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From Old-School Methods to Next-Generation E-Learning

Riyadh Schools in Saudi Arabia used the closed-loop instructional system to transform itself from a traditional pen-and-paper school to a 21st century technology leader in education.

At Riyadh Schools, a private school in Saudi Arabia, an eight-year-old girl calculates multiplication tables using an interactive program that feeds her increasingly difficult questions as she demonstrates higher levels of achievement. Across the hall, a ten-year-old boy prepares a short video explaining how automobile air bags work. 

With such a rich environment of laptops, tablets, interactive white boards, collaborative software, and multimedia technologies, it’s hard to believe that just one year earlier these students relied solely on pencils, textbooks, and teacher lectures. 

School officials had a vision to enter into a new era of educational excellence and create future leaders for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). They asked BCG to help develop a blueprint to quickly transform the school’s culture, curriculum, recruiting, and other operational processes.

Comprehensive Reform

To identify areas for improvement and develop a roadmap for implementation, the team used BCG’s closed-loop instructional system. This holistic approach aligns educational objectives, standards, curricula, assessments, interventions, and professional development to enable continuous improvement in both instruction and student outcomes.

The school wanted to create a comprehensive program of reform, including establishing a digital educational model based on one-to-one teaching and learning. Such a model would allow students unlimited opportunities to use their own tablet and notebook computers to learn anytime, anywhere. 

Introducing the technology was merely a starting point. The school also revolutionized the classroom by incorporating change management and relying on four key building blocks of an effective e-learning environment:

  • Create a shared vision for teaching and learning. All stakeholders must understand what high-quality instruction looks like and how technology can help. This shared vision and mission—accompanied by clear standards and accountability—served as a touchstone for Riyadh Schools as it launched its one-to-one computing program.
  • Build leadership and teacher capacity. School leaders brought in leadership coaches to advise administrators and expert teachers on the big-picture strategy and the day-to-day challenges. They also established a series of professional development opportunities so teachers could learn how to meet instruction and learning requirements in a technology-rich environment.
  • Establish a robust technology infrastructure. Riyadh Schools invested in a core network with high-speed, wireless Internet connectivity; interoperable computing devices; quality-assured, engaging digital-learning content; and a learning-management system that ensured students and teachers remained engaged. It also created a unique student-led mentoring program to supply frontline technical support in the classroom.
  • Develop supportive policies and partnerships. The school established a governance structure; policies on Internet usage, cybersafety, and digital citizenship; metrics and assessments to measure outcomes; sources of long-term funding; and industry partnerships with local suppliers.

Leading the Way

Although its e-learning program has only been in place for a short while, Riyadh Schools has already been cited as a leading global model in the use of technology.

The school has quickly realized significant improvement in student engagement and attendance. Also, in the first round of assessment, 95% of all teachers met the minimum standards for integration of technology into the classroom, and early adopters served as mentors for other teachers, acting as catalysts for change.

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