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Higher Education Open and Distance Learning Knowledge Base for Decision Makers in Arab States Needs Analysis

Submitted to: The UNESCO Cairo Office  By: Dr. L. K. Gaafar  Gaafar 1

December 2001

1 The author wishes to express his gratitude to Dr. Tariq A. Aldowaisan, the chairman of the Department Department of Industrial and Management Management Systems Engineering at KU, for his signific significant ant contrib contributi ution on to this study and his indispe indispensa nsable ble support, support, and for his valuable remarks on the final draft of this report.

Higher Education Open and Distance Learning Knowledge Base for Decision Makers in Arab States Needs Analysis

Table of Contents 1. Introduction........................................................................................................................1 2. Approach............................................................................................................................2 3. Results................................................................................................................................2 4. Conclusions........................................................................................................................6 Appendices A. An English translation of the survey questionnaire.....................................................8 B. Respondents and responses........................................................................................11

1. Introduction

As the UNESCO intends to establish a Higher Education Open and Distance Learning Knowledge Base for Decision Makers in Arab States, this report is a detailed "Needs Analysis" that provides input on the design and content of such a Knowledge Base. The State of Kuwait was chosen for this "Needs Analysis" as a representative of all Arab states in the Gulf region. Kuwait is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which also encompasses Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar. The development of the intended Knowledge Base could not have come at a better time for the Arab region. The region has seen a flurry of activities related to open and distance learning over the last couple of years. This comes in the wake of a realization that open and distance learning could provide a solution to many problems facing tertiary education including increased demand and costs. Among the main activities in the region is the establishment of the Arab Open University, headquartered in the State of Kuwait. It is set to accept students for the fall semester of 2002. Also, an exceptional meeting of the Arab ministers of higher education and scientific research was held in September of 2000 to discuss a multitude of issues including open and distance learning. Kuwait has been at the center of many recent open and distance learning activities. It was chosen to host the headquarters of the Open Arab University. Kuwait University (KU) has also been chosen as the host of the GCC committee on distance learning, which is responsible for planning and supervising all activities related to distance learning in all GCC member states. KU has also made many significant efforts in the field of open and distance learning, some of which have been supported by the UNESCO. Among these activities is a workshop that the author coordinated in November of 1997 on multimedia  based education and distance learning. The workshop was supported by the UNESCO Cairo Office. The UNESCO has also supported many open and distance learning related training programs at KU that started in February of 2001. KU has also recently established a Tele-Video Conferencing Lab and an Electronic Village. A specialized company has also been contracted to aid in the development of  distance learning courses. This "Needs Analysis" covers the following aspects of an open and distance learning Knowledge Base: • • •



• •

The representative tasks and challenges faced. The most pressing immediate issues. Examples of information products or queries to be answered by the intended Knowledge Base. Preferences regarding the methodology and interface of the intended Knowledge Base. Mechanisms to maintain updated information for this activity in the region. Training needs of decision makers in the field of open and distance learning.

In the remainder of this report, Section 2 describes the approach used in the "Needs Analysis," Section 3 details the results and, finally, Section 4 provides the main

conclusions.

2. Approach

The "Needs Analysis" started with a general survey of activities related to open and distance learning in the Arab world in general, and Kuwait in particular, in order to determine the target audience and design a suitable questionnaire. Many reports were surveyed and a key interview was conducted. Readings included proceedings of the exceptional meeting of the Arab ministers of higher education and scientific research, reports on distance learning activities at KU up to year 2001, and various articles on the Arab Open University (AOL). Dr. Malek G. Hussain, the chairman of KU’s committee on distance learning and a consultant to the AOL was interviewed on various issues related to open and distance learning. As a result of these readings and interview, a survey containing 9 questions was developed in Arabic. The survey was tested on a small sample and revised accordingly. An English translation of the survey is included in Appendix A. The finalized survey was distributed to 20 individuals identified as key players in the area of open and distance learning in Kuwait. Individuals were chosen for current or past involvement with open and distance learning. In addition, some individuals were chosen for their potential future involvement with this type of learning. In this case, participants were instructed to respond based on their expectations not actual experiences. A total of  13 responses were received by the time of this report writing. A list of participants showing their involvement with open and distance learning is included in Appendix B. Appendix B also contains the actual responses of all participants. The following section describes the results of the survey.

