you to talk about later. Which is what is the responsibility of someone like yourself, when you look at the broad educational outreach in a society and you, and Saudi Arabia has brought so many people, one of the big things you see when you go to any university is how large these universities are, and they’re growing ever and ever larger both among women and men. And she made the provocative comment that we may be over-educating in Saudi Arabia, that we’re not looking at all the roles and functions within the state, and the sustainability of that dynamic is not one that can be maintained. I thought it was one of the most interesting, provocative comments – we’ll come back to that later.

To keep all of you on your toes, we’re not going in any particular order. We’re going to go next to Willy Hagan, President of California State, Dominguez Hills. Willy.

[Willy Hagan] First of all, thank you for inviting me to be here. I’m pleased to represent the Chancellor Timothy White in the California State University system, and my own university, California State University – Dominguez Hills.

Now the California State University system – we’re the largest four year higher education system in the United States. We have four hundred and thirty-seven thousand students, forty-four thousand faculty and staff, 2.8 million alumni, $7.9 billion total annual budget, and we contribute $17 billion annually to the California economy.


Dr. Willie Hagan, President, The California State University – #USSAUDIFORUM from U.S.-Saudi Forum – Los Angeles on Vimeo.


One of the things I did in preparation for coming here is I tried to read as much as I could about the Saudi Arabian strategic plans for higher education. I wanted to get a sense of how those plans compared to what we’re doing. The State of California has done a number of plans and the United States has done a number of plans, but what I found interesting is that the plans done by the Saudi Arabian government and the plans done by the United States all talked about the role of technology in terms of advancing education. But what I found interesting is if you look at the California master plan of 1960. This plan was developed way before technology made inroads in terms of education – it was important, but nowhere near as important as it is now – and it structured the California system into the UC systems where they focused on the graduate and post-graduates, the Cal State systems where we focused on the comprehensive university, and the community colleges where you focused on universal access.

People USSBOF Education Plenary Willy HaganWhat struck me is that if you look at the guiding principles of the California master plan, what struck me is that the guiding principle for the California master plan was universal access, affordability, and quality, and the majority of the United States’ plans, strategic plans of higher education, the goals are the same – universal access, affordability, and quality – and when I read several of these plans for Saudi Arabia I found once again universal access, affordability, and quality. So while times have changed, and while technology has had a greater impact on us, the goals of higher education for this country, this state, and everyone else are pretty much the same.

For the sake of speeding up my presentation I’m not going to talk too much about these plans. All I want to say is that these planning documents represent some of the more significant higher education strategic plans done by our country and by our National Science Foundation and by private organizations. What I will say, as I mentioned earlier – technology is critical to advancing our educational goals in this country and elsewhere. The one thing you’ll find interesting about these plans is not only are they very comprehensive, but you’ll also find that other countries have actually followed our plans and have implemented them far better and far more aggressively than the United States, and that’s one of the issues that we have to wrestle with in this country is that we know how to develop a really solid strategic plan for advancing our country – we have yet to follow through on all the aspects that we need to do to make that plan work.

Let me say for a second that I am not an expert in innovative technologies. I have a Vice President for Information Technology for that, and he’s in the audience, and he’ll correct me if I go down the wrong path, but as a President I do understand the importance of technology in terms of education, assessing, course management, and professional development, and technology has already transformed higher education significantly.

We talk a lot about in terms of the future, but we’ve done quite a few things with technology that currently exist, and I just wanted to point out a couple of examples at Cal State-Dominguez Hills. You see the hexicopter up there in the corner, a drone. Our faculty and students are using hexicopter in India and southeast Asia to do GIS mapping in terms of identifying appropriate places for rice crops, rice that are submergence-resistant, flimsy-resistant, or drought-resistant. So this was probably new technology three or four years ago, but now it’s old technology, but it’s again playing a role in helping our students and faculty do research.

What you have with the young – well, the man with the thing around his head. That’s a functional near-infrared spectrographic brain scanner. It measures the oxygen molecules that collect in front of the brain, and it’s a good method for testing attention, task orientation, and multi-tasking. And what we found is that this is a very good piece of technology for a number of fields, marketing for one, that we are using in our marketing program to have students look at marketing campaigns, and by scanning the cerebral cortex of the brain you can get a sense of are they paying attention to what’s happening. So again this is just an example of some of the current technology that’s playing a major role.

The nursing – one of the things that our university is well known for is distance nursing. There are a lot of nurses out there in the field across the country who have been practicing but don’t have the advanced degree, and we have a program where nurses in the field can go onto our distance learning program and get their B.S. or their M.S. and help advance their careers.

