Most Saudi universities to switch to E-learning by next year

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Most Saudi universities will switch from a traditional system of education to e-learning next year. The Ministry of Higher Education has set up the National Center of E-learning & Distance Learning (ELC) to oversee the change and prepare e-learning material.

“The new system will bring about dramatic progress in the Kingdom's higher education,” said Dr Abdullah Almegren, director of ELC, adding that nine Saudi universities have already signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with the ministry to implement the system.

“A team of experts from the ministry recently visited a number of international universities that have successfully adopted the e-learning system to know how it is working,” Almegren told Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic daily.

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The ministry has set up a repository for e-learning material to support universities that implement the system. “E-books for engineering, medical, computer science and humanities courses will be made available first at the repository,” he said, adding that the ministry has started providing training to faculty members at universities to implement the system.

He said the ministry was studying prospects of reducing class attendance hours of university students after shifting to e-learning. “Once the system is implemented, students need not have 100 percent class attendance as they can keep in touch with faculty members through modern electronic communication facilities,” he added. Almegren said the response of faculty members was encouraging.

He said the system was introduced on the directives of Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah who had called for a national plan for the utilization of information technology. “The plan recommends the implementation of e-learning and distance learning, and all their prospective applications in higher education,” he added.

Almegren emphasized the need for adopting the new system, as the traditional model would not be appropriate or adequate in preparing students for the complexities of today's rapidly developing society. “E-learning truly enables students to tailor their education under the guidance of teachers serving as mentors,” he added.

Universities that have signed MOUs with the ministry for e-learning are: King Saud University, King Abdul Aziz University, Baha University, Taiba University, Qassim University, Hail University, Taif University, Umm Al-Qura University and Madinah Islamic University.

Almegren said that under the agreement his center would provide technical and consultative support to universities to use e-learning, facilitate the transition to this type of education and lay basic rules for its application.

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