The Use of Technology in Education in Saudi Arabia Essay Example

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14THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION IN SAUDI ARABIA

The Use of Technology in Education in Saudi Arabia

Introduction

Technology in education is described differently, depending on the country, to refer to design and technology, technics, technological education and technology education. Despite the descriptive terms employed, the universal goal of integrating technology in studies is to assist students to become technologically aware or literate (Al-Din, & Al-Radhi, 2008). Strategic decisions on university-wide technology use have been made without full comprehension of the implications for teaching practices, learning pedagogies and resources, which have often resulted to technology-enhanced course designs. However, evidence has showed that technology cannot be entirely attributed to changing the learning and instructional processes. Rather, it is the pedagogical advantages derived from the technologies.

Alenezi et al. (2010) definese-learning is an educational tool whose significance has found extensive application in a range of courses offered in higher education institutions. In addition to being able to eliminate the time and distance barriers, it facilitates attainment of student’s lifelong learning (Alenezi et al., 2010). Due to the recent research indicating that a majority of the students in Saudi universities are unwilling to show acceptance of e-learning, a range of factors have to be examined to explore ways in which student’s interest in using e-learning tools in their courses of study can be increased (Severino et al., 2011).

Emerging challenges in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the desire to create suitable elearning systems that facilitate distance learning, in addition to cultural-acceptable gender integration. Saudi Arabia is among the fastest growing countries when it comes to elearning. With the increased internet penetration and the number of internet user in the country, the number of students pursuing higher education has increased in the recent years (Vidyasagar & Rea, 2004). Correspondingly, many Saudi universities have started e-learning to promote extended access to higher education learning. In respect to this persistent trend, a larger number of researches has explored e-learning in Saudi Arabia.

A bulk of these studies has, however, focused on finding the central factors that tell between online education from face-to-face traditional learning, analysis of the positive and negative outcomes and creation of strategies to attain suitable learning environment. However, little attention has been given to investigating the e-learning environment, established in Saudi Arabia. In particular, from a survey of literature, it would appear that little research has been undertaken to evaluate e-learning in general. In response to this gap in literature, this report examines the e-learning environment in Saudi Arabia.

Background and problems

Saudi public universities use Blended Learning. In practice, education is generally based on the traditional classroom lecture-based learning, traditional didactic, blended with web-based distance learning (Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010).

As observed by Alebaikan and Troudi (2010), in order to improve the quality of learning and to make higher education accessible, Saudi’s Ministry of Higher Education initiated the National Plan for Information Technology that promote e-learning in higher education. In 2006, the National Plan for Information Technology started the National e-learning and Distance Learning Centre, which offers technical support, essential for developing digital educational content in higher education across the country. The Centre has also initiated Learning Management System dubbed Jusur that encourages materials for university learning.

Increased attention to e-learning has accelerated over the past one decade and is attributable to a number of reasons. First, there has been an increased demand for higher education in Saudi Arabia. The high demand has overwhelmed supply, which has made institutions of higher learning to be overcrowded and constrain the delivery of traditional-styled face-to-face due to few human resources. To overcome these challenges, e-learning has provided a solution (Yahya & Alrashidi, 2014).

Second, Saudi Arabia has an extensive geographic area with a large number of communities isolated from the key population centres. In such situations, e-learning has been rationalised to offer the potential to deliver educations services to the remote regions, hence minimising disparities in the diverse regions.

Third, when it comes to gender issues in Saudi Arabia’s higher education, the male and the females receive their instructions in different classes, because of religious and cultural purposes (Yahya & Alrashidi, 2014). Such practices strain the already constrained facilities and the available human resources. Based on this, it has been established that the female students are the main beneficiary of e-learning as it enables them access higher education.

Methodology

Research study design was used in the study to collect, analyse and interpret data. The researcher focused on collecting extensive data to investigate the e-learning environment. The study further examined interpretive paradigm suitable for understanding and interpreting student perception and teachers towards the learning environment.