Technology has transformed delivery and the management of education, and you will hear a lot about that a little bit later on. One of the things to keep in mind is that technology has also transformed the students, the recipients of this education. If you look at this chart you’ll see that today’s students, sixty-five percent of these students will take jobs that aren’t in existence right now. And that sounds like an absurd statement, but if you go back five years a significant number of the technology jobs that exist now did not exist five years ago. Our students have been fueled on technological disruptions.

If you look at the music industry, the movie industry, and the book industry, we grew up where you would go into a book store and buy books, we would go into a store and buy and album, we’d go watch a movie. Today’s students, they’re growing up in a world where they download movies, they stream movies, they download music. So their world is very different. These students have now begun to print in three-D, things we never heard about, and the students of today, these students are also engaged in wearing wearable technology, and it’s not just Google Glasses. I was reading the other day that they’re starting to build technology into the clothing, so the students of today are going to be very different than when we were students.

In his book Rewired: Understand the iGeneration and the Way They Learn, Dr. Rosen, a professor at Cal State-Dominguez Hills made a couple of observations about our students. They’re raised on technology. They’re constantly engaged with media. They’re multi-tasking, and if you have students or young children you know that. They’re always wired. They’re always on. They spend a lot of time in social worlds and on the Internet, and they create and share their own content. They have their own learning styles. And technology is allowing our students these days not to have to conform to the traditional methods of education. They’re able to retain their uniqueness as they play a larger role in developing their own educational pathways.

One of the things we’re hearing a lot these days is the role that information technology can play in helping students learn content. Whether they’re learning mathematics, English, agriculture, or whatever, technology’s played a larger role in that. But for the 21st century, for a world where the borders matter less, these students need new technology or new skill sets, and critical thinking, complex problem – and [Puni Amishra] I think did it best in this chart. He talks about the things that a student needs to be successful in the 21st century. And in the top chart he talks about what he calls things a student needs to know. They need to know the content information. They need to know the core if they’re learning math, if they’re learning agriculture, if they’re learning English, if they’re learning any language – they need to know that. They also need to understand the cross-disciplinary relationships in their particular field of study, and they also need to be aware and able to communicate in the digital world related to their particular area of content. But he also talks about the meta-knowledge, the things that students now need to be able to do as we have a more connected and globalized world. They need to be more creative. They need to be more innovative. They need to be problem solvers, critical thinkers, and they need to be able to communicate and collaborate better than they have in the past. And when we talk to business leaders such as yourself, what we hear very often is that you’re training the students with the appropriate content – we need students who can collaborate more, who can work as teams. And this is what Puni is saying in terms of the importance of 21st century education.

But I think you see technology focused on the things they need to know and the things they need to do. There’s not as much focus on the need to educate the student on what he calls the humanistic side – the things the students need to value. We need to teach our students to value lifelong learning. No longer do you just go and get your degree, get your job, and you’re your done. The world is changing too quickly for that. Students need to be able to go back and learn the new things as the world evolves, as they evolve, and as their jobs evolve. And students also need to value ethical behavior. We hear throughout the world unethical behaviors. Technology can do a lot to help us do good things, and technology can do a lot to help us do bad things. We need to make sure that the students are educated in issues of ethical behavior, and again in terms of cultural competence. If you look at this conference you have Saudi Arabia, you have the United States getting together, trying to enhance business opportunities, business relationships. What we’re talking about is merging two cultures. If we’re successful, we’ll have more students and businessmen going to Saudi Arabia, we’ll have more students and business leaders coming here. These are two different cultures, and today’s students need to be educated in understanding, appreciating, and valuing different cultures, because if they’re successful they’re going to be working in different cultures around the world.

One of the issues – technology is pervasive – so the question is where should we focus? There are so many areas to focus on in technology, and from my perspective I think the top three in terms of strategic investments would be student access in this country, and I suspect in Saudi Arabia, and we have different levels of accessibility to education. We have students with different levels of preparation; we have students who are further away from expert knowledge than other students. So I think the issue of making sure that accessibility is available for everyone is one of the key things that we should focus on in technology. I think student success also is critical, because at the end of the day no matter how education is delivered or how it’s managed, the goal is to have a successfully educated student. So I think the role of technology in helping support student success is critical, and that again is one of the areas that I think should be a strategic focus.

There will be a discussion later on about the need for technology and STEM education, so I’m just going to skip that part of my discussion.

