Online Learning Model for Primary Level at Dubai

Introduction

One of the pride of the UAE is its educational system, recognized by the world community as the most modern and efficient. It is not surprising, since namely high-quality education is one of the priority state programs of the Arab Emirates, which practically makes UAE education a leader in the world ranking in terms of prestige and demand. Having adopted in the field of education the centuries-old experience of the developed countries of the world, the UAE government has created its own unique education system, using a completely new methodological base. Today, education in the UAE represents a universal symbiosis of innovation, technogenicity, and tradition. Moreover, a high level of educational potential and interest of the population initiated the creation of elite universities of the international category in the country, as well as scientific and educational centers of the world’s largest technical companies.

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However, today, to ensure continuity at all levels of education, it is necessary to provide access to distance education at the level of all communities. Specialists on strategic problems of education call distance (online) learning the educational system of the 21st century (Jung & Gunawardena, 2014). The necessity of considering the topic of distance learning is determined by social progress results, previously focused in the field of technology and today moving towards the information field. Distance learning today makes it possible to create systems of mass continuous self-learning, general exchange of information, regardless of time and space. In addition, the distance education system gives equal opportunities to all people regardless of social status (schoolchildren, students, civilian and military, unemployed, etc.) in any regions of the country and abroad. It is needed to realize human rights to education and information, which corresponds to a competitive knowledge economy declared as one of the strategic priorities in UAE vision 2021.

Moreover, according to PwC (2019) report, “the UAE continues to be the most competitive country in the Arab World according to the Global Competitiveness Index, but its ranking dropped back to 2015-16 levels in 2017-18. This was mainly due to the relative improvement of other countries, highlighting a need to accelerate change” (pp. 3-4). These mentioned improvements imply the need to constantly maintain the highest level of education at all stages, to preserve educational competitiveness of UAE both at the world market of educational services and as a competitive country with its soft power declared in Vision 2021. Moreover, there is some gap between the higher education and labor market. OECD report, presenting the results of detailed examination and analysis of situation among the higher education programs offered in UAE by accredited institutions revealed clearly evident gap between higher education institutions and the skills demanded by employers (Sebihi, 2014). Although the study refers to 2014, the situation did not change much since that time.

This report targets the Dubai community of online education in particular. Since Dubai has taken the role of pioneering online education as the means of reinforcing the process of learning and offering students new opportunities, considering the accomplishments and issues observed in the Dubai online academic setting appears to be a logical step to take.

Additionally, the issue of online education needs to be considered in conjunction with some of the recent changes in the learning process and the associated concerns. Namely, the problem of COVID-19 as the main factor contributing to the spread of online education as the main tool for keeping the access to learning open for Dubai students needs to be addressed.

Given the fact that the problems observed in the field of online education affect younger learners to the greatest extent as the most vulnerable group, the primary school context will be considered. Indeed, since young learners have not yet developed the skills and habits needed to retain their academic progress at the required level and maintain their enthusiasm in studying, it is critical to consider the factors that reinforce their learning process, as well as the ones that inhibit it. As a result of this analysis, one can develop the strategy that can be used to address similar concerns in older students as well. Thus, the focus on primary education as the area of the greatest concern associated with online learning is justified.

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UAE Vision 2021 and the Role of Online Education

According to the document UAE Vision 2021, the country seeks to create a modern state, economy, and society focused on innovation, progress, sustainable development and increased competitiveness. The continuation of the implementation of Vision 2021 was the consolidation of the institution of soft power at the official level. The UAE leadership has taken care of the creation of an independent body responsible for the development of this direction. The created UAE Soft Power Council, which main task is to develop the attractiveness of the state, presented the Soft Power Strategy two months after its foundation, based on four key goals (Ridge et al. 2016):

  • The designing of a unified direction of development for various sectors, including the economy, humanities, tourism, media, and science;
  • The development of the role of the UAE as a “gateway to the region” (“UAE Vision 2021,” 2020);
  • Strengthening the UAE as a regional leader in culture, art, and tourism;
  • Building and maintaining the UAE’s reputation as a modern and tolerant state that welcomes people from all over the world.

E-learning represents a rather new concept to the United Arab Emirates and Dubai in particular. Accordingly, some barriers of successful implementation of online learning are mentioned by the researchers: not suiting learning style, because of the necessity to use Moodle and other Western tools; lack of motivation; feeling stressed and anxious (Gokah et al., 2015). While these barriers refer to ‘technical’ side of online learning, which can be eliminated easy by development of national equivalent to Moodle, there are some other factors that require further sound research and investigation: quality concerns about e-learning and preferring live talking to teachers.

