Distance learning is a field of education that focuses on the dissemination of academic knowledge and information to different geographical locations. As a formalized teaching system specifically designed to be carried out remotely, distance learning has become a very popular learning element in all universities around the world. Facilitated through Internet and web portals, distance learning has a significant trend towards the repertoire of most educational institutions in the future. It’s more than ever clear that distance learning is an important element for future education as it provides a comfortable, easy, fast, and affordable learning environment. The recent and evolving way of learning in the global classroom has been realized in quite a number of universities, particularly in developed countries. Distance learning can be described as made up of a range of programs and curricula and teaching/learning strategies. As a recent and evolving way of learning, distance learning is an emerging global network in mainstream education and training.
With regards to leadership concerning network development and access to education, this study investigates faculty and students in 4 universities of three countries; Kuwait, Qatar, and KSA. Questions that are of our interest are their perception of online learning, what they need to do to improve their skills and abilities, and the abstract problems they face in the application of distance learning. Core purposes include the ability to respond to flexibility and the need for distance learning and to provide opportunities that enable accessibility and availability in the resources available on the Web. Distance learning has a radical effect on transforming the education sector in many countries and the need to upgrade knowledge and competence in using new information communication technologies is needed. In this case, it is very appropriate to address questions such as; is the internet easy to use or accesses? What problems are likely to be encountered by users? Do students need adequate training before using online learning?
This proposal examines online learning in three Arab countries and assesses the attitude of faculty and students of universities in three countries (Kuwait, KSA, and Qatar universities) towards applying online learning environments (Distance learning) and Interactive Video Conferences (IVC) in higher education using a likert scale of 1 to 5. All the three Arab countries are listed along with the universities they represent in their online learning experience. All their perceptions on online learning experience are measured against 4 variables and a likert scale of 1-5 is scrutinized to determine whether students’ attitudes towards online education are more conservative than their perception. Different methods such as t-test, descriptive statistics, and correlation study for attitudes will be examined in concluding our analysis. This research examines 4 universities in three Arab countries (Kuwait, KSA and Qatar) using a likert scale from 2007-2009 to assess their perception towards applying online learning environments (Distance learning) and Interactive Video Conferences (IVC) in higher education
Statement of Problem
The term distance learning reflects both the online learning environment and interactive video conferencing (IVC). It includes greater dimensions of openness and flexibility in terms of access to information and curriculum structure. The area of interest includes three countries; Kuwait, Qatar, and KSA, and how they utilize technology such as Web-Based Instructions (WBI) to get reading materials. The study also investigates distance learning opportunities applied inside prison for offenders interested in continuing their education. It however brought us to the conclusion that distance learning opportunity was not available for individuals who had not attended school before and the learning environment was limited to certain subjects. Thus, this proposal attempts to explore distance learning techniques in a distance learning environment and the opportunities and difficulties encountered by students in applying a distance learning system. The utilization of DL as an education system globally has a lot of advantages such as providing students with learning and training opportunities held outside a formal classroom. The impact is already significant in developed countries and the majority of developing countries seeking to take part in emerging global educational opportunities.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to assess the attitude of faculty and students of universities in three countries (Kuwait, KSA, and Qatar universities).
The following research questions were addressed:
What are the relationships between faculty and students according to demographics including; the importance of using distance learning, education, background, different counties, major, age, gender, skills, access to technology, and training experience.
For several years Middle East countries have been trying to access distance learning courses for students using two-way and interactive video conferencing (IVC) at smaller numbers. The problem has often been attributed to a lack of internet accessibility, a problem we tend to investigate throughout the study. Two areas of our primary interest are the use of IVC rooms and online training for faculty and students in higher education centers in Kuwait, KSA, and Qatar. It has been evidenced that all Arab countries, particularly in the three mentioned countries have similar experiences in regard to online learning. These investigative reports also provided that KSA will need more online classes as compared to the three countries due to its fast-growing population as evidenced by the recent statistics which reported an increase of 10million people in 2002 to 25 Million in 2010.