People USSBOF Hagan Katehi Clemons Hamad BhattJust want to give a few examples of technology enhancing student access, and these again; these are innovative uses of current technology. And I think when we talk about technological innovation we’re talking about new technology, but we’re also talking about taking existing technology and being more innovative in how we use it. On the left hand side, every institution in the world uses online learning, and it’s still an important tool for access. One of the things that we did at Cal State-Dominguez Hills is we mined our data and we discovered several hundred students who came very close to completing a degree but for whatever reason were unable to finish their degree. So we established a program called Project Reconnect where we sent a letter out to several hundred of these students and we basically said these are all the courses you’ve completed, this is all you’re missing to get your degree, and here is how you can accomplish that degree online. And we found that this is a way to bring students back into the university and again it’s using existing technology.

I’m going to wrap up my remarks, I’m going to just jump ahead to a couple of slides that I want to talk about and then I can make do.

This is one of the things that I think is very critical in terms of facilitating student success. It’s called predictive analytics, learning analytics, whatever you call it, but it’s basically saying we have a tremendous amount of data – if you put in ten years of data on your student success, the class, the demographics, you can use that data to predict performance, to identify problem teachers, problem classes, and you can take that data and feed it into the advising system and help students improve their education. So I think that using data to help guide our decision-making is one of the critical things.

So the final thing I’m going to say, because again we’ll have discussion coming up, is this. There’s been a lot of discussion about the role of technology, but I think we also need to remember that we’re dealing with people, young people in many cases, and that a lot of students don’t succeed in education for reasons that have nothing to do with technology – they have personal problems. Students still need advising, they need counseling, they need mentoring, and if you look at the budgets of some institutions they spend more money on technology, on innovative technology, than on the non-technological support services for students. So my recommendation is that as you develop your strategic plans and as you advance them, don’t forget these are students, young minds, and that they have personal problems, and we should spend just as much time and effort on supporting them on that side of the equation.

[Steve Clemons] President Willy Hagan, thank you so much. I really appreciate that you dealt with both the question of technology out there and how education is sort of synthesized in that in changing the thoroughfares, but also to some degree the internal dimension of how technology is changing the opportunity for students, what they do, how they act, and building that in.

I just want to take a quick survey of the audience. How many of you work at firms today that have job openings? How many of you – keep your hands up – how many of you have been unable to fulfill them because you haven’t been able to find qualified people for those jobs? So this is one of the things I’d like to come back to, because you made a very compelling case about lifelong education, about retraining, about making a more dynamic process, and what we often hear about the United States is about the jobs gap, the inability for firms to go in and find people and the products there, and I’ve been intrigued because someone, particularly the Cal State schools, are often talked about as part of the solution for that in bridging between what’s going on in the private sector, what’s going on in the public sector – technology has to be a part of that at some point. So – and when we come back to questions I’d like to …

Now I’d like to jump over the Jay Bhatt, who is President and CEO of Blackboard, who himself is working on these exact issues.

And Jay, I’m going to ask you to use your football voice, loud and – look over here everyone once in a while. May all of you hear this stuff, but we hear about every other word.

[Jay Bhatt] Give me a heads up if it’s a problem. First of all, thank you for having me. Thanks to the esteemed panel for allowing me to be part of it. Really interesting thing, I actually was just at Cal State, in Long Beach yesterday with some of the leadership talking about some of the various similar things you talked about. It’s amazing the agenda the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has in terms of education, so it’s real interesting to hear that, and I’m anxious to hear from the U.C. Davis side as well.

People USSBOF BhattLet me just give you a quick overview of Blackboard to start with, because some of you may not be familiar with the company. We’re a fifteen-year-old company, fourteen/fifteen year old company, about $700 million in size, 3250-3000 thousand employees. We’re the largest pure-play education technology company in the world. When I say pure-play – there are a lot of technology companies that serve the education market, right? I mean, Microsoft – lots of software companies, lots of technology, hardware providers, et cetera. All we do is make technology for the education industry – that’s all we do. We have since our inception.

We’re the only provider of the full gamut of the student and frankly faculty experience on the campus in the K-12 environment from teaching and learning to communications, to security, to services that allow administration to think about new models to develop new enrollment ideas or new outcome results and retention focus. So we’re really focusing on the entire gamete, we’re not just an LMS provider, for those of you that know what that means, or a widget provider. We’re trying to solve the problem of the institution. We’re also the only pure-play education technology company out there that actually serves every component of education from K-12 to higher ED, all the way through to the very, very important adult learner and the emergence of the adult learner. We have seventy-two percent – this stat is not on the slide – seventy-two percent of the world’s top universities use Blackboard solutions. Thirty million or so students everyday are pouring through our system worldwide – thirty million students – so we’re very, very pervasive in the world around use.