Definitions of Online Education

It is obvious that the implementation of these goals is impossible without an extremely effective and well-functioning system of lifelong education, which today largely relies on online learning. The researchers point out that, on the one hand, distance learning should be considered in the general system of continuing education, assuming the continuity of its individual links. On the other hand, distance learning must be distinguished as a system and as a process. Distance learning is understood as educational technologies implemented mainly with the use of information and telecommunication networks with indirect (at a distance) interaction between students and teachers (Lockwood, 2013). An online course is always a form of e-learning and distance learning as a broader category, but not every distance or e-learning course is an online course.

Anderson (2008) defines “online learning as a synthetic, integral humanistic form of learning, based on the use of a wide range of traditional and new information technologies and their technical means, which are used to deliver educational material, study it independently” (p. 18). At the same time, Anderson (2018) continues, dialogue exchange between a teacher and a student, and the learning process in general case is not critical to their location in space and time, as well as to a specific educational institution. Jung (2019) proposes another definition, also consonant with the goals of Vision 2021 in the field of education. He states that learning through telecommunications, in which the subjects of learning (students, teachers, tutors, etc.), having spatial or temporal remoteness, carry out a general educational process aimed at creating external educational products and corresponding internal changes (increments) of education subjects.

Related Works on Online Learning: Distance Learning from a Systemic Perspective

In general, the use of distance learning technologies makes it possible to expand the possibilities of learning according to many criteria: it becomes possible to organize training simultaneously for students of different profiles, specializations, and directions. The professionalism and competence of students is increased through the use of information within the discipline at home. A single information space is being formed, which is very important for the unification of the quality of education for all communities in Dubai.

The main reason for the intensive development of the distance learning system is its ability to integrate. It is impossible to concentrate in one educational institution all the world’s information resources accumulated by humanity in the scientific and educational space. Thus, the task is to provide access to information resources located in any region from every geographic point of the planet where the learning process is organized using telecommunications. Distance learning activates information resources distributed across different territories. This is the conceptual rationale and ideology of the need for the development of distance learning.

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At the same time, as a new form of education, online education cannot be a completely autonomous system. Picciano (2017) notes that distance learning is built in accordance with the same goals as full-time education (if it is built according to the relevant educational programs), with the same content. However, the form of presentation of the material, the form of interaction between the teacher and students, as well as students between themselves is different. The basic didactic principles of online learning are basically the same as for any other education, but the principles of organizing distance learning are specific for this kind of education, as they are determined by the unique form, the capabilities of the Internet information environment, its services (chats, forums, mail, videoconferences). The characteristic features of distance learning are modularity, a change in the role of the teacher (largely associated with the separation of functions of course developers, tutors, etc.), the separation of subjects of the educational process by distance. It is also about virtual cooperative learning, the predominance of self-control, the use of modern specialized technologies and teaching aids, etc.

However, along with the advantages of distance learning, there are problems in its organization. Therefore, the effectiveness of distance learning directly depends on those teachers who work with students on the Internet (Garrison, 2016). These should be teachers with universal training: proficient in modern pedagogical technologies and IT, with psychological readiness to work with students in a new – network – environment.

Another problem, noted by Whiteside et al. (2017), is the infrastructure of student information support in networks. It is not evident what should be the structure and composition of educational material. In addition, the conditions of access to distance learning courses are under the question. The issue of organizing and assessing the knowledge of “distance” students has not been resolved either. It is noted that for its solution, it is necessary to create a regulatory framework for assessing students’ knowledge. In addition, among the differences between online learning and traditional education, a number of typical psychological and pedagogical problems can be distinguished that the teacher and students of the distance learning (DL) course have to solve (Alexander, 2017):

  • Difficulties in establishing interpersonal contacts between participants in the learning process;
  • Problems of formation of effectively working small study groups in training in cooperation;
  • Determination of individual characteristics of the students’ perception of information and learning styles for a more effective organization of the educational process;
  • Updating and maintaining motivation for learning;
  • The adequacy of the teacher’s behavior to the methodology and pedagogical technology chosen for distance learning.

The Key Factors of Online Learning

At the same time, Alexander (2017) indicates a number of important advantages of online education: “the quality and structure of training courses, as well as the quality of teaching in distance learning, are often much better than in traditional forms of education. New electronic technologies can not only ensure the active involvement of students in the learning process, but also make it possible to manage this process, unlike in most traditional learning environments” (pp. 22-23). The interactive capabilities of the programs and information delivery systems used in the distance learning system make it possible to establish and even stimulate feedback, provide dialogue and ongoing support that are not possible in most traditional learning systems (Dickson et al., 2014). Modern computer telecommunications have the potential of providing the transfer of knowledge, enabling access to wide diversity of necessary information on an equal footing. Sometimes, it is carried out to a much greater extent than in case of using traditional teaching tools.

