Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Jorge Enrique Portella Cleves, Computer Science Professor, Corporación Unificada Nacional De Educación Superior, Colombia
Corporación Unificada Nacional de Educación Superior (CUN) is a higher education institution based in Bogota, Colombia, with branches across the country. It has more than 30,000 students and 800 staff. CUN delivers teaching in the classroom, online and distance learning. Jorge Enrique Portella Cleves is responsible for online teaching, making sure that 3,600 systems engineering students have access to Oracle Academy resources for classes in database and Java.
Oracle Academy: What induced you to adopt Oracle Academy?
Portella Cleves: I knew Oracle when I was a systems engineering student, and when CUN hired me, it was the first thing I thought of. Oracle is a multinational company and a world leader in technology, and I understood that by collaborating with Oracle Academy, the university would have free access to its rich fund of teaching materials. About five years ago, Oracle Academy trained our faculty, and many went on to pass the Oracle Certified Professional exams. That gives us solid credentials for transmitting our knowledge, and it motivates the students.
Oracle Academy: Have you adapted the Oracle Academy curriculum to your own?
Portella Cleves: We have our own curriculum and additionally, we use what Oracle Academy provides integrally. The Oracle Academy curriculum and materials strengthen our curriculum. It makes sense: our teachers are certified Oracle professionals and we follow the flow of teaching from A to Z. Our syllabus for database and Java are integrated with Oracle Academy. We deliver it via the Member Hub, Oracle Academy’s new teaching and learning management system, and Oracle Application Express (APEX). As an aside, the CUN organization also runs its business on Oracle.
Oracle Academy: How do your structure the systems engineering courses?
Portella Cleves: We have two objected-oriented programming courses and three database courses: basic, advanced, and systems administration. Each course is three hours per week over each semester. The Oracle Academy curriculum comprises Java Fundamentals, Database Foundations and Database Design and Programming with SQL. We are planning a Business Intelligence/Analytics course using the same.
Oracle Academy: Is it a smooth process to reach your 3,600 students with no classroom teaching?
Portella Cleves: With Oracle APEX, everything is a smooth as silk: Pure satisfaction. It’s the perfect tool for our remote systems engineering classes. APEX allows me to give access to and administer workspaces, assign projects, distribute grades, and teach. We use it intensively. For me, APEX is high impact tool and useful; it is ‘Triple A’!
Oracle Academy: What kind of projects do you assign?
JPortella Cleves: We are very focused on business realities and especially business cases and administration. For example, we created a billing system using the Oracle database and assign students to develop different variations of Value Added Tax, which in Colombia is quite complex. Payroll is another subject area. I give my students projects totally applicable to the real world. Through Netbeans and database connections, we implement the curriculum.
Oracle Academy: Why NetBeans?
Portella Cleves: NetBeans is just the best development environment for GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces). Obviously, the students have to first learn object-oriented programming through Java Fundamentals, but a good interface makes building a business application much more fun and visual.
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us about the program for internships?
Portella Cleves: CUN expects students to do at least six months of workplace training to improve their technical, technological, and professional skills. The projects carried out in APEX generate confidence during internships because students see that the work they do in those companies mirrors what they learned online. Above all, they see how companies use technology to make decisions. There is a continuity between the Oracle Academy curriculum and business practice.
Oracle Academy: Do you also recommend students become Oracle Certified?
Portella Cleves: Absolutely. We have 15-20 teachers who are Oracle Certified Professionals in Java or database. Naturally, we encourage all our students to follow suit to boost employability when they leave CUN. One of our graduates who has spent five years in industry is both an Oracle Certified Associate and Oracle Certified Professional. He is coming to us next semester as a contractor to share his Oracle Academy and industry experience.
Oracle Academy: Women’s development is one of the four pillars of the CUN philosophy. How do you approach that within computer science courses?
Portella Cleves: Women’s development, inclusion and social mobility are fundamental to our teaching. Within IT, we have created classes for girls using Alice and Greenfoot and are active in getting more women onto our systems engineering course. CUN is also part of a rural program development program for women called “Mujer Rural Pensamos en TI!” (where TI is a wordplay on IT).
Last year we went into the countryside to train young women, and later could see granddaughters teaching computer skills to their mothers and grandmothers! It is very important because we are generating a real change in our country.
Oracle Academy: A great initiative. What other activities are you involved with outside of CUN?
Portella Cleves: My three passions, apart from my wife and three children, are salsa music, wine, and research. In the research context, I am preparing for my doctorate with a thesis entitled “Content Analysis Through Artificial Intelligence”. This is a passion of mine. I am analyzing the idea of building a training system, accessing whatever training anyone needs online, analyzing people’s preferences and skills, at the press of a button. Of course, we will need 5G connectivity, cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence above all for virtual learning. I am also involved in an initiative run by the Colombian Ministry of ICT to train more civil servants in computer technologies with an innovative and co-creator vision.
Oracle Academy: That’s a very full set of activities! Any last words on the benefits of Oracle Academy?
Portella Cleves: I would say there are benefits for teachers and students alike. For teachers, Oracle Academy allows us to project ourselves as change agents. It supports our need for continuous learning and helps us improve teaching through technology. For students, it leads to social mobility, as training and software give access to a better quality of life, and we see increasing uptake of technology in rural areas as well as in the urban centers.
Thank you, Jorge Enrique Portella Cleves, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.