In order to carry out the assessment of the published research documents, the researcher conducted systematic analysis of studies published in English. Focus was on using journals published over a period of the past decade, and whose scope covered the national representative samples.

Data analysis consisted of general analytic strategy. The researcher depended on theoretical propositions to investigate the research problems. Hence, theoretical orientation farmed the critical analysis of the research evidence that documents e-learning in Saudi Arabia.

Literature search was conducted to examine the distance education, mobile learning, e-learning’s advancement of continuous education and multimedia. Articles that used both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies were used. Of these methodologies, the researcher found research articles that used qualitative, contextual and exploratory research designs to examine e-learning environment in Saudi Arabia.

Theoretical Analysis

The study was based on the interpretive paradigm suitable for understanding and interpreting student perception and teachers towards the learning environment. Alebaikan and Troudi (2010) define interpretive research as seeking to understand the world of the research respondent and their perceptions. Hence, the objective is to understand the research participants without devising situations for purposes of research. The research project was informed by social constructionist and constructivist theoretical perspectives. The constructivists facilitated a review of the nature of the social reality, as well as the learning from the participant’s perspective.

Constructivists perceive the participants to be constructive agents. They also view the occurrence of interest as built rather than unreceptively received by individuals whose means of seeing, knowing and understanding the influence of what is known, seen or understood.

Literature Review

This study reviewed related literature. Features of web-based multimedia were identified, based on the evidence literature and discussion results. The topics surveyed include distance education, mobile learning, e-learning’s advancement of continuous education and multimedia (FANG et al., 2011)

Distance Education

Over the recent past, two distinct developments have characterised distance education. First, flexible instructional model have been achieved. Second, the classroom model has been substantially extended (Al-Fahad, 2009). In flexible teaching model, students can begin class at any time. Further, they can study in isolation, as well as communicate with the classmates and instructors using asynchronous tools. In regards to extension of the classroom model, students can be organised into groups while at the same time interacting with technology using video conferencing facility. This perspective is consistent with Moore’s transactional distance theory, which postulates that the term distance education refers to distances that is more than just the distance between the learners and instructors. Rather, it is the perceptions and understandings that the geographic distance causes that has to be overcome by the learners and the instructors. Hence, the distance happens in an environment with special features of separation between the teachers and learners that causes communication and psychological gaps (Paulsen, 1991).

Given the swift technological development, courses that require the use of a range of media become delivered to students in a range of locations, in order to suit the educational requirements of the growing population (Al-Fahad, 2009). Technology has facilitated distance education programs to offer specialised courses to students situated in remote areas by offering them increased interactivity with instructors and fellow learners.

According to Al-Fahad (2009), regardless of the ways in which distance education program varies significantly from one country to the other, a majority of the distance learning programs are technology-reliant that are already in place or being implemented for the capacity to offer cost-effective learning. Al-Fahad (2009) argued that such programs are specifically beneficial to individuals who are not able to acquire traditional learning, due to geographical, physical or financial constraints.

Distance learning has witnessed dramatic growth both globally and nationally starting from as far back as 1980. The most distinct evolution include from using print-based materials to using a range of technologies.

Issues of concern in implementing distance education

The significance and impact of distance education is at present in the period of evolution. Foundational efforts in the field were focused on print-based study courses, as well as single-technology models to instructional delivery with limited opportunities for instructor-student interaction. On the contrary, current trends aim to integrate the interactive features, such as video, voice, print delivery and print. In the past years, researches have explored effective teaching and the evaluations of student attitude on the use of distant learning delivery methods. The findings have been consistent, which are worth considering, specifically in promoting culturally diverse and rural-based learners (Al-Fahad, 2009). Studies have suggested that distance learning efforts that tend to be effective are those that instructors prepare adequately. On the other hand, traditionally-delivered instruction can be effective when the distance educator places emphasis on preparations while taking into consideration the need to understand the demands of the students. Hence, in both cases, sufficient understanding of the targeted population and their learning needs are as significant as knowing the content that has to be delivered (Croy, 1998).