In addition, online and blended learning offers alternative opportunities for students with certain restrictions: family, professional, or territorial (Picciano, 2018). Access to education is expanding for students who do not have the necessary financial resources to receive a traditional university education. In some cases, researchers point to a higher performance among adult students due to a higher level of initial knowledge and the presence of professional competencies that allow them to master the course more effectively (Whiteside et al., 2017). Among the drivers for the development of online learning, there are also the tasks of adapting and retaining students enrolled in educational programs, attracting new students, as well as reducing the costs associated with the educational process (Garrison, 2016). The latter point is especially important in connection with the continuing low level of salaries for school teachers in Dubai.

Moreover, distance learning has a number of specific characteristics, properties, and features. In online learning, a significant role is assigned to a tutor, that is, a person who combines the role of a teacher and an organizer of the distance learning process itself. The tutor develops a training plan and program, establishes the rules for working in distance learning systems, controls the educational process and the work of all applied information technologies used in which the learning process is implemented (Mirza & Al-Abdulkareem, 2011). The role of a tutor changes – he becomes rather a trainer and consultant for the student.

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At the same time, it is important to note that the leading role of the teacher in the activities of the tutor has not been canceled by itself. In addition to organizational and administrative tasks that a tutor solves, he/she must also solve educational tasks. In the literature, a fairly large part of the materials is devoted to the construction of the optimal operation of the e-learning systems themselves, but at the same time, the issues of the tutor’s personal characteristics and their influence on the effectiveness of the learning process are not always considered (Fraij, 2013). On the contrary, in the system of traditional forms of education, a considerable part of scientific works is devoted to the study of the personal characteristics of an effective teacher and the requirements for him in professional activity. Many studies are devoted to motivation, effectiveness of teaching; however, in the field of distance learning, as a rule, technical rather than humanitarian issues prevail.

Benefits of Online Education for the Communities

Speaking about the benefits of online education for various communities in Dubai and the UAE as a whole, it should be noted that today the problem of low pay for teachers who play a key role in the formation of young minds is global. Unfortunately, the United Arab Emirates was no exception in this case. Unprofessional selection of personnel, low wages, and unfavorable working conditions are the main reasons for the teacher’s decision to leave the job (Dickson et al., 2014). Frequent job changes undoubtedly have a negative impact on the quality of education. Unfortunately, school administrators often underestimate the importance of this problem. Providing teachers with training to improve skills, support and improve working conditions is not part of private school owners’ immediate plans.

The implementation of online learning has gained especially high importance in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the constant threat to students’ well-being, continuing offline classes no longer seems possible, which is why the transition to online education has gained crucial role in advancing children’s education in 2020 (Almuraqab, 2020). Without any other tools for assisting children with the acquisition of critical knowledge and skills, educators have to resort to using solely digital education tools as the vital device for promoting knowledge acquisition.

At the same time, as a teacher, one should acknowledge the limitations of online learning as a tool for promoting education and the development of literacy, especially in primary school children. The lack of personal interactions with educators, as well as a mostly isolated experience of learning, increases the development of patterns that may prevent a child from building literacy in the future (Almuraqab, 2020).

Distance education has its own specific problems, and today they are the most difficult – it is about didactics. The fact is that most of the universities that implement distance education make a standard mistake – they formally transfer the didactics adopted in traditional higher education into the online one. Taking into account the peculiarities of distance learning, practical didactics should be developed in the direction of scientifically grounded formation of the educational process, moving away from the purely descriptive nature of this science. The design of the educational process should take into account gender, age, psychodynamic and intellectual characteristics of the perception of educational material (Garrison, 2016).

In the context of Dubai primary schools, the specified innovation appears to have been working with certain [problems to be managed in the nearest future. According to the recent report, the levels of academic performance of Dubai students, especially those who used to attend primary schools, have been faltering (“Distance learning in times of COVID-19,” 2020).

In addition, the rapid rise in the role of online education has created unmanageable barriers to learning for primary students that do not have access to corresponding tools and devices. According to a report issued in May 2020, the students that do not have access to online learning tools and the related opportunities have experienced significant alienation, both in academic and social life (“Distance learning in times of COVID-19,” 2020). The described effects may have detrimental consequences for students’ social skills, as well as their academic opportunities. Namely, the levels of motivation in learners who experience difficulties accessing online classes via Zoom or similar technologies are expected to drop, causing further problems in learning (Almuraqab, 2020). Therefore, some of the limitations that online learning have led to rather negative consequences for Dubai students with reduced access to online academic services.

