On Tuesday, I had the honor of participating on the SXSWEdu panel How Do You Say ‘MOOC’ in Arabic in Austin, TX with my dear friends Anant Agarwal of edX and Haifa Dia Al-Attia of the Queen Rania Foundation.
We discussed a topic that is close to my heart and one that I am personally and professionally committed to – the future of learning in the Arab World.
Through a thoughtful discussion made even richer by question and comments from the audience, we discussed the current educational landscape across the region – the challenges, the opportunities and most importantly the actual students whom we hope to reach and impact. We discussed how advances in technology are changing the way women, youth, the home-bound and anyone who seeks to advance themselves through education. From the point of view of the Ministry of Labor, our goal is to underscore the connection between access to education and employability for all learners.
I’m proud to currently lead projects with the Saudi Ministry of Labor related to blended learning and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
Doroob, which launched last December in Saudi Arabia, is a major national initiative sponsored by the Human Resources Development Fund of the Saudi Ministry of Labor, committed to bridging the gap between education and employment. Its three main principles are accessibility, relevance and innovation designed to achieve our goal of helping citizens in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to develop tangible job skills and gain employment. Unlike other platforms, Doroob works closely with employers and bases educational content on their specific needs, making Doroob students that much more appealing to Saudi employers. Doroob is not the only initiative in the region. The Queen Rania Foundation’s Edraak, also in partnership with edX, and others are making great strides in providing targeted education for those who may not have access.
Online education in the Arab world increases the opportunities available to those for whom traditional education presents challenges – this includes mothers who wish to pursue their education while caring for children at home as well as tech-savvy youth who consume information online daily. In fact, 50% of YouTube streamers in Saudi Arabia are women and 40% of content they view is education. The need and enthusiasm for this type of program is there.
Education, and the tools and resources needed to be successful in Saudi Arabia and in international job markets more widely, should be easy for everyone to access and navigate. Through MOOCs, we are moving in the direction of giving all people options and flexibility in education and this is absolutely the right the direction.
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