Mobile Learning

Research suggests that while mobile and wireless or mobile technologies have been confused for mobile wireless technologies, the two are distinct since mobile technologies are not necessarily wireless. The mobile wireless technologies are characterised by two features, namely computing and mobility. Additionally, mobile computing characterised the ability of the user to continuously access a range of network resources without geographical or time constraints. On the other hand, wireless implies the capacity to transform any data format, whether video, voice or data text through microwaves, infrared waves and radio waves. Towards this end, mobile wireless technology comprises the wireless technology that employs radio spectrum within any band to facilitate the transmission of voice, video or text data to mobile devices. Users are however limited to time and location. E-learning through the mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets presents new learning opportunities for students pursuing higher education. Learners can access network information without geographical and time limited. In Saudi Arabia, recent developments have been seen in the way major network service providers have launched commercial services that offer broadband internet connection for mobile devices affordably. Today, mobile devices in Saudi Arabia are facilitated with UMTs and GPRS, which allow users to leverage all advantages accessible via the internet. Similarly, new technologies, such as High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) present faster download speeds for speedy and convenient access of learning material. This kind or environment has presented learners in Saudi with the ability to access e-learning opportunities to further their studies. Indeed, e-learning has been fronted in Saudi Arabia as the means to achieve higher education and distance learning to women, who are secluded because of religious and cultural practices. Hence, distance education has experienced another evolution with the prevalence of M-learning, which has been facilitated by the high penetration of internet-enabled mobile phones, or smartphones (Mirza and Al-Abdulkareem, 2011).

Multimedia

Computers have recently become the most influential contraptions that are also integral part of modern day to day life (Alenezi et al., 2010). They have improved human interaction and capacity to access unlimited amounts of information. Such developments have shape knowledge retention, reasoning, perception and presentation. Such functions are directly correlated to the reactionary and sensory modes of human behaviour. Multimedia refers to multiple media or many media (Ng & Cobfessorem, 2011). The user of the computing environment can today get a mix of data, voice and graphic (Fang et al., 2011). In the same way, the user can generate information in one or more of these multiple media.

E-learning’s advancement of continuous education

E-learning platform have found wide application, by organisations looking to collect and restructure knowledge development, as well as establish continuous learning (Pamfilie et al., 2012). Presently, individuals at workplaces have not been able to attend classes physically with the hope of expanding their knowledge and learning. Hence, a need to leverage a flexible and cost-effective model of learning has been timely. Additionally, a notable trend has been the increased use of online classes for students who are based in campuses, particularly in classes that combine online instructional methods and face-to-face learning (Howell et al., 2004). In both cases, e-learning has provided better and more flexible alternative for continuous learning. Compared to traditional learning, e-learning has brought significant advantages, such as more flexibility, cost-effectiness and interactive learning (Pamfilie et al. 2012).

Findings

In education, the evolution of learning processes has depended significantly, integrating innovative instructional strategies to enhance pedagogy and to promote flexibility and adaptability. Significant number of studies has explored the application of online synchronous and asynchronous materials in the learning process. Some studies have examined learning strategies that leverage online instruction while at the same time retaining the merits of face-to-face instruction. This has led to the emergence of the Blended Learning concept. A number of universities support the use of blended learning to increase flexibility in place and time of learning (Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010). While this is so, studies have showed that blended learning can effectively improve pedagogy, simplify learning, and increase accessibility, cost-effectiveness and flexibility.

Discussion and Recommendation

The objectives of distance learning as a replacement to traditional learning have been to offer programs that grant degrees, eradicate illiteracy, as well as offer degree granting programs. Various technologies have facilitated these objectives. To this end, distance learning has relied heavily on technology, using broadcast radio, television, emails and mostly through the internet.