Finally, the lack of technological prowess and the relevant knowledge of managing digital apps constitutes a substantial amount of problems faced by Dubai families whose children have to use online apps to access the learning process. Although the rate of digital literacy has risen among Dubai residents over the past several years, a significant number of parents still struggle to use online tools correctly so that their children could manage e-learning process accordingly (Toufaily, Zalan, & Lee, 2018). As a recent study points out, “There exist other issues related to instructors and students, such as lack of computer skills and lack of experience with e-learning system by both students and instructors” (Almaiah & Alyoussef, 2019, pp. 171907-171908). The specified concern could be addressed by introducing classes for increasing computer literacy, yet the current environment of the COVID-19 pandemic does not allow using any other tools except digital ones for promoting knowledge. Therefore, the opportunities for developing digital literacy are limited to the existing guidelines and online support, which means that more efforts need to be made to make digital skills development trainings available to the Dubai population.

It is interesting to note that a comparative analysis of the activities of universities in Europe and the United States that implement distance education showed interesting data. The main difference between North American and European distance education schools at the initial stage of their development was that the first were initially focused on the latest educational technologies, while the second represented a superstructure over traditional education. The technological difference in the process of informatization of higher education between the United States and Western European countries began to fade by the mid-90s of the 20th century, when European universities started to actively use modern information technologies (Haythornthwaite et al., 2007). However, the countries of Asia, having practically missed the initial technological stage of the development of distance education, are now actively using information technologies in it. Nevertheless, in the UAE, the main emphasis is made on the traditional form of education, which leads to a situation in which online learning is really a superstructure, an addition to full-time education. However, “digitizing” traditional education is not an option; there is the need for more integral, scientifically grounded solutions – digital transformation. Questions that are important to solve today can be formulated as follows: how to find a reasonable ratio (combination) of network and educational technologies, modern teaching methods and the best experience of the traditional school, constructive options for their application.

Addressing the issue of primary schools and education for primary school students in Dubai, one should also mention another doubtless advantage that online learning provides. Namely, due to the necessity for students to remain at home while studying, young learners are more likely to receive the support of their parents when managing their assignments and the related school tasks. As a result, the assistance that parents will provide, especially the emotional support, will help students to achieve much more impressive results in studying and overcome some of the impediments that they would not manage independently (Alzouebi & El Salhat, 2016).

In relation to parents and parental involvement in children’s education, communication between parents and educators is also expected to be enhanced significantly, which will be critical for Dubai primary school students. Once parents are engaged in their children’s academic progress, they will be able to offer them enough assistance and support so that young learners could train the newly gained skills at home. As a result, new knowledge and abilities will be developed at a very fast rate. Furthermore, enhanced communication between parents and teachers will give the latter the opportunity to instruct the former about the tools and strategies that they can use to encourage their children’s academic development and enthusiasm. As a result, primary school students are expected to build their knowledge faster and more effectively. Moreover, the proposed rapport between parent and teachers and the ensuing framework for encouraging practicing new literacy skills may help to ignore some of the limitations that online education entails, such as the lack of the physical presence of a teacher in a primary student’s life.

The traditional school model is focused on the general requirements for knowledge, skills, and abilities. It implies rigid organization of the learning and teaching process. It is aimed at the unity of methods and approaches that did not allow taking into account the interests and needs of students. The era of network technologies, the universal Internet created previously inaccessible opportunities for the general availability of knowledge and network interaction of all participants in educational relations. The network influences thinking, behavior, self-identification of a person. The role of traditional skills decreases and new skills are actively formed – some disappear imperceptibly, others transform, and some also imperceptibly become the norm – the value system formed in network interaction and joint activities of people changes significantly (Sebibi, 2014). This motivates learners to be inquisitive researchers, ready to interact with other network participants in solving various problems, open to innovation. In addition, as Jung (2019) rightly noted, new forms of teacher-student interaction are being formed, which ensure a greater involvement of the latter in the educational process of forming the skills of self-development, self-organization, and self-reflection.