Jay Bhatt, President and CEO, Blackboard Inc. – #USSAUDIFORUM from U.S.-Saudi Forum – Los Angeles on Vimeo.


I want to talk about Saudi Arabia. Obviously we all know we’re here because of the rapid economic evolution of Saudi Arabia, as well as the cultural and humanitarian side. It’s one of the fastest growing markets in the world for e-learning, according to the Communication Information Technology Commission, and we’re really focused on helping Saudi Arabia accomplish its goals and its plan. In fact, we’re represented in almost seventy-five percent of the higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia in terms of our technology base, so we’re not unfamiliar with Saudi Arabia and the workflows that are being established on the ground there.

And the partnership is very deep with Saudi Arabia. It didn’t just happen in the last year or two. This is an established partnership that has occurred and a relationship that has occurred over years and years. Like I said, seventy seventy-five percent of the institutions in Saudi Arabia use our software. Primarily we’re in teaching and learning. There’s use of our communication tools, notification tools, interaction tools. There’s use of our security and safety tools for the campus, but a lot of it is around teaching and learning. Institutions like King Saud University with fifty thousand full time enrollees, King Faisal University with one hundred thousand, King Abdulaziz University with fifty thousand enrollees, and the Saudi Electronic University with fifteen thousand and growing enrollees, and many, many others noted on this slide.

People USSBOF BhattSo I wanted to establish that there’s a relationship that’s really interesting what’s going on in Saudi Arabia today on the education front, and I think technology has a really important place in the evolution and transition of Saudi education.

So let me talk about what’s Blackboard is up to a little bit, and then marry it to some of the Saudi initiatives.

First of all about nine months ago we established – we believe that technology companies in the world today are one of the key disrupters to change. I don’t think it’s very arguable at this point that technology and the platforms of technology are driving and facilitating a bunch of change, and so we believe that we need to help to lead, at least on the technology front, around that change. So we established in the last six months a process to predict the future. We’re going to be wrong in a bunch of it, but we felt like – we’re going to thought lead – one of my favorite things to say is we ought to have some thoughts. And so the thoughts that we’ve established are in a manifesto if you will on where we think the industry is going to go. And what I will tell you in that process is we’re seeing a perfect, a perfect storm of change right now, a perfect storm of change driven in some cases by technology, in some cases by the very question of the education system.

One of the – a friend of mine, a person that we had at our conference this year, a guy named [Sugatra Mitra] who did the Hole in the Wall Project in New Delhi and is pretty famous now, a change agent around education system change – Hole in the Wall was placing computers in slums in Delhi and figuring out how they were utilized. He talks about the education system as not broken necessarily like a lot of the articles say, but kind of antiquated – I could use a typewriter to write a paper, but there’s no reason to use a typewriter, right? It’s not a fundamentally good way to do things, and I think the education system built on a structure that was established years ago is not necessarily the structure we need today. And so this perfect storm of change is happening right in front of our eyes, and I think social, mobile, online, analytics, some of the things some of the speakers have talked about already are going to drive some of this change around the end result, in which in most higher education and K12 environments is around the outcome. And so I think you’re going to see a lot of these tools and a lot of these processes applied to education to improve and produce better outcomes.

So I want to talk about in this education 2020 process that we went through, we had six trends that we identified. It’s not rocket science. Many of these things have been written about. I want to drill down on a couple of them – is education truly global, the non-traditional learner, things around consumer preference, discussion around learner-centric platforms, big data in the mainstream – you can’t pick up the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, or Financial Times, or whatever publication and not read about big data broadly in our world and the analytics applied to that big data, and the education industry is not separate from that movement, and it will effect the education industry. And finally online and mobile. I’m going to drill down on a couple of these trends as it relates to what’s going on on the ground in Saudi Arabia to talk a little bit about how they’re manifesting.

The first one I want to talk about is the non-traditional learner. Let’s talk about the U.S. for a moment. Fifteen percent of U.S. higher education enrollees today are traditional learners, traditional learners being physical presence on the campus in four year programs. Eighty-five percent of students today are considered non-traditional learners, and that trend is affecting every country in the world including Saudi Arabia. So what is Saudi Arabia doing about it? One of the things they’re doing about it – let me talk about King Faisal University, which is a partner of our, its a very heavy user of our technology. One of the things they’re doing is they’re establishing a base of distance learning around non-traditional learning methodologies and they’re using technology to drive it. So today, eighty percent of the enrollees at King Faisal University are distance learners in a non-traditional way. And that has come from, in 2009, five thousand students – I’m sorry, eighty percent of the student base – five thousand to almost eighty thousand students at King Faisal today are now non-traditional learners over a four year period. So you can see the rapid evolution in change that that university in partnership with Blackboard has driven. A large reason why they were able to accelerate so quickly I think is because of that close relationship that we’ve had with that university around the use of technology.

