Luminus Education | Customer Success | D2L Middle East & Africa
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Luminus Education

Supporting students in crisis


Luminus Education empowers thousands of refugees and vulnerable students by accelerating the launch of its online learning platform

Luminus Education

Client: Luminus Education
Learners: 6,000 junior and senior high school students
Industry: Higher Education
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Platform/Features

  • D2L’s Brightspace platform
  • Pulse mobile app

Interviewees

  • Ibrahim Safadi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer
  • Shatha Naser, Chief Information Officer

Highlights

  • Launched a fully virtual college five years ahead of the company’s business plan
  • Made education accessible for some of the region’s most disadvantaged students
  • Created a platform for transforming education in a post-COVID-19 world
Luminus Education Logo

Institution

When the COVID-19 emergency hit the Middle East, most universities were forced to close their doors, leaving students with no way to continue their education. Luminus Education stepped up to fill the gap by rolling out online services to over 6,000 students—including thousands of Syrian refugees—in a matter of weeks.

"Many of our students don’t have access to a personal laptop, but they almost all have smartphones. D2L’s web platform is fully mobile-responsive, and together with Pulse mobile app, they had by far the strongest mobile solution on the market."

Shatha Naser, Chief Information Officer, Luminus Education

Challenge

Designing a new vision of education

Since it was established in 2007, Luminus Education has followed the vision of its founder and CEO, Jordanian entrepreneur Ibrahim Safadi.

Based on his own experience of higher education in the Middle East, Mr. Safadi identified a worrying pattern. Students often graduate from university without having learned the skills that they need in the workplace, which damages their career prospects. To solve this problem, Luminus Education was founded to focus on a more vocational model of education, with employability as a central goal.

“What is it that the market needs?” asks Mr. Safadi.

“That’s the question we are constantly asking ourselves, because our vision is to always provide the skills that our students need to gain work and uplift their livelihoods.”

As a result of the civil war in neighboring Syria, Jordan is now home to many Syrian refugees. Luminus wanted to focus particularly on supporting this refugee population and other low-income students in Jordan and across the region, as well as empowering groups who traditionally lack easy access to education, such as disabled people and women with young children. The organization’s dedication to tackling these issues has earned the support of many international partners, including UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID, and the European Union.

From 2017 onward, Luminus began planning a fully virtual college that would give all these groups easy access to vocational education online. In the organization’s business plan, the virtual college was planned to go live in 2021 and gradually expand to a population of several thousand students by 2023-2025.

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region in early 2020, those plans had to change—fast.

students with uniform

Solution

Accelerating access to online learning

Luminus Education had already built the technology platform to support its virtual college. The end-toend education system not only manages student information and provides a comprehensive virtual learning environment, but it also connects students with employers throughout the region.

“D2L was the top choice for the learning management component of our platform,” comments Shatha Naser, CIO of Luminus Education. “Many of our students don’t have access to a personal laptop, but they almost all have smartphones. D2L’s web platform is fully mobile-responsive, and together with Pulse mobile app, they had by far the strongest mobile solution on the market. Moreover, D2L’s mission to transform learning and their focus on competency-based education align well with our mission of helping students develop career-relevant skills.”

After working with D2L, local partner Naseej, and several other technology vendors to get the platform up and running, Luminus was able to pivot away from its original plan for a gradual rollout of its online services. Instead, it launched its virtual college almost overnight, using the scalability of the D2L platform to onboard large numbers of students in a matter of days.

“We had literally no downtime. As soon as the government announced that everyone had to work from home, we started a live pilot with 2,000 students within a week, and then moved all our degrees and short courses over to the platform the following week.” Shatha Naser, Chief Information Officer, Luminus Education.

Mr. Safadi adds: “Our main concern was not whether the platform would work, but whether our students would have enough data allowance on their cellphones to use it! Within a few days, we purchased 100GB of data credit for each student and gave it to them to ensure that they could study effectively and that their families could also stay connected.”

At the same time, the Luminus team shipped laptops to its teachers and began an accelerated training program. While work is still ongoing to adapt the curriculum for online teaching, the D2L platform has helped by providing live dashboards for student and teacher feedback, which enables the team to resolve technical issues quickly.

Ms. Naser comments: “We have been consistently impressed with D2L, in terms of the technology, the quick response from the delivery team, and the ongoing international collaboration and creativity to keep us up to speed with new features. We are always happy with D2L.”

"We have been able to respond to the crisis more quickly and more comprehensively than many of the traditional universities in the region."

