Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University (HBMeU), has attended “The Second International Conference on e-Learning and Distance Education” held recently in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the theme “Unique Learning For Next Generation: The Development of e-Learning in the Pursuit of Authentic Goals of a Knowledge-Based Society”. The Conference was held under the patronage of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and was organised by the KSA Ministry of Higher Education. HBMeU’s participation in the event reflects its academic, strategic vision to take e-learning to the next level and to encourage innovation and creativity based on the highest standards of quality, which will ultimately help create easy access to information, enhance the quality of education, and drive academic performance.
During the Conference, several scientific viewpoints and international experiments were introduced, while participants also discussed the latest technologies, researches, and scientific studies related to e-learning and distance education, and highlighted the practical benefits of the e-learning environment. The event also focused on effective tools that boost the culture of e-learning and distance education in the society and their role in developing education and guaranteeing its quality. On the sidelines of the Conference, Dr. Al Awar gave a presentation on the subject of “e-Universities and Quality”, which tackled a number of key issues, particularly those that concern quality, the concepts of e-University, the main differences between traditional education and e-learning, and the objectives of e-learning. He also discussed the importance of making e-learning available for all social segments, from students and employees to persons with special needs.
Dr. Al Awar also focused on the current status of education in the Arab World and underlined the need to increase efforts to reinforce the culture of e-learning and distance education and ultimately offer greater education opportunities to all. Citing statistics from UNESCO in 2009, he indicated that beneficiaries of higher education in the 18 to 23 age group account for up to 15 per cent of the population, while a World Bank report indicates that gross expenditure on education in Arab countries does not exceed 1.3 per cent of the GDP. Al Awar also noted that most educational institutions in the Arab World still follow traditional teaching methods and continue to face a number of challenges such as lack of strategic planning and active communication channels with business markets, existence of a major cognitive gap, and the lack of ability to keep up with globalization and the restricted adoption of IT in the teaching processes.
In addition, his presentation pointed out the key challenges facing e-learning in the region, including the novelty of this concept, non-recognition of the certificates issued by e-learning institutions in many Arab countries, and the dominance of a more traditional mindset within regional academic recognition institutions. To overcome such challenges, Dr. Al Awar said there is a need to conduct continuous dialogue with national institutions of academic recognition in order for them to be able to better appreciate the concept of e-learning and its many objectives, which include spreading knowledge and education; launching awareness campaigns that reinforce the culture of e-learning and distance education and highlight their role in supporting economic development in the Arab world; and boosting coordination between regional educational institutions by exchanging expertise in academic, technological and administrative areas. In addition, to effectively face such challenges, he said it is necessary to develop a strategy based on a strong commitment to implement the highest standards of quality when offering e-learning and distance education programs.
Commenting on his participation, Dr. Al Awar said, “Currently, e-learning serves as an important contributor in the comprehensive development and social transformation towards a knowledge-based economy in the Arab World. Recently we have been witnessing a growing adoption of this concept as countries keep up with the changes and developments in the field of information technology. This has helped raise the quality of research and development initiatives and enhanced teaching methodologies, enabling educational programs to be developed in accordance with the emerging needs of the society. This Conference was thus crucial as it provided an excellent platform to highlight the importance of quality in reinforcing the competitiveness and enhancing the offerings of e-learning and distance education in the Arab World.”
Al Awar added, “We are pleased to have participated in this event, which has given us the chance to exchange scientific know-how and ideas with experts and specialists from across the region, while giving us insights into the future of e-learning and distance education in a knowledge-based society. We are certainly looking forward to more cooperation with all concerned organizations operating throughout the Arab World and GCC countries, with a special focus on enhancing the quality of e-learning and distance education. Such collaborative efforts are particularly important as we are witnessing increased government expenditure on e-learning, reaching a value of around USD 240 million by the end of 2009 in the GCC countries, with KSA and the UAE accounting for up to 80 per cent of this amount. We take this opportunity to reaffirm our full commitment to reinforcing our stature as a main hub for excellence and leadership in the scientific and academic fields and for spreading the concept of e-learning across different countries beyond the UAE, in line with the directives of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, who has underlined the importance of this concept as a key factor in the continuing thrust to be part of the global race for excellence.”
HBMeU is the first e-learning institute in the Arab World that was established with the vision to develop a new learning process through the implementation of learning practices characterised by flexibility, quality and diversity to strengthen self-leadership among learners and prepare them socially and academically for a future career through integration in the job market. HBMeU’s philosophy is based on vital methods that have been developed through extensive research and development by specialists from all over the world. These methods include offering high quality programs, supporting the pursuit of lifelong learning, promoting the freedom of information, reinforcing the culture of excellence and innovation and providing education for everyone in line with the highest standards of comprehensiveness and credibility. The university seeks to constantly identify knowledge needs, support research and development programs and create an outstanding environment for e-learning.