The University of El Salvador (UES) has made a significant investment of $33 million in digital transformation, with funds received since 2021 under the government of President Nayib Bukele. Among the most notable projects are the Connected Classroom and the Virtual Reality Laboratory.
Within the annual budget of the University of El Salvador, $11 million has been allocated to digital transformation strategies. This new initiative encompasses the upgrade of technological equipment, curriculum renewal, development of virtual environments, creation of digital laboratories, and more.
This investment has been implemented since 2021, during President Nayib Bukele’s administration, resulting in a total of $33 million over the past three years.
According to Raúl Azcúnaga, Academic Vice-Rector of UES, this transformation is essential as the current professional profile demands digital skills such as platform usage, presentation preparation, artificial intelligence utilization, and online research, among others.
“This is a substantial investment that we are able to make thanks to the government. It began under the presidency of Nayib Bukele in the 2021 budget. We are talking about an investment exceeding $30 million, which is transforming the university. Previous governments did not prioritize equipping the university,” explained the Academic Vice-Rector.
The digital transformation of UES encompasses various projects, including the Connected Classroom initiative. This involves installing internet and smart screens in each classroom, enabling classes to be recorded and allowing students to access the materials through Quick Response (QR) codes. Additionally, each subject has a virtual classroom where presentations, work guides, and recorded classes are stored.
“The university has subscribed to digital databases that grant us access to over 2 million sources. The new library provides access to databases worldwide. The digital transformation also ensures Wi-Fi and connectivity on campus, enabling this new technology to contribute to improving academic quality,” stated Azcúnaga.
As part of this project, the university recently inaugurated a Virtual Reality Laboratory with an investment of $500,000. This facility benefits students studying Medicine, Chemistry, and Pharmacy in San Salvador. Another similar laboratory is currently under construction at the San Miguel campus.
Additionally, thanks to the allocated budget, the university acquired Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) equipment, which allowed for the sequencing of the COVID-19 virus in the virology laboratory. This facilitated the identification of circulating strains within the country.
Another significant component of the digital transformation is the curricular renewal in undergraduate programs, incorporating artificial intelligence into classes and developing virtual activities for each discipline. The university is in the process of presenting a technical methodological guide for updating the UES undergraduate curriculum, incorporating the best virtual practices adopted during the pandemic.
Furthermore, in the first semester of 2023, 10 programs were offered entirely online, and there were hybrid options for postgraduate studies.
Among the future projections for digital transformation is the equipment upgrade of laboratories with state-of-the-art microscopes and specialized equipment for chemistry, physics, biology, and medicine.
According to Azcúnaga, these resources will provide a “leap in quality” for the university.
INCREASE IN STUDENT ENROLLMENT
The Vice-Rector highlighted an approximate enrollment of 62,000 students, which has seen an increase in recent years. Furthermore, as part of the increased UES budget, $1 million was allocated for scholarships, resulting in an increase from 500 to 1,300 scholarships awarded.
Students with disabilities receive paid scholarships, with the university providing a monthly stipend ranging from $92 to $230, based on the student’s socioeconomic status. In 2023, there are 140 students with disabilities benefiting from these scholarships.
In addition to the digital aspect, UES authorities emphasize the government’s investment in infrastructure. “We celebrate the decision of Cossan and Indes to select UES as the Central American and Caribbean Village, as it has allowed us to witness a truly historic investment. We have 12 new buildings that will serve as classrooms and increase the university’s capacity. We hope this will contribute to enrollment growth,” reiterated Azcúnaga.
Among the new academic development projects at UES is the creation of new master’s and doctoral programs. Additionally, they will launch the first post-doctorate program in educational thinking, promoting research and collaboration with other universities in Latin America. This initiative aims to nurture expertise in virtual education and digital competencies.