Name: Ali Elgayar

University: University of Benghazi

Subject area: Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Particular interests: Electrical Power Engineering, Transmission Lines, Renewable and Sustainable Energy. In addition, interested in the quality of higher education and the international cooperation.

Dr. Ali El Gayar has been a close university partner of the DAAD for many years. At the University of Benghazi, he has a wide range of tasks and is also responsible for establishing and consolidating the international cooperation.

  1. At University of Benghazi, you are responsible for quality assurance, among other things. What challenges are you facing in view of the current corona crisis?

For decades, the education system in Libya was based on traditional methods, which rely mainly on the teacher in overcrowded classrooms. The Libyan education system relied too much on lectures and memorization, and not enough on projects and essays that are the result of analytic thinking and that show students can synthesize knowledge. Before 2020, a few lone advocates of online education encountered heavy resistance, and universities with E-learning programs cannot win the right to get their students’ degrees recognized in Libya. Therefore, switching to other teaching methods such as E-learning was not possible before the outbreak of the Corona pandemic.

In the absence of alternative educational methods and the lack of technical and technological educational means, universities have been officially closed for a period of 6 months (from March 2020 to September 2020). The Ministry of Education in Libya imposed difficult conditions for the reopening of universities, including reducing the number of students to 15 per classroom, despite the fact some of these classes include hundreds of students.

Before the corona virus pandemic, E-learning and remote teaching were not officially recognized in the Libyan education system. The forced campus closings have spurred efforts to develop online teaching and E-learning. The closure of universities in Libya is forcing them to plan greater investments in their online capacity, even as it pushes professors with old-school attitudes to open up to new technologies. Benghazi university and most of Libyan universities decided to shift to E-learning despite the difficulties and challenges. Laws and legislation in Libya restricted the use of E-learning, this was one of the biggest challenges for Libyan universities, in addition to the limitation of financial and technical capabilities. The weakness of infrastructure included the electricity, internet speed, computers and communication devices were among the challenges.

The remote teaching skills is another challenge, online teaching varies from classroom teaching in all aspects including material preparation, methods of instruction and delivery, assessment and teacher and learner roles. Teachers have to develop a good understanding of the function of both personal computers and IT network, using web search engines, using collaborative tools (chat, forums, blogs, and platforms). However, qualified online teacher should be aware about the differences between face-to-face classroom and remote teaching.

In fact, coronavirus pandemic has helped to accelerate the process of reforming the higher education system in Libya. The crash transition to online education has sped up some reforms Libyan educators have sought for years, and now they see the potential for long-lasting change. The transition to E-learning is the first step in education reform in Libya. At University of Benghazi, we believe that a “blended” model, combining in-person and online education, is the key to such a long-term shift.

Reform could move teaching away from the professor-focused methods common in many Libyan universities, where students’ learning often depends largely on sitting passively in classes or auditoriums. Instead, a new approach, sometimes referred to as “flipped learning,” would encourage students to follow lectures it their leisure time online—ideally on platforms that integrate other supporting resources, like texts, videos, and interactive quizzes. Students would come to their campus for workshops, small seminars, and laboratory classes. Although Libyan universities have gradually switched to E-learning, more efforts are needed to overcome the challenges.

  1. You are the first Libyan member of the BMBF-funded “Arab-German Young Academy” (AGYA). What does this membership mean for you personally and for your university?

As the first Libyan member in the Arab-German Young Academy, I will not only contribute to projects related to my discipline, but to strengthening collaboration between University of Benghazi, German and Arab universities for the benefit of all parties.

AGYA provides a platform for developing and implementing interdisciplinary research at an international level, which is highly desirable for the benefit of society. My motivation to join AGYA is to work in interdisciplinary research groups, establishing a good network with distinguished researchers from Germany and the Arab world and to find collaboration opportunities between Libyan and German institutes of higher education.

Moreover, AGYA fosters the intercultural experiences of its members and promotes them as ambassadors of science and culture. The academy’s aim is to serve as a cross-cultural think tank, promoting and supporting Arab-German research exchange and North – South – South cooperation.

  1. How do you end the following sentence: “For me, international cooperation is …”

 … the bridge between universities and institutions around the world to help transfer knowledge, culture, science and exchange of creative ideas to accomplish global issues and missions.