Online learning has delivered many learning options with so much information and knowledge that would otherwise not have been transmitted to students of different geographical locations, in particular developing countries. Garry’s (2007) analysis adds “Internet and Intranet hold tremendous potential for the rapid dissemination of knowledge and information to a worldwide workforce-when utilized correctly” (p.1). The same studies estimated that about 92% of large organizations were likely to use online training for that year. Sanders (2006) defines distance learning as “a physical distance that separates learners from the teacher or faculty member” (p.14) and describes the distance as ‘transactional’ where the teacher provides the only means of communication. It’s quite evident that course structure and communication (computer-based vs. learning materials) between the student and the faculty within the course is of paramount importance. Sanders (2006) also adds that course structure is dependent on flexibility or rigidity of the instructional designs when he stated“…..educational objectives, teaching strategies, and evaluation methods” (p.15). He defines distance learning as a tailored course that enables learners to meet their individual needs in a highly structured environment. Distance learning can also be displayed on a pre-recorded video conferencing although no dialogue is provided.
MacLaughlin et al (2004) report on impacts of distance learning using VC on student performance evidenced that distancing learning is increasingly becoming part of students’ education at different geographical locations. This is partly to the reason that distance learning technologies continue to evolve to support internet-based courses. MacLaughlin et al (2004) statistics provide that “approximately 66% of United States adults (133 million) and 90% of college students access the internet” (p.1). He further adds that need for proactive approaches such as investments to further develop web-based technologies to increase internet access which will subsequently increase the availability of distance learning programs is needed. He provides examples of distance education to include synchronous and asynchronous depending on the level of technology used. Asynchronous is further defined as a communication model facilitated through emails, discussion forums, and videocassettes whereas synchronous include live interactions such as video and audio conferencing and web chats between instructors and students.
Abdulkarim (2007) study on prisoners’ attitudes towards using distance learning whilst in prison in Saudi Arabia recorded both benefits and difficulties as a result of their academic work. He distributed a questionnaire of 35 questions to be completed by 300 prisoners in three different prisons. The data on this study did however indicate a positive attitude towards distance learning for prison students. As found by Abdulkarim (2007), distance learning has become a popular trend in an educational environment and is accessible to all training environments especially for organizations with institutional problems.
Importance of the study evaluated
Provide feedback to the higher education management responsible for online learning. Key areas of interest were; faculty perception towards higher education, need for improvement and students’ attitudes, the suitable system for university use, reasons for supporting online learning, and construction requirements for IVC rooms
For the case of my country, for example, online learning with suitable IVC rooms will bridge the gap of lower education levels. Johnson (2001) studies confirmed that “education programs are directly responsible for the recent rise in the dropout rate and decrease in crimes because many of those who drop out of high school or fail to qualify for admission to college or universities do not possess the skills necessary to compete for jobs” (p.34). This is evident in my location where new universities and colleges in small cities or towns experienced lower turn out due to stringent admission rules. This creates a context in which people see limited options, and therefore, fewer people are able to make it through colleges and universities lowering graduates to much lower levels. In this regard, online learning and IVC rooms will lower educational costs for individual students and even for college building costs that experience lower student turnouts.
McLaughlin and his colleagues (2004) also evidences that distance learning technology coined in the brick and mortar instruction is able to recruit students in different geographical locations alleviating the need for travel expenses and presenting the same lecture materials at different times. Allen (2005) also adds “depending upon the technology used ‘e.g. Internet-based program’, it often allows students greater scheduling flexibility, particularly if the student has other obligations such as work or family life that would otherwise prohibit them from attending a “traditional” instructional institution” (p.13). In this regard, utilizing new technology in internet-based programs will be able to create many faculties which were often ignored. Arab countries are evident with gender inequalities, for example, distance learning will be a viable solution to ensure both men and women experience equal education opportunities.
The study was aimed at assessing the relationship between students and faculty attitudes towards applying online learning education (Distance learning) and Interactive Video Conferences (IVC) in higher education in three countries; Kuwait, KSA, and Qatar universities. Demographics in terms of their background were measured against variables of the importance of using distance learning, education, background, difference counties, major, age, gender, skills, access to technology, and training experience.
Study questions examined were
- What are the relationships between faculty and students according to demographics including; the importance of using distance learning, education, background, different counties, major, age, gender, skills, access to technology, and training experience?
- What faculties need to have a good online environment?
- What are the higher education (Universities’) needs with regard to the use of distance learning?
- What kind of system should be used to get better online environments?
- How many colleges have online programs over to students in the 4 universities that used the online program? What kind of program? What kind of system?
- What kind of system in terms of IVC is likely to be used?
