Applications of E-Learning in Saudi Arabian Universities

Saudi Arabia in the recent past has experienced a growth in E-learning and university education, there was the recent establishment of a center for distance and E-Learning aimed at creating a resource for electronic educational material as well as a venue for members of the faculty to create e-courses. The King Fahad University in Dhahran, the Prince Mohammed bin Fahad University in Dammam, and the Effat College in Jeddah, all in Saudi Arabia have recently adopted e-learning facilities for use by their students. This is following in the footsteps of The Arab Open University in Riyadh, which bases its instructional delivery on e-learning. There are over 800 monthly scholarships awarded to people studying outside Saudi Arabia through E-learning. There are several types of e-learning used in Saudi Arabia. The most common one is where the students access their course assignments and upload their completed assignments online. They also communicate with their instructors via email while they access valuable information from the World Wide Web. Some credit course instructors hand over course work and assignments using videotapes. Here, students visit the library at the appointed time for the course or even during their free time to watch the videos. Some courses offered via television meets the needs of students who cannot attend classes regularly. In case they miss the show because of their commitments, they can always get the DVDs that are available on campus. For those living or working far away from the campus, video conferencing is another of the choices that they can pick. Videoconferencing enables one to communicate with the instructor and give feedback because both can see and hear each other.

Quantitative method

This is both an objective and a subjective approach towards the investigation of E-learning in Saudi Arabia. In this type of research, the investigators use hypotheses and research questions to focus on the reason for a study. In the case of the hypothesis, the researcher comes

up with a conclusion regarding the relationship of the variables, whereas the research question seeks to interrogate and establish an answer with regard to the research. These are both numeric estimates of the values of the population under investigation based on the collected data from the samples. The objective approach deals with the collection, analysis and application of numeric data and the application of the same. This subjective approach examines the perceptions of the outcomes of E-learning to gain a better understanding of its impact (Creswell, 2003). Data collection for a research project usually involves the use of questionnaires. The questionnaires have different sections that seek information on the various aspects of the standard of E-learning in Saudi Arabia. To get objective responses one uses multiple choice and scale-type questions. The questions are; closed ended and use performance, census data, attitude and observation. The questionnaire requires the least number of resources, is easy to use, it is possible to customize it to fit an organization and enables an organization get the intended feedback in a fast and cost effective way. The weaknesses of the questionnaire include low-response rates, errors during the exercise and administrative research problems. Quantitative methods include the analysis of data in an efficient way and if presented using tables or graphs, give a clear visual impression. Computer programs such as Microsoft access or Microsoft excel which analyze survey research. They allow quick sorting of collected information where one can look at the data from different angles. In King Saudi University, in Saudi Arabia, a questionnaire investigated students’ attitude towards the effectiveness of mobile learning, which is an E-learning procedure that involves mobility and computing. The objective of the study was to explore the student’s attitudes and perceptions of mobile learning, drawing their preferences for mobile learning in distance education and examining the extent of mobile learning by distance learners. The questionnaire had eight items that measure students’ attitudes on mobile learning effectiveness, and a five-point scale detailing the extent of agreement and disagreement to the eight items. The findings of the research concluded that the best device to use in E-learning for students is the mobile phone; owing to its high ownership, though it deprives those who do not have them the learning and their acquisition would lead to financial implications. Mobile phones enable more flexibility provides timely information and gives students the freedom to learn from anywhere and at any time.