Ibrahim Safadi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Luminus Education

Result

Opening up opportunities

Within just a few weeks of COVID-19 hitting Jordan, Luminus Education was able to offer a fully operational online learning platform for over 6,000 students—more than half of whom are refugees or members of other disadvantaged groups.

“We have been able to respond to the crisis more quickly and more comprehensively than many of the
traditional universities in the region,” says Mr. Safadi.
“That’s not surprising, because we see the future of education very differently from other institutions.”

For Luminus, education mobility is the key goal: building the potential of young people, regardless of
their socioeconomic background, and uplifting their skills to help them find a productive career and play a positive role in society.

“Technology gives us the opportunity to reach new groups of students and help them learn in
new ways—solving many of the problems with access to education that we see today. D2L and our other partners give us the agility we need to find solutions as fast as the needs of our society
continue to evolve.” Ibrahim Safadi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Luminus Education.

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Fueling up:

Upskilling to grow careers

Name: Zaria
Age: 27

Policy prescriptions: Invest in a Learning-Integrated Life; Transform the learning of today with new partnerships; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Zaria has five years of work experience and is ready to change jobs and enter a field that has high growth potential in her region. The national government has been investing in collecting better skills-based labour market information for years and has developed a public platform to offer individuals specialized tools to assess their skills against current market needs, and to locate employers that are currently hiring.

On the employer side, the human resources team is closely examining a recent internal skills audit done at their organization and determines that the organization needs additional digital marketing specialists. They initiate a search for individuals with the skills they will soon need and spot a strong candidate in Zaria who requires only light training on regulatory issues regarding the sale of electric vehicles, along with some formal skills development courses on social media marketing strategy. After a successful interview, Zaria is offered the job.

Upon joining, Zaria will receive an educational benefits stipend from the company, and access to a company-provided platform of curated programs for skills building from approved providers. Upon completion of a set of courses, Zaria will receive a credential from a company approved program verifying her technical knowledge and marking the end of her probationary period at the company. To ensure she continues to build her skills, she will move into a formal mentor program with one of her colleagues to receive continual peer-to-peer feedback on her demonstration of skills and knowledge. information

This affordable and accessible learning through employer-funded training has enabled Zaria to begin working while also upskilling to ensure her long-term success in the company and growing industry. The employer is investing in its employees, and company leaders are thinking further into the future about the skills the company needs, and the types of job candidates who will succeed. This match, based on skills potential, was made possible because of government investment in high-quality labour market information and a national platform that matches job candidates with career opportunities based on the candidates’ skills and the identified skill needs of a given job.

Taking the road less travelled:

A networked postsecondary education

Name: Sam
Age: 18

Policy prescriptions: Transform the learning of today with new partnerships

Sam is a prospective postsecondary student who has always been interested in pursuing a global and interdisciplinary education. Sam’s siblings have all instilled in her the importance of studying abroad, having spoken fondly of their academic exchange semesters, field research trips, and intensive language immersion programs. She is inspired, but unsure whether this pathway will be available if she chooses not to complete a four-year degree at one institution.

Sam is interested in understanding how emerging technologies can be used to modernize and improve government services—an area in need of talent not only in her home country of Canada but also abroad. She could take on a general political science, public administration, engineering, or computer science degree at the university close to her home, but none of those degrees feels like the right fit to build the skills she needs to pursue this career interest.

While researching options, Sam learns of a new degree completion pathway that allows students to take courses from a network of universities, colleges, and polytechnic institutions throughout Canada and stack them for skills-based  credentials that are recognized by major Canadian employers. A set of four of these credentials grants an individual a degree-equivalent endorsed by each institution. Sam identifies the skills and knowledge she wants to work towards and charts out four credential pathways:

  1. Service delivery design
  2. Change management
  3. Applications of emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence)
  4. Machinery of government

With this customized learning pathway, Sam has full flexibility to decide how she wants to structure her courses, the institutions within the network she will study at, and the format and model of courses she prefers—whether live in-class instruction or online courses.

Cost flexibility is built in as well—students pay a standard fee based on the number of competencies they intend to learn rather than the normal standard of ‘credit hours’. The province in which Sam lives has endorsed this networked model of  postsecondary education and adjusted its financial assistance program to better support students. Grants and other non-repayable assistance take into consideration the number of courses the student is taking across all institutions when assessing financial need. Previously, Sam would have been required to be a full-time student at every institution to receive support.

Sam also has the option of starting with foundational courses or applying for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) information so her existing knowledge and skills can be tested and she can move on to more advanced topics.

Sam completes her first three credentials in three years and uses her certifications to apply for a one-year work-integrated learning experience with the federal government in Germany where she can learn first-hand about the applications of artificial intelligence in government. When she returns home, she applies for PLAR to certify her learning on the machinery of government and is granted a degree acknowledging her four-part customized education.

