Status quo of eLearning in the Middle East and North Africa

The expansion of broadband and increased computer skills among the population have led to an explosion in eLearning usage in North African countries and the Middle East over the past ten years. This is the impression scientists Alan S. Weber and Sihem Hamlaoui got in their book “E-Learning in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region” published last year by Springer Verlag. In addition to the publishers mentioned above, a large number of other scientists have contributed to the more than 500-page book. The aim of the book is to provide a comprehensive picture of the status quo, which is why experts from the respective countries shed light on the local situation. The 20 countries surveyed include Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel. The scientists show historical milestones and the current status quo for the individual countries. However, cross-national analyses of any existing interrelationships are almost completely lacking, as reference is only made to them in the introduction. Nevertheless, it is pointed out that the countries of the MENA region often have a centrally organized government and are mostly predominantly Muslim in their religion.

In Algeria, for example, young people who have completed their ten-year schooling usually have the opportunity to complete a pre-vocational training programme supervised by the state. At more than 1400 locations, 500,000 learners are currently attended to in more than 400 different thematic courses. As part of this, the population not only has access to full-time classroom courses, but also evening courses or Internet-based distance learning to learn topics such as bookkeeping, marketing or even sewing. In addition to career starters, the Algerian government also wants to address housewives with its training centers and thus increase the literacy rate, among other things.

However, the book also points to obstacles to the use of eLearning in the MENA region. So far there has been a shortage of skilled eLearning professionals and, despite all the progress made, only a few eLearnings in Arabic are available. Cultural taboos, partly existing state censorship and comparatively high telecommunication costs are also factors that hinder growth.

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