So let me talk about a second trend around online and mobile everywhere. And we all know that online and mobile is everywhere. It’s all around us, we use it everyday. It’s not any different in higher ED. Online in higher ED has tripled since 2003. Thirty percent of all enrollees and enrollments are fundamentally focused in the online environment – that’s a 10x growth rate. And so let’s talk about that trend in the constrict of Saudi Learning University, which is a university that has about fifteen thousand enrollees today, but it wants to be one hundred and fifty thousand in five years – a ten time increase – and my guess is it will get there. How are they going to do it? Well they’re working with Blackboard to implement technologies to deliver learning in a fundamentally focused, e-learning first methodology. And so what they’re doing is they’re implementing mobile and analytics and online. We’re helping them deliver virtual classrooms and video on demand, allowing education to be delivered anywhere anytime. So how do you get from fifteen thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand online enrollees over a five-year period? You get very aggressive with your technology base, and that’s what Saudi U is doing.

So I want to talk about K12, and I put this picture up – it happens to be my fourteen-year-old daughter, so forgive me, and I’m not here, it has nothing to do with her, it just happens – this is a picture of a thirteen-year-old in the U.S. – thirteen at the time, fourteen now – going to middle school everyday, walking out of the house 7 a.m. in the morning. She’s got her iPhone in her hand, which was free with the family program, right? Mobile devices are – seventy-six percent of twelve to seventeen-year-olds own a mobile device today. Seventy-six percent. Looking at Instagram, hitting texts, hitting Wikipedia for information and content, but our school system is forcing her to interact with her backpack to educate her. That is a fundamental problem in the education system. That picture is a fundamental problem, because that student does not want to interact with that physical text. They don’t want to interact with the way, the methodology of the education system in the past. This is a very, very important thing that we as a culture, a worldwide culture have to deal with because generations are transitioning so quickly today, my fourteen-year-old daughter thinks differently about digital content than my nine-year-old daughter. My nine-year-old daughter grew up with an iPad and an e-reader and she’s very facile with text. She’d rather actually go through her physical text, but she wants to actually learn in her device. So there’s this very quick, very short generation transition around teaching and learning and education.

The consumerization of the student is happening at the K12 level, preference is being created around education systems, around content delivery, around how they want to learn early in one’s life, and we have to catch them there. I know the government of Saudi Arabia is very focused on the K12 system. I’m anxious to talk to some of the officials here on what you’re doing around that. What I can tell you is the tools that we offer in K12, things like teaching and learning tools through mobile devices, things like communication tools where that very important parent-student-faculty triumvirate of interaction has to be considered in K12, which is very different than higher Ed, which doesn’t have that triumvirate relationship very much. Those are all things that we’re considering in our portfolio. So I really wanted to call this out because all of the trends I just mentioned, online, mobile, distance learning, digitization of content, things like that are affecting our K12 students, and that’s something we’re going to have to deal with over the next five years.

So I want to close by – and I went over a little bit too, so I’m sorry – but I want to close by saying the e-learning initiatives worldwide are exciting. We’re in a very interesting time in the world of education. I started my career – I’m the CEO of a big company – but I started my career as a sixth grade math teacher. I’m very passionate about education; I’m very passionate about change. I could have never imagined twenty-five years ago that we would be in this whirlwind of change around technology and education and system change, and we are. And I think what’s really exciting about being here at this conference is I think between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia there is a lot of embracing and acknowledgment of a changed system, and a need to touch that changed system and rethink the model. Blackboard stands ready to help. We’ve already shown that I think to Saudi Arabia, we’ve shown that it the United States. We’re excited to be apart of that change, and thank you very much for your attention.

[Steve Clemons] Thank you, Jay Bhatt with Blackboard. So you’re teaching us how blackboards that we used to know are not really about the blackboards of tomorrow, which really raises the interesting question, and we’re going to move to Linda Katehi who has been for four years the Chancellor of U.C. Davis, on whether a campus is a campus anymore. To some degree you’re creating such a dynamic change in how we think about education, how we reach students. You’re seeing things like EDEX, and it raises the fundamental question of whether all of the bricks and mortar places that the Vice Minister is responsible for are really all that necessary. Maybe you can save some money on the budget. Anyway. Linda Katehi is next. Linda.