Qualitative approaches

These methods of research lead to the understanding of the behaviors of human being in society. It relies on a different set of assumptions, criteria and justification in the creation of an authentic research. These methods investigate the how’s and why’s of peoples decisions. These methods produce data that is non-numerical and is explanation based. This method focuses on signs, language and meaning while approaching the research contextually and holistically. The methods of collecting data in qualitative analysis include narratology, classical enthography, grounded theory practice and storytelling. Information gathering is through participant observation, field notes, pictures, various texts, interviews, and discussions. Some of the most frequently adopted qualitative research methods include ethnographic research, which investigates cultures. Critical social research, which investigates how people communicate, Ethical inquiry, which is an intellectual analysis of problems, that are of ethical nature, Historical research, which allows people to discuss past and present issues and allow one to find solutions to current problems, Grounded theory, Phenomenology, and Philosophical research. Thirty high-ranking academicians interviewed concerning E-learning had the view that it was here to stay, despite having several challenges associated with it such as resources, management, information technology and organization. The above qualitative research occurred when the thirty had attended a two-week course on e learning. The participants discussed that e learning would transform education though, it would lead to the learners being more self directed and inquisitive. From the discussions, it was clear that e learning lacked support in terms of structures, management and organization in Saudi Arabian Universities. There lacked a clear organizational link between the bodies that were involved in the provision of e leaning therefore their discovery of a National Centre of E-learning surprised everyone in its lack of official oversight in the development of e learning in Saudi Arabian universities. For the effectiveness of e learning, there has to be regional balance in the telecommunication problem where there are inequalities in parts of Saudi Arabia.

Mixed methods

This employs both qualitative and quantitative methods mentioned above; this method of research adopts the strengths of both procedures while reducing their weaknesses. Here, the researcher expands their findings of one method with another method, concurrent timing procedure, where the researcher unites both quantitative and qualitative data to provide an analysis of the research problem and transformation procedures. This method develops a rationale for mixing and presents a visual picture of both the qualitative and quantitative methods of research. The method uses both predetermined and emerging methods of data collection, has both open ended and closed ended questions, uses statistical and text analysis and has multiple forms of data drawing on all possibilities. A study conducted in Al-Bayan School, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia using the mixed methods proposed the formation of a tool that would enable the librarian and the teacher to collaborate in the linking of E-resources of the curriculum in support of the E-learners in their pursuit of their various courses. The findings of the research indicated that 98.3 percent of the students exposed to the tool in class used it, 96.6 percent used it independently, and 16.4 percent of the students proposed additional resources of 2.7 percent. This study shows that the E-learning tool provided opportunities for students to carry out their requirements at the shortest time using the least effort.

The best method

The qualitative analysis gives a more realistic feel of the research as well as giving subsequent analysis and interpretation of the collected data as compared to the quantitative method. Researchers claim that the qualitative analysis gives a holistic view of the phenomena under investigation. It also gives the researcher the ability to interact with the subjects in their own terms as well as using their own language. Quantitative research specifically states research problems, as well as the set terms; in addition, it specifies both independent and dependent variables that are under investigation. It arrives to objective conclusions while firmly holding on to the original set of research goals. It is noteworthy to testing hypothesis and determining casualty issues. Quantitative methods are reliable because their observations are under a controlled environment, in addition; this method eliminates and minimizes the prejudice of judgment. The mixed method as stated earlier is a mixture of both the qualitative and quantitative methods of research. All research makes sense of social or natural phenomena in the world including e learning. Science Philosophers state that quantitative research is confirmatory while qualitative research is explanatory; this results in the mixed method of research having both the confirmatory and the explanatory aspects to it. The data that the research methods deal in is more or less the same, with the only difference being the angle of approach. All quantitative scales start with qualitative understanding and then later translated to scales for numeric measurements. Using mixed methods gives the researchers the chance to support their hypothesis with proof from qualitative and quantitative methods. The combinations of the strengths of the qualitative and quantitative methods of research lead to a very productive data analysis. The use of many different procedures brings about the options and possibility of new ways of thinking because of the different types of data. Mixed methods lead to researchers seeking more understanding to problems in social science, which may not be fully understood using the qualitative and quantitative methods. The mixed method of research enables researchers to have a better understanding of the area of study with stronger validity and credibility. In the research, where there are new ideas and fresh perspectives, the mixed method of research gives more insight in comparison to the qualitative and quantitative methods alone. This method also leads an individual to have a greater understanding of values and consciousness in considerable diversity. Unlike qualitative and quantitative methods, the mixed method of analysis does not limit the data to be collected. The only disadvantages of using the mixed methods of analysis are that it requires expertise in both the qualitative and quantitative methods and the requirement of extensive data collection and resources. From the above discussion of the strength and weaknesses of the three methods of research, it is worth noting that the mixed method of research is more superior owing to its quality of combining the strengths of both the qualitative and quantitative methods of research.

References

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches. Cumberland Road, Fishers: SAGE.

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