Online education spikes in the UAE
Fears of losing a constant career, income and not fulfilling life responsibilities are prompting some people to undertake postgraduate studies online, Gulf News has learnt.
I did not want to sacrifice my time, income and profession. Therefore, I undertook my master’s degree online as an investment in my future that could open up a whole new world of opportunities, help me in my current work and broaden my knowledge and thinking abilities,” Joseph Salameh, 44, Lebanese father of two children, said.
Salameh, who has been working in the UAE for the past 12 years as a project manager, was granted a master of science in project management from the University of Liverpool in the UK following three years of hard work.
“When someone is working and has financial commitments every month towards family, it is not an easy option to leave work and go for a full-time post-graduate programme,” he said.
“I was reluctant at the beginning to study online since I wrongly thought that it is not accredited, and anyone can cheat, so the degree will be valueless. However, it turned out to be that studying online was the best option I have ever made. It is a great learning experience with my fellow students from different countries and cultures,” he said.
What is fuelling the growing demand for online education in the UAE?
“One cannot escape the fact that the rapid explosions in information and technology have fuelled drastic changes in all socio-economic spheres; education has not been immune to this impact of what it together known as globalisation,” Saeed Faiq, professor of intercultural studies and translation at the American University of Sharjah, told Gulf News.
“The pressing issue, however, remains quality assurance. How to ensure quality? What are the parameters that need to be put in place to guarantee it; parameters which are entirely different from the traditional teaching method,” he added.
Since 2009, demand for the University of Liverpool’s online master’s and doctoral degree programmes has risen by 243 per cent in the UAE.
“Over 70 per cent of the University of Liverpool’s online students, living in the UAE, hail from elsewhere in the Middle East as well as a range of African, South Asian and European countries. For some years now, we have been seeing that expats are keen to enhance their knowledge and skills while working abroad,” officials at the University of Liverpool said.
The trend of studying while working mirrors the ambitions and work ethic of people living in the UAE.
“In order to not harm my professional career, I have chosen to complete my postgraduate studies online while pursuing my career,” Julien Trad, 26, Lebanese, told Gulf News.
“I am enrolled in the University of Liverpool. I am doing my master’s degree in global marketing. Since I work in the media industry, understanding the marketing cycle is crucial to succeed and cater to your clients’ needs,” Trad, who has been living in the UAE for the past three-and-half years, said.
The fact that there is a virtual distance between students sometimes helps them to be more forthright and upfront with their advice and academic feedback, which many admit they might not share with a closer colleague either in the workplace or within a normal campus-based university environment.
“The virtual distance was never an obstacle in reaching the same academic goals; on the opposite, it was a great learning experience,” Salameh said.
When asked about the advantages of online education, Trad told Gulf News that the way participation, discussions and assignments are set brings everyone together. You will have the luxury of time to study and discuss topics with your peers, he said.
The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research takes its responsibility to assure the quality of all higher education opportunities available to students in the UAE.
“The new e-learning/distance learning programmes were not accredited before in the UAE; however, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, has issued a resolution regarding the regulation of electronic higher education,” Saif Al Mazroui, undersecretary assistant of institutional and support services at the Ministry, told Gulf News.
The resolution’s regulations depend on the management of the educational process interactively through the use of various modern technologies in education and the learner’s participation and interaction with the teacher and the course content.
“The student, who is willing to undertake postgraduate studies online, has to receive a pre-approval from the ministry before enrolling to guarantee the ministry’s accreditation,” he said.