[Linda Katehi] Thank you. This is a very interesting question that you are posing, and one that has been and is debated very broadly in the U.S. And if I may, I will respond to your question, but also I don’t want to forget the issue of innovation, and how innovation is practiced, and how innovation is taught or encouraged in higher education. So let me start with that, and then I guess I will respond to your question at the same time.

So higher education in the U.S. – and I’m speaking as a chancellor of one of the U.C. universities, it’s a land grant university. What it means is that it was created about one hundred and fifty years ago not just to educate the public but also to create the workforce for that economy which was an agricultural economy in the mid-1800s.


Linda Katehi, Chancellor, University of California – Davis – #USSAUDIFORUM from U.S.-Saudi Forum – Los Angeles on Vimeo.


In today’s environment in the U.S. we have a knowledge-driven economy, which implies that as we are thinking about not just educating the public but also creating the workforce, what you find out is that it is extremely important that this workforce is very innovative, that the students that we are educating and the professionals we are training know how to become innovative in their own environments, how to practice it, and how to create new products and services.

People USSBOF Education Plenary Linda KatehiThis is not a new challenge for the research university in the U.S. – it is an old challenge because we always had to think about the needs of the economy and how to create the appropriate people. So innovation. How do you create innovators? You need individuals who are creative, who are curious, who have the ability to challenge the technology tradition or the tradition in science or in their own fields and who have the ability to synthesize new solutions. And those are not skills that can be taught in the universities. These are skills that need to be nurtured and developed at a very early age. Now, you can develop those skills without having an e-environment, and electronic environment. These are very fundamental human qualities that need to be developed. Having said that I’m going to your question.

The campus is in place not because we had no means to train individuals’ long distance. If you remember in the 80s we had these long video courses. There was extension in the 70s and 80s with old technologies obviously, but there was extension and it was very strong. As a matter of fact I remember when I was an assistant professor at the University of Michigan one of the early courses that I taught was taken by students who were – well, students from my course – but professionals who were working for the automotive industry, and they were taking these real time through a TV connection from their own places. So that concept was always there. Yes granted the technology today makes it much easier, makes it asynchronous, you can do it from home, you can do it from wherever you are, you can do it from India, China, you can do it from Europe.

However the campus is in place because for innovation to be taught in practice requires an ecosystem. You cannot be one person in isolation and become an innovator because you’ve learned a few things. You need to work with others, you need to interact, you need to debate solutions, and you need to have the means to practice that curiosity that you have. And do you also have a community that will judge the quality of what you’ve developed, that will assess and review the quality of what you’ve developed.

You don’t learn those things in isolation. You need mentoring, you need your colleagues, you need your faculty, you need the place where you can go and do those things while you also grow as a person. In the age between 17 and 22 the brain probably has the largest growth in terms of the ability of individuals to make reasonable decisions, to reason themselves and to make decisions about themselves and about their communities. And that is what the campus really provides.

So while there has been a lot of discussion about getting rid of the campuses – people think that online will really save so much money at the universities because you will not have any more to put your money into brick and mortar – in reality online is going to change the way we educate our students, the way we interact, but it will not take away the need to be together, to learn together, and to practice the skills that need to be in place for people to innovate.

[Steve Clemons] Thank you. Do you have further?

[Linda Katehi] I have further if you want me.

[Steve Clemons] I am so shocked that you’re giving six minutes back to me. That’s innovative in and of itself. But let me just then ask you one question, because this innovation question and the ecosystem – we’re talking about technology and education. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, visited many of the universities, I’ve looked at what they’re doing to try to incentivize things like nanotechnology, and I completely agree with you that the ecosystem matters, so it’s partnerships with the government, the National Science Foundation, the states and what they bring together, the private sector.

And when I was dealing with exactly this question of technological innovation from a Washington perspective in the 1990s, we were worried that investments in basic R&D by both the private sector and the public sector were declining and that parts of this ecosystem were eroding. Do you feel that the United States – we won’t go to Saudi Arabia – but do you feel the United States is not tending that ecosystem very well compared to what it used to, and should there be red flags out about that?

[Linda Katehi] Absolutely, and in fact the reports that my colleague presented were developed in response to that need. For so many years we have seen reductions in the percentage of the GDP that goes back to research, basic fundamental research which is so critical in trying to create the foundation that you need on which innovation will happen, and obviously the foundation and innovation you need so your economy will thrive.

And the U.S. really faces a very serious at this point crisis, and I will consider this to be a bigger crisis in online to higher education that we are not necessarily attending to develop this ecosystem that is so much needed to provide what our economy needs so that it thrives in our country, so that it remains globally very competitive economically speaking.

