Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Dr. Heba Ismail, Assistant Professor, Abu Dhabi University, United Arab Emirates.
Abu Dhabi University (ADU) is the largest private multi-campus university in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). ADU is committed to providing an engaging learning environment, quality education, and qualifications that are respected worldwide. Established in 2003, Abu Dhabi University has over 7,500 students across its campuses and corporate programs. Structured into Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, Law, Health Sciences, and Military, ADU offers undergraduate and graduate programs to students as well as trainees and personnel of the UAE military.
Dr. Heba Ismail is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and IT (CSIT), College of Engineering. She has a master's degree in Information Technologies from the American University of Sharjah and a PhD in Computer Science from UAE University. At Abu Dhabi University, she developed and redesigned several undergraduate and graduate courses in data science, research methods, and artificial intelligence. She also developed training modules on people analytics and trained more than 300 local and international HR executives.
When she joined ADU in 2019, she aligned the CSIT syllabus for Artificial Intelligence to Oracle Academy’s resources.
Oracle Academy: How did you come to select Oracle Academy to support your AI teaching?
Heba Ismail: When I joined ADU, Oracle Academy resources were already used in CSIT for database classes by two faculty. When I looked at the Oracle Academy course Artificial Intelligence with Machine Learning in Java (AI/ML) it clearly aligned with the syllabus in place. Since Oracle is a world class name and ADU’s goal is to equip students with the best possible skills, I set about aligning the Oracle Academy learning path to our own.
We partner with several industry academies, with different subjects aligned to particular training modules. For AI, Oracle Academy is my preference.
Oracle Academy: And so, Oracle Academy’s resources complement ADU’s?
Heba Ismail: That’s right. The Oracle Academy course provides a good overview of the subject and the topics map perfectly to our syllabus. The materials fill eight weeks of our 13-week syllabus. After my introduction to the core concepts of AI through reading and labs, students follow the related Oracle Academy modules on the website at their own pace. This reinforces their knowledge, and the online quizzes test their understanding.
To go into more detail, the AI/ML course is mapped to our Introduction to Artificial Intelligence. In this course we cover topics related to learning algorithms, search and optimization algorithms, natural language processing (NLP), special applications in AI, and AI agents.
Oracle Academy: To which students do you teach AI?
Heba Ismail: The course is a core course for those studying bachelor degrees in Information Technology, Cybersecurity, and Software Engineering. It is part of a selection of computing courses that equip undergraduate students with fundamental computing knowledge and prepare them for the future roles they intend to play in academia or fast-paced industry.
Oracle Academy: What exercises or case studies do you give them?
Heba Ismail: While the AI/ML learning path is comprehensive and contains several use cases as well as the theory of search algorithms, it does not cover everything, so these are elements that I drill down into in our lab work. In recent semesters I have given them several problem-solving cases. One of them involves activity recognition and personalized fitness recommendations, in which they develop a prediction model that detects human activity using cell phone sensory data, and accordingly personalizes fitness and health recommendations.
Another example is the detection of misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines on social media, fake news if you will. I asked students to develop natural language processing (NLP) models using machine learning classifiers to automatically detect whether a social media post contains misinformation about the vaccine or not.
These two projects won top prizes in our undergraduate research competition. In addition, we worked on several mini projects related to news categorization, disease predictions, arrhythmia predictions using electrocardiogram signals, and fraud detection based on historical credit card transactions.
Oracle Academy: Very impressive! Presumably they are prime candidates for jobs given that in-depth instruction.
Heba Ismail: What’s key here is that today everyone should be able to define what AI is, or discuss how AI can help the government, or the police, or hospitals and so on. Those who can are valuable to industry as AI engineers and in other positions, especially in research. And if they show mastery of internationally accepted skills, backed by the Oracle Academy course completion awards that we issue, then they have more viable job opportunities.
From last year’s graduates, 11 have contributed research publications in the field of AI, nationally and internationally competitive research being a core strategy of our university.
Oracle Academy: Excellent. And, do you use the Oracle Academy Member Hub?
Heba Ismail: Yes certainly, in a couple of ways. To begin with, I have set up student accounts and learning paths in the Oracle Academy Member Hub which include the instructional material, online quizzes, and links to optional machine learning labs. I monitor progress through the reports generated on the Hub, showing who completed his/her training and which module they have reached. I can see the number of tests they have completed, and the scores obtained.
That gives me feedback on progress and helps me address areas that might require improvement. For example, if the majority got low grades in one module or needed multiple attempts to pass that module, I can consider giving extra in-class explanation to help students overcome difficulties in that area.
And then again, I use the Member Hub as my window into Oracle Academy, what it offers and what I might incorporate into the teaching. It has great webinars. In a recent one, I learned how Oracle Application Express (APEX) helps development of very complex applications with minimum effort. I am thinking of introducing Oracle APEX as part of the students’ capstone graduation projects, a nice option for developing large-scale projects with minimum complexity, because most things are readily available in the Oracle APEX environment.
I love the Oracle Academy Member Hub webinars because they keep me up to date and allow me to know what is out there.
Oracle Academy: And outside of teaching, what are your interests?
Heba Ismail: I like reading, I like the active life and I develop sports- and health-related applications. Some of these projects I share in class, such as recognizing mental health problems arising from Covid-19, and how to cope with the situation.
But my number one passion is to bring out young women’s potential to the maximum. I consider my students to be my colleagues and have formed a women’s computer science group which is affiliated to Arab Women in Computing UAE chapter, Women in Data Science, and other organizations promoting women in the field of computer science.
This is my joy. As the only female faculty in our CSIT faculty, I really enjoy inspiring younger ladies, getting them involved in research, and contributing to their knowledge and career opportunities.
If we look at computer science and information technology, women are generally not well represented. It’s good to have female empowerment―and who better to show as a role model than another female who went through the same journey. Women’s communities provide support, we provide seminars, networks, uncover remote working opportunities, or remote collaboration in research. There’s so much that can be achieved.
Thank you, Dr. Heba Ismail, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.