Saudi Arabia: Distance Learning with the American University of London
The history of higher education in Saudi Arabia is a study of educational progress almost unparalleled in recent times.
University education as known today began in 1957 with a single institution and an enrolment of a few students and one university.
By 1982 higher education had grown to seven universities and approximately 67,000 students and a teaching staff of 6895, as well as the Kingdom’s public expenditure on higher education being one of the highest in the region.
Following the revolutionary developments in online learning, such as Massive Open and Online Courses (MOOCs), online and distance education is now also getting increasingly popular in Saudi Arabia although, in its early days, its start was a faltering and hesitant.
At first authorities in Saudi Arabia and in a number of Gulf states viewed with suspicion the arrival and the popularity of this new method of instruction. Many institutions specialized in Distance Learning such as the American University of London (a pioneer in this form of learning since 1984), were often referred to as fictitious: “جامعة وهمية”
Many students in the Kingdom are nowadays opting for distance education because of its accessibility: It enables learners to be less bound by time and location and thus gives flexibility to those who are not able to follow a strict schedule due to personal circumstances, family or work obligations.
Also, distance learning is less expensive than brick and mortar education. It opens up learning opportunities to those who would otherwise not be able to study and facilitates the social inclusion of people with disadvantaged financial backgrounds. To address this, issue the American University of London introduced the Asia & Africa Studentship Bursary (AASB) of £ 1000, (off the total program fee,) to financially deserving students.
Notwithstanding the authorities’ efforts to discourage students from enrolling in the new universities, the growth in student’s enrolment was phenomenal. In the month of June 2016 the American University of London via its affiliates in the region graduated its 10,000th student from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Why are students from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia still enrolling? What is it that the American University of London offers that continues to attract students?
To name but a few of the university’s recent innovations we introduced the following distance learning technologies:
- Voice-centered technology, such as CD recordings or Webcasts
- Video technology, such as instructional videos, DVDs, and interactive videoconferencing.
- Computer-cantered technology delivered over the Internet or the university’s corporate intranet .
The modules (study manuals) of this university are on par with those used by the top universities in the UK. They are now all digitized to secure speedy delivery to students. These modules are the student’s “private tutor” at home.
In addition to this the American University of London offers live online lectures on almost all the courses offered. These are available to registered students to watch (using their personal passwords) at any time of their choosing and throughout their course of study.
The growth in enrolment is not a fad; all indications are that this growth will continue.