Limitations of the possibilities of the traditional educational process are the time frame of the lesson, the premises of classes and schools, the availability of teaching materials, including digital, the impossibility of using a variety of methods and educational technologies, teacher-class communication instead of personalized interactions with students, etc. The Internet has broken these restrictions by uniting teachers, students, families, providing an infinite space of knowledge, a storehouse of educational resources, the most modern, including educational, technologies. There are no restrictions on space and time; within a second, one can access lectures by leading scientists, works of art, consult, find friends, form a project team and implement other opportunities provided by the network (Gillett-Swan, 2017). The network brings people together according to their requests, interests, and tastes, allows teachers to exchange innovative experiences and best practices, use modern teaching materials, and make the latest models of organizing lessons publicly available. Undoubtedly, this is an advantage not only for educational, but also for the social development of communities. The formation of a culture of lifelong education, taking place even within the framework of school courses, will become a decisive factor in the success of education at a university and the further competitiveness of a graduate.

PwC (2019) notes in its report that “UAE leadership recognizes the need to move away from business and finance courses and focus more on STEAM related subjects in preparation for a job market where technological disruption is underway” (p. 5). Indeed, STEAM specialties are much less popular in UAE than in the USA or Europe. Even those who choose to study engineering, try to focus more on gaining purely technological, technical knowledge, without deepening in mathematics and other subjects which can be applied to scientific research or developing innovative products, making inventions, etc. Moreover, there is a relatively low number of postgraduate students compared with mature markets (PwC, 2019). It is evident that this trend has its roots in school education.

Moreover, today, the attitude of students to distance learning is still ambiguous. On the one hand, they understand its advantages. On the other hand, they are still a little afraid that the quality of the knowledge they acquire will be lost, the lack of personal contacts with the teacher will affect the quality of education, and the diploma will be of less importance (Gillett-Swan, 2017). This phenomenon can be traced from school years, when online interactive tools were perceived as additional, and even entertaining one. Meanwhile, the key features of the networked educational space, networked education include openness, transparency, opportunities for communication and joint activities. It also implies interaction of all participants in educational relations, the ability to share experiences, availability of redundant adaptive variable educational content and other educational materials, effective technological support, personalized training.

Therefore, additional opportunities for exploring the issues associated with online learning, particularly, for primary school students in Dubai, will have to be discovered. Presently, several important steps are being made to manage the issues outlined above. The problem of access to online education is one of the foundational concerns that the Dubai Emirate has been handling for a while (Salama, 2020). According to the existing accounts of the efforts made so far, there are currently two opportunities, the first one being a full transition to online learning in the future, and the second one implying a 30-50% rate return to offline education (Salama, 2020). In addition, the significance of teacher-parent interactions as the essential strategy for increasing the access to online learning for students has been acknowledged.

The personal characteristics of the tutor should be no less demanding than for the teachers, even though the tutor may not have full-time contact with the student throughout the entire period of study. Distance learning is differs technologically and methodologically from traditional forms of education (lectures, seminars); thus, the role of the individual here, at first glance, is blurred and has no direct meaning. The very motivation for learning in an e-learning environment shifted to the student, since the tutor can only act indirectly. Experienced tutors and administrators of distance systems know that in real life, not only the content of e-learning systems itself matters, but also the component of the tutor’s personality, which is expressed, albeit informally, but notably even in the process of electronic communication (Gokah et al., 2015). This component is difficult to be formalized, but there are clear signs and competencies for which some teachers quickly become effective tutors, while others have difficulties in organizing an effective e-learning system.

Challenges to Implement the Online Learning

Often, not wanting to work in new training systems, students argue this with the imperfection of e-learning systems, giving the opposite example that it is convenient to work in traditional systems and no one has to be forced. However, at the same time, students always cite social networks Facebook, Twitter, etc. as “good working systems.” It should be understood that these examples are not correct, since the systems in most cases are not used in any way outside teaching. However, taking into account the total popularity of social networks, it is rational to use these resources in the educational process. For example, tutors can communicate with students on Facebook, create appropriate scientific publics, groups, and exchange educational information through social networks. At the same time, the motivation of students’ work in this case will be higher than in the case of using only training platforms.

In addition, it should be noted that there is no regulatory framework for e-learning and distance learning. Moreover, many education leaders are suggesting that teachers transform the existing traditional student-centered courses into a new format. This approach is relatively easy to implement, but often leads to poor results. In this version, online courses are often created as a support for traditional or a replacement for individual disciplines of the educational program and it is about creating a mixed model, at least at the initial stage.

The Benefit of Online Learning on Community Satisfaction

Satisfaction concept

A distinctive feature of distance education is to provide students with the opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge themselves, using modern information resources. At the center of the learning process, there is independent cognitive activity. It is important for a student to learn to acquire knowledge, using various sources of information, to be able to operate with these data, using different methods of cognitive activity, and at the same time to have the opportunity to organize his/her schedule and environment. Distance education leads to an increase in the importance of self-education.

