Thursday, April 21, 2022

Al-Quds University offers a competitive edge with Microsoft Certifications

Al-Quds University (AQU), a research-oriented Arab Palestinian institution in Jerusalem, is actively pursuing a strategy that includes working with Microsoft to help ensure that its students graduate with the cutting-edge technical skills that the modern workplace requires. To keep up with the pace of global digital transformation, Dr. Radwan Qasrawi, Director of the Business Center for Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (BCITE) at AQU, points to the establishment of the Technology Innovation Center, which combines academic rigor with practical on-the-job experience. The goal is to give students a headstart on their careers. 


The leaders at AQU’s BCITE are always looking for ways to improve digital skills among students and staff. In addition to establishing the training academy led by Mrs. Hana Shabaneh, the energetic Head of the Information Technology Department Dual Studies program and lecturer at AQU, Qasrawi wants to “establish a real digital transformation in teaching methods.” He’s working with Microsoft to help ensure the rapid integration of Microsoft fundamentals certifications content and learning experiences into course offerings, building on the success of Shabaneh’s program. For example, incorporating Dynamics 365 certification offerings into the Digital Business Dual Studies program would bring real-world skills training to students. Making certification courses available for academic credit is part of the plan.


Shabaneh points to the establishment of the Dual Studies program, which combines academic rigor with practical on-the-job experience. The goal is to give students a headstart on their careers. She pioneered the concept of offering training for Microsoft Certifications to her students. She explains, “To be competitive, we’ve found that students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in IT need a lot of practical experience. Companies expect more than just academic knowledge.”


This program’s innovative and inclusive approach includes collaboration with Microsoft Learn for Educators to incorporate training for industry-recognized Microsoft Certifications into the curriculum for the benefit of its students. The Microsoft Learn for Educators program provides all higher education institutions with access to free curriculum, faculty training, and tools for teaching. It also offers support for AQU educators, including certification-aligned course materials, lab benefits, free fundamentals practice and certification exams for students, curriculum integration support, and course delivery prep sessions led by Microsoft Technical Trainers. This program has been adopted by educators around the globe who are using Microsoft curriculum and teaching materials to augment their students’ courses of study and to validate the technical skills that those students need to be successful across a variety of careers.


Ramping up the Microsoft Certification program

While working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shabaneh earned a Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals certification by passing Exam AI-900, utilizing the free training and certification vouchers provided to faculty through the Microsoft Learn for Educators program. When she returned to campus, she was excited to offer students a training course for Azure AI Fundamentals certification using Microsoft Learn and the educator resource materials from Microsoft Learn for Educators. She remembers that a high point for the students was using the labs. “They really learned a lot through this hands-on experience,” recalls Shabaneh. “Microsoft provides a really connected solution for the labs—from the online portal to the written instructions in the handbook.”


Rami Abu-Khader, an educator at Al-Quds University with a passion for AI, worked with Shabaneh on the training and saw firsthand the students’ enthusiasm as they embraced AI fundamentals. He observes, “Students value certification because any company that sees Microsoft Certification on your résumé will see you as a skilled person. This can give you an advantage over people without certification when you’re looking for employment.”


Shabaneh plans to incorporate Microsoft Certification training into her “Special Topics for IT” elective courses. Students have been clamoring for more Azure AI Fundamentals training and other foundational training for Azure, like Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals (Exam AZ-900). In addition, she wants to offer Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals (Exam PL-900) as part of her web programming course for first-year students. She knows that for businesses, these certifications on a graduate’s résumé validate much-needed skills in the digital economy.


Focusing on the future

BCITE is reaching out to recent graduates who are struggling to find work in these difficult times. Qasrawi wants to offer them training, like the AI Fundamentals certification training that Shabaneh provided, to validate their skills and to help improve their chances for employment.


BCITE is continuously looking for creative employment solutions for AQU students in the global marketplace. Qasrawi reports, “Recently we signed an agreement with the European Union to support a program that's going to train almost 400 students. We will direct students toward Microsoft technology and professional certification so they can really have better job opportunities.”


For Qasrawi, the next step in the collaboration with Microsoft Learn for Educators is to ramp up training for more AQU educators. He concludes, “We want to invest in the instructors and the teachers, to help them learn how to use this new technology. By teaching the teachers and getting them on board with integrating Microsoft technology within the curriculum, we can speed up the process of digital transformation for our students.”

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