This new embrace of online education comes as a surprise to many, as digital learning has generally been marginalized, unrecognized and suspended in many Arab countries, whose educational systems still prefer traditional face-to-face teaching methods. (See a related article, “Distance-Education, Banned in Bahrain.”)
Some education experts see the current situation as a chance to use online education on a large scale and at various school and university education levels, and to enhance its image for potential use later as a basic educational method rather than an emergency one.
“There is an opportunity today to expand the use of online education and accept other types of education that are based on the use of modern methods of interaction and communication rather than being primarily dependent on face-to-face presence,” said Mona Magdy Farag, a professor in the Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University.
Concerns About Readiness
Samar Farah, director of research at the Abdulla Al-Ghurair Foundation for Education, agreed that the coronavirus situation presents an opportunity to learn more about the potential of online education and accept its tools, and subsequently to win recognition of its results.
At the same time, she is wary that people may expect too much of the trial online-learning projects that have been booted up in a hurry because of the coronavirus closures.
“We should be careful not to jump to any conclusions about the effectiveness of online learning as a modality when implemented in such unique circumstances,” she said in an email.
She pointed out that there are some countries that have not adopted online learning at all in the past, and doing it quickly, she said, “it is likely that the necessary systems are not in place, the content is not appropriately designed, and faculty and teachers are not well prepared. But it is better than missing out on a few weeks or more of classes.”