Distance learning technology is focused on the didactic application of scientific knowledge, the scientific organization of the educational process, taking into account the empirical innovations of teachers, course developers and tutors. Obviously, it is aimed at achieving high results in the development of the student’s personality. It involves the management of the learning process, and this includes two interrelated processes: the organization and control of the student’s activity. At the same time, each element of the teaching technology has its own appropriate place in the integral pedagogical process. Each technological procedure or method takes its definite place in the implementation of the learning process, in solving the problems of its optimization. Thus, using the technology of network distance education, one can talk about the effectiveness of the development of such subject competencies in students as the following:

  • Knowledge about the essence and characteristics of objects and phenomena of reality in accordance with the content of a specific academic subject;
  • Understanding of cause-and-effect, functional, and other connections and interdependencies of objects, their significance;
  • Possession of the basic conceptual apparatus necessary for further education;
  • The ability, on the basis of the acquired skills and knowledge, to navigate the world of social, intellectual, moral, and aesthetic values;
  • Application of the acquired skills and knowledge to solve various typical life situations, as well as problems associated with a person’s performance of typical social roles (Heafner, 2014).

Gokah et al. (2015), investigating the satisfaction level of e-learners in Dubai, suggest the following graph (Fig. 1 below).

Graph Showing E-Learning satisfaction level among undergraduates and postgraduate students
Fig. 1. Graph Showing E-Learning satisfaction level among undergraduates and postgraduate students

Moreover, significant difference was revealed between the satisfaction level of Government (public) University’s e-learners and private universities e-learners (Fig. 2 below).

Graph representation showing significant difference between the satisfaction level of Federal or Government University’s e-learner and a private university’s e-learner
Fig. 2. Graph representation showing significant difference between the satisfaction level of Federal or Government University’s e-learner and a private university’s e-learner

The necessary features of online learning at the community level are the following: flexibility – the ability to study at a convenient time, in a convenient place and pace; unregulated period of time for mastering the discipline; modularity – the ability to form a curriculum that meets individual or group needs from a set of independent training courses; modules coverage – simultaneous access to many sources of educational information (electronic libraries, data banks, knowledge bases, etc.) of a large number of students (Means, 2014). Communication through specific networks with each other and with teachers, as well as cost-effectiveness – effective use of training space, technical and transport vehicles, concentrated and unified presentation of educational information and multi-access to it – reduces the cost of training. Moreover, manufacturability should be noted – the use of the latest achievements of information and telecommunication technologies in the educational process, that contributes to the advancement of a person into the world post-industrial information space. Moreover, social equality should be provided – equal opportunities to receive education regardless of place of residence, health status, elitism, and material security of the student.

Measurement of Satisfaction

The problems associated with the definition of the quality of educational services, its measurement and management, lie in the nature of educational services:

  • Educational services are intangible – this means that they are difficult to measure using any physical indicators;
  • The service result cannot be saved – this greatly complicates the control of the service result;
  • Service outcomes are usually different – even in highly standardized educational programs, different consumers receive educational services to varying degrees;
  • The consumers are involved in the operational process – this increases the likelihood that each operation will be unique.

The purpose of monitoring is to obtain a holistic view of the degree of customer satisfaction with the quality of educational services.

Despite the fact that satisfaction is the most commonly used term in marketing, there is no single definition of this concept. Many interpretations of this term are associated with differences in the directions and goals of research (Means, 2014). In its most general form, satisfaction is a characteristic of a person’s psychological state as a result of the realization that he/she has achieved the desired goal. In marketing, satisfaction refers to the degree to which consumers’ expectations are met. Some researchers define satisfaction as the attitude of the consumer to the product (Nguyen, 2015). Summarizing these definitions, one can highlight some features of the concept of “satisfaction”:

  1. Customer satisfaction (community) is an assessment of the perception or emotional attitude towards a product or service. Some studies show that satisfaction has not only an emotional component, but also a cognitive one (Nguyen, 2015);
  2. Satisfaction is the result of the experience of buying and consuming goods and services, that is, it is a long-term process of forming an assessment, not only from one interaction, but from a whole complex of interactions;
  3. Satisfaction depends on the previous expectations or previous beliefs of the consumers. In this regard, the assessment process is based on a comparison between actual consumption experience and initial beliefs or expectations. A person involuntarily compares a product either with similar ones or with his own standard;
  4. Satisfaction is an evaluative characteristic.

The researchers note that there are significant differences in how students and community perceive their experience and learning process in the traditional format and in online education environment (Sun & Chen, 2016). Within the framework of the study, this definition was taken as the basis. In other words, satisfaction of students (listeners) with online courses is measured as consumers’ assessment of their own educational experience, consisting of a set of factors and perception of learning outcomes. The perceptions of the experience gained during the online course can influence the decision of students to continue their studies. Satisfaction, according to the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC), is the most important factor in online learning (Sun & Chen, 2016).

