Nearly a year after the Covid-19 pandemic forced a shift to online education, many universities in the Arab region are still struggling to achieve a successful transformation. There are debates about the best way to teach online, whether to use recorded video lectures or to broadcast lessons live on the Internet, and how to verify effective communication with students. In addition, governments in the region have traditionally distrusted online education and have been reluctant to endorse it.
A recent study, however, provides guidelines that could help educators design more-effective online lessons while also enhancing awareness of the value of accredited online learning opportunities.
The study, titled “Charting a Path Forward: A Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration to Promote Blended Learning in the Arab World,” examines efforts at two universities to design or redesign courses to make them suitable for distant teaching, while continuing to develop the capabilities of faculty members and designers of education systems in the Arab world. It encourages collaboration between universities, institutions and governments in the field of online learning.
“The study came at the right time; a year ago, there was little interest in distance learning,” said Sonia Ben Jaafar, chief executive of the Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, which co-published the study with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Office of Open Learning in late October.
Now that universities are giving priority to developing online and blended programs, she added, “it is important to ensure a flexible transition in a manner based on the guidelines shared in the study.”
Inclusion and Feedback
The study recommends designing blended-learning projects with the participation of all stakeholders, including professors, students, educational leaders and study-program designers. It highlights the importance of defining the roles and responsibilities of all team members, adopting clear communication channels, and considering students as stakeholders when designing similar courses in the future.
It also aims to use the feedback from the design team as evidence to help all the stakeholders understand the experience, and to gain the support of university leadership regarding the need to grant accreditation for courses and degrees taught online.