Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez, Coordinator of Information Technology Academies, Universidad Privada del Valle, Bolivia.
Universidad Privada del Valle, known as UNIVALLE, is a private university in Bolivia with presence in the cities of Cochabamba, La Paz, Sucre, Trinidad, and Santa Cruz. Founded in 1988, UNIVALLE offers 34 areas of study, aimed at global and innovative professionals. The institutional mission of the university is to produce and disseminate scientific and technological knowledge to generate research, experimentation, and production processes in support of the Integral Development of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
The Faculties of Computer Science and Electronics offer computer science courses within the Faculty of Technology. Students specialize in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Computer Systems Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, or Telecommunications Engineering.
In 2019, in response to the study "The Future of Work" of the International Labor Organization (ILO), UNIVALLE decided to revitalize the way it taught computer science, moving from a linear and limited approach in a face-to-face classroom to a holistic and cloud-based strategy. This strategy led to the implementation of a number of Information Technology Academies, benefiting from the expertise and free resources of Oracle Academy and other companies.
To lead this initiative, Univalle appointed Olban Antonio Vargas Fernández as Coordinator of Academies. Vargas is a graduate of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz. He began teaching computer science whilst studying at university. Later, he worked in the private sector as director of systems for the largest telecommunications company in La Paz, and then director of systems in the regional government of La Paz.
Oracle Academy: What was the driving force behind the creation of the Information Technology Academies?
Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez: The ILO's Future of Work study was a wake-up call for Bolivian universities. At UNIVALLE we saw that our competency-based teaching model needed to be reinforced to allow technical competencies to be supported by certifying bodies external to the university. Thus, we provided our students with updated content and gave our future professionals the opportunity to earn certifications. These give them greater chances of acquiring fulfilling work locally and globally, both face-to-face and virtually.
The study made it very clear that in today's working world, almost everyone needs programming and cognitive knowledge, and even more so in the field of database technology. Whereas before companies needed DBAs and software installation, today it is cloud, cloud, cloud.
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us about your role as Coordinator?
Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez: The role of Coordinator of Academies is to generate an ecosystem of technological academies that allow us to nurture knowledge and information in our curriculum to meet the requirements of the current labor market. The responsibility of the position focuses on examining what technology providers offer, selecting the appropriate resources to complement our teaching-learning processes, adapting them to the vision of UNIVALLE with the collaboration of the academic areas, sharing them with teachers, and helping them teach new content to students.
The role also requires knowledge of the skills required by industry and the labor market in general. One of the reasons I was assigned this responsibility was that I have experience in both professional systems work and teaching.
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us why UNIVALLE chose Oracle Academy?
Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez: At UNIVALLE we needed to strengthen our teaching of databases, which had remained textbook-based for many years. Oracle Academy was the natural choice because Oracle is the world leader in databases and cloud technology. A committee was created among UNIVALLE professors from the Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Sucre campuses. Their task was to map Oracle Academy curriculum offerings with the requirements of our teaching in database subjects. They found more than 90% similarity between Oracle Academy's learning pathways and UNIVALLE's curriculum.
The decision was made to implement two essential courses in all areas in the first four semesters: Database Foundations and Database Design and Programming with SQL. And we're rolling out the Oracle Academy Cloud Program with Autonomous Database for the next six semesters.
Oracle Academy: And how was the teacher training process?
Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez: 10 of us trained in 2022, a number that has since grown to 14. These professors specialized in Oracle Academy resources teach classes not only in the Faculty of Computer Science and Electronics and in the Faculty of Technology, but are assigned transversally to teach databases to other departments, such as Business Administration and Accounting. As the ILO study on the future of work points out, database programming is valuable for many fields outside of computing.
Oracle Academy: How many students have benefited from this initiative?
Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez: In 2022, our first full year using Oracle Academy resources, about 800 students benefited. All took the basic database syllabus and 230 learned Oracle Autonomous Database. Another 400 enrolled in Oracle Academy Education Bytes: complementary workshops on databases such as Solve It with SQL or learning to virtualize, to create APIs, to use RESTful. And another 200 learned how to use Oracle SQL Data Modeler to create data warehouses.
Oracle Academy: What was the overall onboarding experience with Oracle Academy?
Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez: Everything was well organized. The teachers received the training within their different schedules, and their questions were answered in local Oracle Academy Office Hours. What's more, at our request, the team also quickly translated a series of workshops for topics that will be taught with Oracle Cloud. It has been a very good collaboration.
Personally, I have come to understand that, thanks to organizations like Oracle Academy, knowledge is at the fingertips of anyone who wants it. And I thank the Oracle Academy team for helping to improve our teaching methods in a way that will greatly benefit Bolivian youth today.
It is worth mentioning that UNIVALLE participated in the Ada Lovelace Challenge 2022 of Oracle Academy Latin America. We presented a team made up of the four best students of Systems Engineering, selected nationally. In fact, we were the only Bolivian university to complete the challenge, which was to design a solution based on one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Oracle Academy: Wonderful. And what kind of jobs do your graduates find?
Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez: They mainly go into private industry or intend to set up their own consulting companies. However, Bolivia still depends on employment in the public sector. Quite a few have secured high-quality jobs in the banking sector. And, of course, with the Oracle professional certifications, specifically Foundations Associate, Database, they have something extra on their resumes to help position them for finding work.
Oracle Academy: Thank you. And finally, what can you tell us about your interests outside of teaching?
Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez: I always liked fantasy literature and fantasy computer games. In the 90s, I pioneered playing Dungeons and Dragons in my city, with the whole role-playing game of becoming a Werewolf, Barbarian, Hunter, etc. So I did a lot of that, but then to cool off I played futsal, and I even played professionally in Bolivian leagues for a while. I think creativity develops by doing that kind of thing, combining cognitive games like Dragons and Dungeons with sport.
I am also passionate about education. I believe that we must not limit ourselves to teaching fixed courses, but we must ensure the integral development of students, preparing them for life.
Thank you, Olban Antonio Vargas Fernandez, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.