Studies in distance learning have investigated the rapid technological change in distance learning. Studies have explored the effectiveness of teaching using the online education delivery tools. Among the underlying conclusions has been the effectiveness of these tools, specifically to individuals situated in remote regions or who are culturally diversified. Studies indicate that effective distance learning is driven significantly by preparation rather than the innovative tools.

To this end, preparations involve searching for the right content in the appropriate amounts to enrich student learning. Despite the fact that it may be time-consuming, a large body of literature has concluded that preparation is decisive. In respect to delivery, a larger body of researches has concluded that there is little difference when it comes to the effectiveness of the delivery systems, provided that the kind of delivery system corresponds with the required content.

It is recommended that instructors should prepare adequately when using e-learning. Focus should be on the content to be delivered. Conversely traditionally-delivered instruction can be effective when the distance educator prepares adequately. The instructor should as well understand the learning needs of the students.

Conclusion

E-learning has provided solutions to the growing demand of education in Saudi Arabia. The high demand has overwhelmed supply which has made institutions of higher learning to be overcrowded and constrain delivery of traditional-styled face-to-face due to few human resources. E-learning has also increased the potential to deliver educations services to the remote regions, hence minimising disparities in the diverse regions. This is particularly significant for Saudi Arabia, which has an extensive geographic area with a large number of communities isolated from the key population centres. E-learning also enables them to access higher education. This is particularly so in Saudi Arabia, which faces issues with gender equality. When it comes to gender issues in Saudi Arabia’s higher education, the male and the females receive their instructions in different classes because of religious and cultural purposes. Such practices strain the already constrained facilities and the available human resources.

References

Al-Din, L. & Al-Radhi, K. (2008). Distance Learning/E-Learning for Iraq: Concept and Road Map. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 34(3), 34-37

Alebaikan, R. & Troudi, S. (2010). Online discussion in blended courses at Saudi Universities. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 2, 507–514

Alenezi, A., Karim, A. & Veloo, A. (2010). An Empirical Investigation Into The Role Of Enjoyment, Computer Anxiety, Computer Self-Efficacy And Internet Experience In Influencing The Students’ Intention To Use E-Learning: A Case Study From Saudi Arabian Governmental Universities. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology 9(4), 22-34

Al-Fahad, F. (2009). Students’ Attitudes and Perceptions Towards The Effectiveness Of Mobile Learning In King Saud University, Saudi Arabia. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology 8(2), 1-9

Croy, M. (1998). Distance education, individualization, and the demise of the university. Technology in Society 20, 317–326

Fang, R., Chang, Y. & Tsai, H. (2011). The systems on Web-based Multimedia for Distance Learning. Applied Mechanics and Materials 58-60, 922-926

Howell, S., Saba, F., Lindsay, N., Williams, P. (2004). Seven strategies for enabling faculty success in distance education. Internet and Higher Education 7, 33–49

Mirza, A. & Al-Abdulkareem, M. (2011). Models of e-learning adopted in the Middle East. Applied Computing and Informatics 9, 83–93

Ng, S. & Cobfessorem G. (2011). Assessing the capacity for success in distance learning in Malaysia. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 15, 1742–1750

Pamfilie, R., Onete, B., Maiorescu, I. & Plesea, D. (2012). E-learning as an alternative solution for sustainable lifelong education. Procedia — Social and Behavioral
Sciences 46, 4026 – 4030

Paulsen, M. ed. (1991). Distance Education. The Distance Education Online Symposium DEOSNEWS 1(25), 1-8

Severino, S., Aiello, F., Cascio, M., Ficarra, L. & Messina, R. (2011). Distance education: the role of self-efficacy and locus of control in lifelong learning. Procedia — Social and Behavioral Sciences 28, 705 – 717

Vidyasagar, G. & Rea, D. (2004). Saudi women doctors: Gender and careers within Wahhabic Islam and a dwesternisedT work culture. Women’s Studies International Forum 27, 261– 280

Yahya, A. & Alrashidi, N. (2014). E-learning in Saudi Arabia: A Review of the Literature. British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science 4(5): 656-672