3. Results

The following subsections list the responses received to questions 2 through 9. Participants were allowed multiple responses on questions 2 and 3. Some also made multiple choices on questions 5 and 6. In all cases, responses are listed in a descending order of their frequencies Q2. What are the main challenges that you faced in the field of open and distance learning? •







Determining the role of open and distance learning in improving quality of the teaching/learning process. (46%) Determining the most suitable programs/courses for open and distance learning. (46%) Determining the role of open and distance learning in improving the quality of  higher education (46%) Insuring the quality of the offered programs/courses. (38%)

• • • •

• • •

Determining the best ways to obtain the necessary technology. (33%) Determining the required technology. (31%) Marketing open and distance learning programs. (31%) Convincing investors in the private sector of the feasibility of open and distance learning. (23%) Estimating the cost of the required equipment. (15%) Securing qualified staff for the project. (23%) Estimating the suitable price of courses offered through open and distance learning. (8%)

Additional responses that participants added are lumped and listed with those of Question 3. Q3. What are the main pressing issues related to open and distance learning in Kuwait right now? •

• •







Securing official recognition of certificates awarded through open and distance learning (accreditation). (69%) Protecting the intellectual property and copyrights of course contents. (69%) Determining the best way for the private sector to participate in financing open and distance learning. (31%) Investigating the possibility of partnerships with renowned education organizations in the fields of open and distance learning. (31%) Determining the most effective ways to finance an integrated open and distance learning system. (23%) Deciding on the appropriate instructional language. (8%)

Participants also had additional comments to both questions 2 and 3. These comments were lumped together as they are closely related. Participants cite the following additional challenges and issues: •







The lack of unified clear standards for courses offered through open and distance learning, and the lack of clear guidelines on how to design such courses and how they differ from courses offered the traditional way. Design guidelines also have to be sensitive to the nature of the program and the type of the course being developed. It is generally felt that some programs/courses may lend themselves to open and distance learning more than others, and hence, different guidelines may  be needed. Securing social acceptability of the certificates awarded through open and distance learning. This is more than mere accreditation. It involves overcoming social  perceptions of the lack of seriousness in open and distance learning education, and the reluctance of the private sector to hire graduates other than those of the wellestablished governmental institutes of traditional education. Related to the point above, is the challenge of convincing potential students of the value of open and distance learning as compared to traditional learning. It is generally felt that, at least in the beginning, open and distance learning will attract mainly the less qualified students, and accordingly, programs have to

List of Participants

The following individuals on the current list of target audience are: Name Prof. Malek G. Hussain

Prof. Walid Bouhamra

Prof. Kazem Albahrany* Prof. Jamal Al-Hajji Dr. Mansour Jeragh* Mr. Ali AlShammari Dr. Ziad Nijm* Dr. Fawaz Alanzi Dr. Mohamed Almulla* Dr. Mirza Hassan* Dr. Tariq A. Al-Dowaisan Dr. Khalid Alreshid*

Open and distance learning involvement Head of committee on open and distance learning in Kuwait Member of the executive office of the Arab Open University Responsible for implementing distance learning at Kuwait University Head of the GCC committee on higher education. Consultant for distance learning planning and follow up, KU. Member of committee on open and distance learning in Kuwait Administered a distance learning course as the director of KU’s community service center. Member of committee on open and distance learning in Kuwait Did a Master thesis on the design of databases for distance learning. Member of the Canadian committee on distance learning. Member of committee on open and distance learning in Kuwait Director of the college of Engineering and Petroleum’s information and multimedia office responsible for distance learning activities. Assistant to the vice president on decision support, KU Will be involved in future activities as the dean of the college of  administrative sciences Will be involved in future activities as the chairman of the Department of Industrial Engineering. May be involved in future activities.

Dr. Mohamed Alrefai* May be involved in future activities. * Name spelling may not be accurate, as it was only available in Arabic.

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