People USSBOF Education Plenary Hagan Katehi Clemons Hamad BhattI truly believe that the reasons you see so many hands in the audience of individuals who work for companies that cannot find enough people to work for them is because we have not necessarily supported STEM education. Now there has been a major change that has taken place, and I’m very happy about this in relation to common cause and how STEM is going to be taught in K through 12, but for years that had been deemphasized or it was done the wrong way. There was no emphasis on how to educate from a very, very early age up until the twelfth grade when really you make the transition to college to educate students so they are ready to come and be creative, and also there has not been attention to sustaining our investment in fundamental research which is so critical because it has driven really everything.

It’s driven electronics, and we know that all of this, the access to the software and the hardware that we have today is because there were fundamental ideas that were created in the 60s and 70s and 80s, and most of them out of funding that was provided by the federal government. And all of this seems to be going away, and a lot of chancellors and presidents have signed a letter to President Obama really emphasizing the crisis that we see our nation is going through, which is primarily deemphasizing the investments that need to be made, so we have a future that is equivalent at least to our past.

[Steve Clemons] Fascinating. I want to come to the vice minister and pose a similar question on this question of what it takes to build an innovative workforce and economy, so forget the earlier question I asked you, this is mainly driven from the chancellor because I think it’s very important.

She said that really the ecosystem needs to promote creative, curious people challenging paradigms, and that is absolutely so fundamental to the innovation dynamic. And when I was in Saudi Arabia two things became very clear, that Saudi Arabia really needs an innovative class that whether it’s in energy, thinking through every dimension of energy past what exists today, whether it’s in renewables, this is a very big investment of the Kingdom, but also there are many people in Saudi Arabia thinking about the post-fossil fuel futures, sort of other areas and that’s what I think when the King and others were involved with nanotechnology and whatnot. So I guess as a cultural norm, as something you try to instill in young people both men and women, are you putting as a high priority creativity, curiosity, challenging paradigms?

[Hamad Al-Sheikh] Let me go back to your first question, and it’s not really an answer more than more of an explanation. I would agree with Princess Loulwah al Faisal regarding that we are overeducating our youth. In one dimension that about ninety-four percent of our graduates from high school go to university, and this is, if you look at any educational system, higher educational system, usually the percentage is between forty to sixty. And the rest are getting into more vocational training and into the labor market or looking for jobs.

On the other side of your question what is our responsibilities towards our students, I think it comes in a different way. In general education we are responsible for providing them with the education that gives them the skills that enable them to enter in any international university such that they can succeed in their life. We’re also responsible for giving them the values that also enable them to be a good international citizen, to love their country, to love doing good in their community.
These kinds are very much things that cannot just be taken electronically. They need to be taught traditionally through classrooms and outside classrooms.

At the university level our responsibility I would think is to give them an international standard education, a higher education that enables them to go into any kind of job market and be capable and provided with the skills and knowledge that enable him to work in any kind of international job market. And this is a task that needs a dynamic educational system, a system that checks its quality through proper methods and makes sure that it’s really in roof over time because educational system, in the past it used to be somewhat static at let’s say the undergraduate level. Now it’s becoming very dynamic and changing the environment.

Now going back to your question let me start with talking about the dynamic job requirement that has been occurring in the world as a whole. We have seen that people change their job every four years, and every four years almost it requires – the same job that used to be four years ago now requires a little bit different set of skills and training and professional development. So the job market is really dynamic, it’s not static, therefore – and this is with introduction and development of technology application and the penetration of the use of technology in the society, and the complementarity between different aspects of institutions to provide a good service or deliver a better good to the society.

So I would think we need in that case to provide the educational system, be it electronic or blended to all people to give them the opportunity to be educated whether it’s general education or higher education at all times in all locations. However, there are certain educations or lets say skills and knowledge that cannot be acquired from distance. You cannot teach a student to write in elementary school by iPad. He has to take the lesson, he has to write and practice and be corrected. Similarly if you are talking about experiments, he has to go and do the experiments; similarly if you’re talking about medicine. However, introduction of e-learning blended programs, modules, reduces the cost of traditional learning, and also provide the traditional learning with materials that improve its ability for teaching and learning. So I think they do not contradict each other – however, they compliment.

[Steve Clemons] That was beautiful. Thank you. I’m going to stop you there. We have two minutes folks. I don’t know how we’re going to do this because I want to get my other people in. So give me back one minute from your side and we’ll try and do this. I believe in always taking questions from the audience. We have some questions that have been suggested that you guys have sent in that I have here right now. And the one I’m going to ask is one that talks about with distance learning how do you avoid fraud to insure that students are actually learning the subject and not using a proxy.