To measure the assessment of satisfaction, the CSI index can be calculated, which allows determining the relationship between overall satisfaction, compliance with expectations, and the ideal; to measure the behavioral response, the NPS (willingness to recommend) index calculation method can be used; Needs & Gaps perception maps can be constructed and factor analysis can be performed to determine the importance of factors and their contribution.

Theoretical Framework

The subject of pedagogical methodology is the relationship between pedagogical reality and its reflection in pedagogical science. In this branch of scientific knowledge, two areas are distinguished: methodological research and methodological support. The first task is to identify patterns and trends in the development of pedagogical science in its connection with practice, the principles of increasing the efficiency and quality of research in the field of education, and analysis of their conceptual composition and methods. The second task is to substantiate the research program and assess its quality when it is being conducted or has already been completed. In accordance with these directions, the purpose of the pedagogical methodology is to perform two functions – descriptive, i.e., suggesting a theoretical description of the object, and prescriptive, or normative, creating guidelines for the work of the researcher. Both of these directions are implemented in our study. Moreover, compliance with the principle of essential analysis is associated with the correlation in the studied phenomena of the general, special and individual, penetration into their internal structure, disclosure of the laws of their existence and functioning, conditions and factors of their development.

Since the pedagogical process is complex and dynamic, an important requirement is the need to take into account the constant change, the development of the studied elements and the pedagogical system as a whole. The functions of many elements change significantly during the development process. Thus, for example, a pedagogical tool that is effective, at a certain moment already at the next stage of development, may turn out to be ineffective.

The variety of influences of many diverse factors on pedagogical phenomena requires the identification of the main factors that determine their results, the establishment of a hierarchy, and the relationship of the main and secondary factors in the phenomenon under study. Cognition of the essence also presupposes the fulfillment of the requirement of disclosing the inconsistency of the subject under study, mutual transitions of quantitative and qualitative changes. This necessitates the application of grounded theory methodology.

Conceptual Framework

Neopositivism was chosen as the philosophy of the research. In the strict sense of the word, positivism is a philosophical trend based on the belief that genuine, “positive” knowledge can be obtained only through research carried out within the framework of individual sciences, or as a result of their synthetic combination. According to this view, philosophy, on the other hand, as a special area of knowledge that claims to know the truth, has no right to exist. Thus, positivism is characterized by the absolutization of the role of scientific knowledge and the denial of any of its other forms, such as religious and philosophical doctrines. Neopositivists set the task of creating a “new” ontology, which consists in the analysis of the language of science and the logical construction of reality. However, the main thing is that neo-positivism created its understanding of science in line with the methodology of inductivism, according to which the growth of knowledge is cumulative and the development of knowledge is an evolutionary and continuous process of obtaining and accumulating increasingly more absolute truths.

The program for substantiating scientific knowledge, proposed by logical positivism, was, of course, not the first attempt in the history of philosophy and science to discover the fundamental and “immediately obvious” foundations of knowledge, to reduce complex conceptual constructions to some elementary components, to distinguish between analytical and synthetic judgments, etc. (Schick, 1999). However, the uniqueness of this program lies, in our opinion, in the fundamental and consistent reliance on modern formal-logical methods for the analysis of scientific knowledge, which presupposed the use of artificial languages with a uniquely fixed structure, rigorous methods for defining introduced concepts, and a description of the relationship between the initial concepts of the theory using a system of axioms.

Definitions, Implications, Gaps, and Prospects

‘Networked’ education makes it possible not only to create formal and informal communities of students by educational tasks and personal interests within the framework of the main educational program and programs of additional education, but also by any interests, forms and types of activities. In fact, in early childhood, the foundations of self-organization, self-education, self-development, and reflection are laid throughout life in a recognizable environment. School platforms must be open; there can be no “the only solution” (Gallagher, 2019). Activities in networked communities significantly affect ethics, norms, and rules of behavior, value system, peculiarities of interaction, etc. Students who are members of networked communities, as a rule, do not always know well, do not feel trust in a relationship that corresponds to that which is in reality “face to face” communications. Here, as new community members (of different ages) are involved, relationships between people are formed based on common interests and activities, on work in project teams with the distribution of participants’ roles, etc. (Kumi-Yeboah, 2014). In fact, the network plays an important complementary (enriching) supportive role in pedagogical activity, providing effective communication and interaction, contributing to a deeper understanding of the material being studied, deepening and expanding the relationship between learners, teachers and learners, educators and families.