The purpose of this paper is to determine assessing the relationship between students and faculty attitudes towards applying online learning education (Distance learning) and Interactive Video Conferences (IVC) in higher education in three countries; Kuwait, KSA, and Qatar universities. Demographics in terms of their background and variables such as the importance of using distance learning, education, background, difference counties, major, age, gender, skills, access to technology, and training experience. The hypotheses generated are the following:
Since different methods can be used to important of using distance learning, education, background, different counties, major, age, gender, skills, and access to technology, and training experience. This may suggest that differences between the mentioned variables will indicate no relationships regarding demographic variables.
H1: There will be no statistically significant differences between faculty and students toward applying or using online learning in higher education in Kuwait and Qatar, and KSA University based on demographic characteristics (important of using distance learning, education, background, difference counties, major, age, gender, skills, and access to technology, and training experience) (Sanders, 2006, p.55).
- In the course structure, students’ displayed a desire for a significant amount of variance in predicting student satisfaction
- In the course structure, students displayed a desire to learn in an environment with the availability of the internet.
The relationships between students’ distance learning experience and their perception towards online learning experience. Impact score and distance learning experience represent a significant amount of variance in predicting student satisfaction
Significance of the Study
Chickering and Gamson (1987) mentioned that learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. They add that “good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning and sharing one’s own ideas and responding to others reactions improves thinking and deepens understanding” (p.8).
In this regard, this research will be very important to the students in Kuwait, Qatar, KSA, and the world at large as it highlights the impact of online schooling on the entire education system as well. It is evidenced that online learning enables extensibility, accessibility and suitability as students proceed through training at their own pace and their own place- a strategy that enables the three countries to save a lot on finances in building structures that could never be used. Al- Khalifa (2008, p. 390) also argues the benefits to include savings in the implementation of faculties likely to experience lower turnouts. He also adds online systems only concentrate on the process of learning and since many people now have access to computers and the internet, education can be easily accessed. Almegren et al (2007, p. 196) also add that being able to reach people who would otherwise have missed the opportunity, online learning is of great value. The new technology will ameliorate student capabilities to access better learning resources. The research, therefore, concludes that more relevance to online education is against the backdrop of several challenges that the whole education system is facing.
There is an evident relationship between access to technology and the ability to obtain education through an online environment. The three counties were suitable for our study due to their inadequate learning infrastructures such as buildings, schools, universities, and teachers and faculties for universities. Many students in these countries experienced difficulties in obtaining degrees in their respective universities due to inadequate learning facilities such as labs and classes and higher associated costs. Recent studies in distancing learning in the three mentioned countries revealed an emerging trend whereby new colleges offering different majors in smaller cities such as Taiwan with a smaller population was discovered to be uncertain (Al-Kethery, 2006, p.8).
Limitations of the study
During the research, the course structure was found to have an inverse relationship to impact score which indicated that instructors for online classes may also serve as instructional designers. In this regard, adequate attention is required to be given to course structure to ensure well-organized and flexible schedules are appropriated to meet learns’ needs. Secondly, the relationship between students’ satisfaction and their perception towards online experience with their course instructor positively correlated to their satisfaction needs. This study however evaluated students’ perception of the adequacy of their satisfaction within their online course and failed to differentiate between different courses undertaken by each student.
The study employed Quantitative Research and a correlation study to complete our research questions. Gay, Mills, Geoffrey, and Airasian (2006) define a correlation study as “a quantitative method of research in which you measure two variables for each individual. Its collected data determines whether and to what degree, a relationship exists between two or more quantifiable variables: (p.191). “Correlations study shows the relationship between two variables but do not give inner details and description on the mechanism of the relationship” (Gay et al, 2006, p.1)
A likert scale of 5 and a power level of 1were established before data analysis. Research questions were framed on 2 criteria independently of each other. The minimum sample size required was estimated to be 300. Participation instructions which briefly described the research project along with directions on how to access research instruments and additional information were included. We will link the questionnaire which will be accessed online send via email to some faculty and students participants. Of the 300 candidates, it was anticipated that at least 200 students would complete the informed consent form indicating they agreed to participate in the research project.
Universities selected areas listed as; one university in Kuwait; KKU, one university in Qatar; UN and two universities from KSA; KAU and KSU
- KSU University has an online program represented as; N= 50
- N= 50 for each university selected areas listed below: KU, KKU, and KAU & NBU
The study used a stratified sampling technique of smaller sub-groups to investigate the importance of using distance learning, education, background, different counties, major, age, gender, skills, and access to technology, and training experience Wooldridge, 2003, p.1).
