Research Matters

In Focus

In Focus

Projects helping Qatar on its road of recovery from COVID-19

Engagement Assessment of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to Support Teachers during Distance Learning - Dr. Dena Al-Thani:

After the health sector, the education sector has been one of the most affected as delivery of education was disrupted worldwide. However, this also provided a window of opportunity to bring about a pedagogical shift to make education more accessible and enable our institutions to cope with unforeseen situations like the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Dena Al-Thani, Assistant Professor and the Director of Interdisciplinary Programs at the College of Science and Engineering at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, also saw this opportunity and set out to develop a solution for students in special education programs and centers- a task that came with its own set of unique challenges and requirements. To realize her ambition, Dr. Al-Thani successfully applied for a research grant under the inaugural cycle of the Rapid Response Call and was able to successfully develop an interactive online platform for autistic children.

Taking a step ahead, Dr. Al-Thani is now proposing an interactive technology that aims to analyze the visual, auditory, and social attention of children with ASD via webcam to track facial and eye movement during learning. To realize this, Dr. Al-Thani has received another grant under the second cycle of the Rapid Response Call (RRC). Let’s learn more about this project from Dr. Al-Thani herself.

  1. Can you briefly explain your project?

This research aims to develop a personalized engagement assessment tool utilizing the role of eye-tracking, face-tracking, and artificial intelligence (AI) in supporting teachers and parents in managing the engagement level of children with autism during online learning. The tool can be used remotely or in person, which is essential for the unprecedented situation in the pandemic and beyond.

  1. What impact does your project aim to create?

It ensures the educational continuity of children with autism and hence supports the greater goals of inclusive education.

  1. How do you feel about receiving an RRC grant again for your project?

Receiving the Rapid Response Call (RRC) Covid-19 is of significant importance to our research group. This fund will support the continuity of our project in utilizing state-of-the-art technologies such as AI toward personalized and inclusive education.

The impact of school closures during COVID-19 pandemic on the lifestyle and vision of children and adolescents in Qatar - Dr. Muna Alah

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar, like the rest of the world, imposed protective measures including the closures of public spaces, social gatherings, educational institutions and offices. These measures proved successful to curtail the spread of the virus, but at the same time, had an impact on the public health due to the sedentary lifestyle.

This also includes children, who despite being the least affected by COVID-19 infection suffered from its side effects as schools and public places around the world shut down confining children to closed spaces while limiting down their in-person interaction. To study this impact more closely, Dr. Muna Abed Alah, Community Medicine Resident at the Community Medicine Department at Hamad Medical Corporation, has received a grant under the second cycle of the Rapid Response Call. Lets learn more about her project and what she aims to achieve with it.

  1. Can you briefly explain your project?

In this project, the Community Medicine Department (under HMC, and PHCC) in collaboration with School Health Services and Program at PHCC, will investigate the impact of school closures on several lifestyle aspects such as diet, physical activity, and body weight, in addition to the impact on ocular health of the students in government schools in Qatar.  Despite being the least affected by COVID-19 infection in terms of morbidity and mortality, children and adolescents were not spared from the negative repercussions of home confinement measures and school closures on their health.

  1. What impact does your project aim to create?

We believe that the results of this study will guide the implementation of effective lifestyle interventions targeting students to protect them from future non-communicable diseases.

  1. How will the RRC2 grant help with the realization of your objectives?

Getting the support from QNRF will definitely enable us to achieve our objectives as investing in our children and adolescents’ health today is a profitable investment in the future.

Coexistence with COVID-19 between recovery requirements and privacy concerns: A study of Qatari society’s perceptions and practices towards the implementation of Ehteraz - Dr. Badrane Benlahcene

The Ehteraz app has elicited mixed reactions among Qataris, regarding health recovery and privacy. The latter value has received a great deal of controversy, which has been discussed in several studies in the world, but not in the Qatari context.

To analyze this more closely and explore how concerns about monitoring applications including Ehteraz can be addressed to promote its co-existence with its users, Dr. Badrane Benlahcene, Research Associate Professor at Ibn Khaldon Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, Qatar Univesity, and his team have designed a study supported by the Rapid Response Call.

In this project, the research team will seek to study the perceptions and practices of Qataris about this application; a social field study that will apply the theory of social representations to measure the attitude and behavior of Qatari society in dealing with the application, and the extent of the effectiveness of the application in speeding the Society’s recovery.

  1. Can you briefly explain your project?

The project applies triangulation method, and uses qualitative and quantitative tools for collecting data, thus enhancing the credibility of the results, and using modern research programs that deal with qualitative data, such as (MAXQDA) and numerical data available in Twitter, such as the (NodeXL) program. This makes the study a model for students of social sciences in the various stages of university studies. This study is also characterized by being multidisciplinary.

  1. What impact does your project aim to create?

As outputs of the project, recommendations will be made to the concerned parties to develop the application or make modifications to it in a way that better achieves the goal of protection, preserves the cohesion of society and reassures it from the fears of penetration of personal privacy.

  1. Is there anything else you would like to add?

The project team appreciates QNRF’s facilitation, support, speed in evaluating the project, and cooperation in answering all our concerns before and after the project was awarded.

Previous Article Spotlight
Next Article Executive Director’s Message - November 2021
«September 2023»