The collaboration between universities, polytechnics, and colleges to create a networked approach to degree completion, and its endorsement by the provincial government, allowed Sam to graduate as an alumnus of multiple postsecondary education institutions. Her exposure to different thought spaces and networks was highly valuable for ensuring she was engaged throughout her education and set up for post-graduation success. In the rapidly evolving field she has chosen, she understands how important it is to continuously upskill, and is prepared to return to formal education for more stackable credentials as she continues throughout her career.

Route guidance:

Personalized professional development

Name: ZheYuan
Age: 33

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

ZheYuan is about to join Marama’s school as a new secondary school teacher. He completed his professional teacher education a decade ago, and teaching looks a bit different today than it did when he was studying. With the incorporation of learning technologies in the classroom, and expectations of teachers delivering competency-based education information, he needs personalized professional development to feel comfortable and supported in this new opportunity.

The school district has been on its own learning journey since shifting to a competency-based education model, and has had some growing pains. Over time, the district has come to recognize that success depends on school administrators working closely with teachers to co-create systems of instruction, and pathways to professional development. The district has its own online learning management system (LMS) for teacher professional development, with a catalogue of content covering a range of subjects including:

  • Strategies for student-centred instruction
  • Design thinking—how to prototype and iterate on solutions to test new approaches
  • Online content—using learning management systems to advance competency-based education
  • Data analysis—interpreting student progress

ZheYuan is excited that he can take on professional learning to suit his needs on his own schedule. He recalls an earlier time when he had to spend nine hours a month in-person taking the same professional development courses as his peers who were teaching very different subjects and had varied skill levels and pedagogical needs than him, which was less than effective.

ZheYuan can also take advantage of his teacher community in the LMS, connecting both in asynchronous chats and in live discussions with other teachers and experts from across his region to ask questions and share his experiences. He sees some upcoming dialogues hosted by his school district to share learnings and signs up for those sessions, knowing he will get a valuable peer perspective from other teachers. ZheYuan is thankful that his school leaders recognize and value professional learning and provide the supports and the time needed for improvement.

D2L Whitepaper Contributors

Lead Authors:
Malika Asthana, Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs
Joe Pickerill, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, International

Contributors:
Jeremy Auger, Chief Strategy Officer
Mark Schneiderman, Senior Director, Future of Teaching and Learning
Brendan Desetti, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, United States
Mike Semansky, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, Canada
Nia Brown, Senior Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs

In the driver’s seat:

Owning the personalized learning journey

Name: Marama
Age: 14

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Marama is enrolled in a school with a competency-based education model information. Students are responsible for owning the personalization of their learning pathways, making choices alongside their teachers in how and when they learn.iii Teachers play a central role in guiding and validating all learning, regardless of where it takes place—offering formative assessments to evaluate a student’s mastery of skills and knowledge. Teachers use data from these assessments, gathered through an online learning management system (LMS), to differentiate instruction and provide targeted supports so that all students progress toward graduation. As a student diagnosed with a learning disability, Marama is supported in her education by this personalized learning pathway.

All students complete an assessment in ninth grade to identify their natural strengths as a learner. Their teachers use the results as inputs to design tailormade educational pathways with learning materials and activities that suit the individual students’ learning needs. In Marama’s case, this includes:

  1. Supplementing lecture-based teaching with structured but independent reading
  2. Shadowing professionals who work on the concepts she is learning about
  3. Taking the stories and lessons she’s learned and sharing it back with classmates by designing a creative and interactive presentation

Over the course of the school year, Marama spends a third of her time in live lectures (sometimes online) with her teacher alongside other classmates—but the rest of her time is spent learning in the ways that suit her best. She can log into her online LMS from her mobile device to access her school resources and complete on her own schedule before the assigned deadline. When Marama finds a concept that interests her, she can ask her teachers and counsellor for support in finding a working professional to speak to, or work alongside for a couple weeks, from the network her school has curated over time. And when she has learned something, she is encouraged to reinforce her learning by applying her skills and developing content to share back with her classmates.

Marama’s personalized learning journey empowers her to own her education by learning in ways that are effective for her, with the support that allows her to be successful. Her teachers have high-quality data about student strengths and performance they can share with her parents to show them how she is mastering specific skills, and where she may need extra support. Her school experience empowers her to embrace her subject interests very early on, and she advances to deeper topics quickly as she submits evidence of learning that demonstrates her proficiency. She graduates having cultivated a mindset for self-directed learning early in her education.