It’s an interesting question, but I’m going to change it. I’m going to change it because I think that one of the great debates in education today all around the world is the debate between credentialing and learning, and what are you learning, what are people coming through, and what this question implies is that people want to cheat. In other words they want to cheat, that it’s not an earnest, conscious process to try and learn, it’s rather the need for a credential and a sign off.

And I’d love to just get a quick response here on this tension here. Do the technologies that have come forward, are they robust enough to deal with that problem of credentialing. And on the other side of the question which is more interesting to me in terms of how do you generation smart, innovative, creative stakeholders in civil society. Does technology, as you see it, enhance that ability? And if you could give me just your headlines. Zingers.

[Jay Bhatt] Starting with the second – caveat is I am not a social anthropologist, I’m not a human behavioral scientist, but I do run large organizations, and I have tried to transition people that are not innovative to thinking innovatively, and one of the biggest things that I think is critically important and our education system probably could do better, certainly we at corporate America can is to allow people to be comfortable failing. If there’s fear to fail –

[Steve Clemons] I want to emphasize that – people need to become comfortable failing.

[Jay Bhatt] Yes, and we have to reward and acknowledge the failures as human, and it’s okay to fail. In my organizations what I found is people who don’t innovate – there are a certain set of, and again this is the human behavioral and cultural anthropology that I’m not an expert in – but there are certain people that are not able to innovate. They’re not wired that way. They don’t think in an innovative way but there are a lot of people afraid to fail, and they could. So I would say that.

The second thing I would say is on the credentialing point – I think the big question, and I thought about it when you asked that question, you asked people who has job openings – I think one of the things that we should be talking about particularly in higher education is what does a course stand for and what does a degree stand for? Or are we really looking at competency-based systems.

Our employers – if I get a degree, if I’m hiring somebody from a school what does that degree really tell me? Are they an expert in the things I’m actually hiring them for? Would it be better to break down the competencies that they learned? Determine what mastery of competency is so I can have a pre-qualified employee coming in that I know will perform immediately. I think that’s something that the education system is looking at. We certainly are in our technology.

[Steve Clemons] Thank you, Jay. Willy Dominguez, your thoughts on the same question.

[Willy Hagan] Well I think part of the issue requires that the business community have a stronger dialogue with education because the more that we have an understanding of the kinds of leagues they have – we talk about accessibility, quality, and affordability but what’s being added to that now is accountability and outcome assessment. Are we getting the education we thought we were when we started teaching the teachers? Are we training people for the fields that the business folks say they need? And when all those hands went up one of the questions I would want to ask them is if you have jobs, and you feel the education system isn’t creating appropriate students, what are you doing to come in and talk with the institutions?

What are you also doing to talk with the political leaders because there’s a tremendous amount of demand, but there’s been a big disinvestment in higher education in this country. One of the strategic plans put forth by the United States was put on hold because of this recent recession. So we need our business leaders making sure the political leaders understand education is a priority and putting pressure on them, and also working with the institutions.

One of the more successful things that we’ve had happen is working with companies like Northrup-Grumman to have partnerships where they take our students into their company and they say this is what we need you to know when you get out. And it gives everyone a chance to get a better feel of where the business world and education link up. But we also have to keep in mind that educating for the workforce, while critical, is not the only reason students pursue an education.

People USSBOF Education Plenary Clemons Bhatt Hamad Al Sheikh Hagan

[Steve Clemons] Chancellor, any final thoughts?

[Linda Katehi] There is a lot that can be done in fact to address the needs we have. And as a matter of fact I also think since this is a portal to understand collaboration, possible collaborations between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. at least in higher education there are tremendous opportunities that we have to develop a learning environment that will allow our students to become more exposed to new opportunities, to different types of working habits, to different cultures and so forth.

So internationalizing, and that’s what I’m going to leave you with, that internationalizing higher education is absolutely critical for the education of our students as well as the education of other international students. I think universities, not international universities like the U.C. and many universities in Saudi Arabia, are preparing the workforce for the world and not for their own countries anymore.

A lot of our students, many of these companies here are international companies. They are recruiting our students and they are sending them to all different places around the world. Saudi Arabia is doing the same. A lot of the students who find themselves in high positions either within their government or within their corporations are going all over the world to really work for their company, so it is absolutely critical that we find a way to accelerate those interactions, to find ways to encourage our students to explore internships or educational opportunities to other places around the world, and I think that is going to be critical, and provides many opportunities for collaboration with Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

[Steve Clemons] Well thank you very much.


Additional Information:

Logo SUSRIS 300