- Target population
The target population for this study was the faculty, staff, and students of 4 universities.
- Sample Population
The sample population for this study was faculty, staff, and students of 4 universities in Qatar, Kuwait, and KSA.
- Sample Size
The sample size will be 300 students and 100 faculty, staff and students will be selected to participate in this study (N=400). These were drawn from each of the 4 universities selected. The universities selected areas listed below: KSU, KMU, KKU, and KAU in Qatar, Kuwait, and KSA.
University one: FACULTY n = 20-25 & STUDENT n=50 -100
University 2: n =20 FACULTY n = 20 & STUDENT n=50 -100
University 3: n = 50 FACULTY n = 20 & STUDENT n=50
University 4: n = 50, FACULTY n = 20 & STUDENT n=50
University 4: n = 50 FACULTY n = 20 & STUDENT n=50
The researcher will be selected between 50- 100 faculties and staffs from each of these universities. Equal numbers of males and females faculties and staffs were also considered.
- Sampling Procedure
The participant of this study included students and faculty members (n=400). They included both males and females from four main universities in three countries; Qatar, Kuwait, and KSA. The sampling procedure started with grouping the 4 universities according to their country of origin.
The instrument utilized was Alpha formal to check for rating and split-half formula will be used to check the reliability between odd and even items on the questionnaire to collect and analyze the faculty to find out whether there is any relationship between the attitude of faculty and students of universities in three countries (Kuwait, KSA and Qatar universities) towards applying online learning environments (Distance learning) and Interactive Video Conferences (IVC) in higher education. The questionnaires will be analyzed using a Likert response scale with five points for each response: strongly agree, agree, uncertain, disagree, and strongly disagree. The variables are listed as follows:
important of using distance learning, education, background, different counties, major, age, gender, skills, access to technology, and training experience.
- Dependent variables: the relationship between faculty and students toward applying or using online learning in higher education in Kuwait and Qatar, and KSA University
The statistical method to be used in this study is means, frequency, and then the paired t-test. The reason why the t-test is suited for this study is that the researcher wants to measure the difference between the mean score of the two groups. This means that the researcher is interested in the average rather than the individual scores (Creswell, 1994).
Data were obtained from the WEBCT research site with participants of 300 candidates. The correlation between education levels and training opportunities and variables (important of using distance learning, education, background, difference counties, major, age, gender, skills, and access to technology, and training experience) that supports what Murray (2001) argues to be among reasons why students choose to take online courses. However, the main reason is linked to flexibility. The ability to access lecture materials any time of the day or night anywhere is indeed attractive.
Using the Likert scale; 1-5, the variables in determining students’ perception are used in this study. A t-test will be used to find the paired sample for means between education levels and training opportunities and variables (age, gender, use of internet, and access to internet) between 2007 and 2009. The dependent sample will determine whether the attitudes and perceptions are statistically different. The t-test only calculates numbers greater than zero.
Hypothesis 1 supports the findings that no statistically significant differences between faculty and students toward applying or using online learning in higher education in Kuwait and Qatar, and KSA University based on demographic characteristics (age, gender, experiences, degree or education, using the internet, major). It illustrates that the student’s attendance in 2009 was higher for 2007. It demonstrates that the t statistical value is greater than the t-critical value in the two-tail test for both years. Since the t-value is lower than the alpha value (0.05), then we can conclude that the t-value is statistically significant. This means that the finding from the t-statistics is consistent with the Hypothesis.
Both online learning environments and interactive video conferencing (IVC) facilitated a conducive learning environment for students of different geographical locations. Thus, the reason for this research is to generate more knowledge and improve understanding of distance learning and IVC on the concept of education. All countries were remarkably uploaded for encouraging learning through web platforms. And therefore to facilitate higher enrolment levels investing in learning tools that will facilitate effectiveness in their courses is needed. Future research can be examined on larger sample sizes and target specific countries. Researchers can apply different methodologies to one hypothesis to determine whether it will produce the same result on the reconciliation attitudes and perception. Other variable items can be conducted to decide whether they will produce the same results. Since the study is focused specifically on Arab countries, future research may consider using universities in other countries to conduct further analysis. Distance learning has a radical effect on transforming the education sector in many countries and the need to upgrade knowledge and competence in using new information communication technologies is needed.
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