By Angela Prasad
E-learning is gaining momentum in the Middle East, with academic institutions deploying best-of-breed solutions for their online initiatives.
The advantages of e-learning can be enormous provided organisations that are introducing the concept have the appropriate delivery vehicle. Technology plays a crucial role when it comes to online activities and if learning institutions do not have appropriate IT infrastructures, chances are their online initiatives may not provide the expected return-on-investment (ROI).
However, end users should not view technology as the ultimate solution, they must find ways to utilise technology to the advantage of students and teachers. E-learning can be cost-effective because it has flexibility in time and pace, has the ability to reach many students and provides standardised course materials. However, there some limitations as well. These include a high-initial set-up cost, acceptability, computer illiteracy, attitude towards new technology and poor IT infrastructures.
Statistics show the global e-learning market in 2004 was worth more than US$18 billion. However, the e-learning market in the Middle East is in its infancy compared to Western Europe or the US, having only begun to grow in popularity in the last five years. Dr Tarek G. Shawki, UNESCO's regional advisor for communications and information in the Arab States, has reservations about the region’s readiness for such an approach to education. Shawki believes the Middle East is not ready for online learning.