November 18, 2015

More Arab Region Universities Offer Blended Learning

These courses combine online and on-ground learning, even as online degree programs are rare in the Arab region.


The use of blended learning is becoming more common at Arab region universities, and can prove an added benefit to traditional learning for Arab international students studying in the region. Somali national Zakaria Mohamed Hagi Hassan is currently taking a mix of in-class and online learning for his course on advanced crop physiology in the College of Food and Agricultural Sciences at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

"Online classes play an important role in a student's full understanding of the course, and sometimes it's a supplement for what you have learned in the class," says Hassan, who is pursuing a Master of Science in crop science.
[Learn how online courses can help women in the Arab region.]
Blended learning is being used by universities for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Hassan says learning through video and multimedia technology gives students additional information and allows greater accessibility and flexibility with courses. For example, students have the ability to pause and repeat a course lecture when needed, he says.
"You can watch it anytime you want and wherever you are," says Hassan, who earned his bachelor's degree in plant production at Ibb University in Yemen. "Also, you can download it on your laptop or on your smartphone."
Blended learning is growing in the Gulf in particular, said Dean E. Hoke, principal and co-founder of Edu Alliance, a company based in Abu Dhabi that consults on education and corporate services.
"Most of the universities and colleges in the UAE and the GCC are using some form of blended learning," said Hoke, via email.
The vast majority of schools routinely put lecture notes, discussions and assignments online, he says.​ "They track usage by students which helps determine if a student is on track or at times falling behind or may be at potential risk of failing."
​​Hoke said Khalifa University has offered a joint undergraduate class between the Sharjah and Abu Dhabi campuses​ through video conferencing, "using live video and supplementing the class content in its Moodle platform." Also, he said Zayed University and American University in Dubai​ have offered classes with universities located on the West Coast of the U.S.
[See which universities have branch campuses in the Arab region.]
In Saudi Arabia, universities have used methods​ that incorporate e-learning since 2002, according to Hoke.​ He said KSU, King Abdulaziz University, Al Baha University, Taibah University,​ Qassim University, King Khalid University and Islamic University in Madinah​ "will be or have implemented e-learning material into their curricula."
Ali Abdullah Alderfasi, professor of crop physiology and environmental stresses at KSU, says the school has been teaching blended learning classes since 2008. Alderfasi, who teaches at the College of Food and Agricultural Sciences, says most of the other colleges at KSU are using the Internet to offer blended learning courses.
He says the university has started to provide its staff training programs on using online supplemental teaching. Alderfasi currently provides blended online instruction for some of his undergrad and graduate courses. ​
"I use face-to-face classroom methods combined with computer-mediated activities," including video lectures, says Alderfasi. "This method gives my students a good chance to review their lectures outside the classroom."
Hoke says Blackboard, Moodle and Desire2Learn are the main platforms used at several universities in the UAE, including Higher Colleges of Technology, United Arab Emirates University​ and Emirates College for Advanced Education, among others.
"Blended learning is also being used in Qatar at Qatar University and the American universities in Education City," said Hoke.
Another school that offers blended learning is the Arab Open University​, which has branches in Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.​ The school's website says it has five colleges: business, computer studies, general studies, languages and education.
"The Arab Open University, because of local accreditation requirements, is required to offer blended learning. This means that 25%-50%​ of each course should be face-to-face and the rest 50%-75% online," said Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh, dean and professor of English literature at AOU Kuwait​, in an email. "Because of this, there are no individual courses or programs fully online, even though AOU would love to do so."


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