In this context, it should be noted that sociologists, as a rule, refer to the meaningful characteristics of the concept of “education,” first, as a social institution, which is a system that includes a set of statuses, norms, values, social organizations responsible for the transfer of accumulated human experience (Jung, 2019). Secondly, a purposeful process of education and upbringing in the interests of the state, society and the individual is assumed; thirdly, there is an element of spiritual production, which is the main factor in the movement and distribution of knowledge (Dhull & Sakshi, 2017). At the same time, many researchers, defining the concept of “distance learning,” apply a one-sided approach. For example, it is not indicated that active interaction can occur not only between students and teachers, but also between the students themselves and the teaching aids. The subjects of the educational process are separated in space and time, and, importantly, they do not emphasize the fact that the process takes place in a specific educational system.

The most objective understanding of distance learning is offered by those who believe that distance learning is a purposeful process of interactive interaction between teachers and students with each other and with teaching tools, invariant (indifferent) to their location in space and time, which is implemented in a specific didactic system (Harasim, 2011). This specificity of the didactic system must be taken into account both for the Emirate of Dubai as a whole and for all included communities.

As practice in the United States shows, distance education programs are indispensable for some categories of students. Among them, first of all, there are groups of the population who are in disadvantageous conditions and are limited in their ability to obtain higher education due to health problems or disabilities, remoteness of universities, lack of time or limited financial resources. There is also a part of the adult audience who did not receive higher education within 10-15 years after graduating from high school, as well as the population that needs for further employment or career growth in obtaining a second higher education on the job, etc. (Sun & Chen, 2016). Obviously, the above benefits have great potential in the communities of Dubai as well.

It is evident that the theoretical model of organizing distance learning for representatives of different communities is a unity of interrelated and interdependent components: conceptual-target, activity-methodological, and logical content. The conceptual-target component of the theoretical model for organizing online learning should be based on the personal-professional centering of the projected model. It implies systemic and competence-based approach to the design of content, forms, methods, and means of distance learning; a synergistic approach to determining the conditions of self-organization in a simulated pedagogical system, personality-activity approach in subject-oriented management of distance learning.

The above mentioned analysis clearly demonstrates the necessity to design a framework and model of distance learning that will be able to enhance the community satisfaction in Dubai in frames of a pilot project and then in the UAE as a whole. This suggests the aim at providing continuation of education starting from the primary level to postgraduate one. The model should take into account core possible potentials, benefits, challenges, and risks, as well as provide the mechanisms to validate and assess the efficiency of designed model.

References

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Appendix A: Key factors of Online Learning

Curriculum issues Course design Educators’ support Social learning External barriers Language barriers e-Learning constraints Teacher’s lack of experience
Authors (year) Gokah, Gupta, & Ndiweni (2015) Almuraqab (2020) Gillett-Swan (2017). Almaiah, M. A., & Alyoussef, I. Y. (2019). Dickson, Stringer, Riddlebarger and Tennant, 2014).
Authors (year) Dhull & Sakshi (2017). Dickson et al. (2014) Alzouebi, K., & El Salhat, S. (2016). Distance learning in times of COVID-19(2020) Alexander, R. C. (2017).
Authors (year) Harasim, L. (2011). Anderson, T. (2008). Gallagher (2019) Gallagher (2019)
Authors (year) Fraij (2013). Garrison (2016) Garrison (2016)
Authors (year) Garrison (2016) Haythornthwaite, Andrews, Kazmer, & Bruce (2007).
Authors (year) Heafner (2014) Heafner (2014) Jung (2019). Heafner (2014)
Authors (year) Jung (2019). Jung (2019).
Authors (year) Jung & Gunawardena (2014). Jung & Gunawardena (2014).
Authors (year) Kumi-Yeboah (2014)
Authors (year) Means (2014). UAE Vision 2021(2020)
Authors (year) Mirza & Al-Abdulkareem (2011)
Authors (year) Sebibi (2014) Nguyen (2015)
Authors (year) Picciano (2017)
Authors (year) PwC (2019)
Authors (year) Sun & Chen (2016) Ridge. Shami, & Kippels (2016)
Authors (year) Schick (1999) Salama (2020)
Authors (year) Whiteside, Dikkers, & Swan (2017) Toufaily, Zalan, & Lee (2018)
Frequency of factor 3 4 9 6 3 11 3

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NerdyTom. 2022. "Online Learning Model for Primary Level at Dubai." July 12, 2022. https://nerdytom.com/online-learning-model-for-primary-level-at-dubai/.

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