A Critical Review of “Blended Learning in Higher Education in Saudi Arabia: A Study of Umm Al-Qura University”
Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that developed the formal education system at the latest time and established the regime of education calendar. The development of King Saud University was the beginning of the modern higher education development in Saudi Arabia in 1957, being the first university in the Persian Gulf Arab states. Some of the attributed challenges include poorly trained instructors, poor and weak scientific and technical education facilities, and very low rates of retention. Introduction of the Internet in the 1990s was one of the key development programs in the Umm Al-Qura University that allowed for flexibility in the learning section, which also involved the use of mobile phones, wireless network, tablets, and smart phones.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that developed the formal education system in the latest time period and established the regime of education calendar. The development of King Saud University marked the commencement of the modern higher education in Saudi Arabia in 1957. This center was the first university in the Persian Gulf Arab states.
1.2. Blending Learning
Blended education was introduced in most higher learning institutions in Saudi Arabia mainly in order to improve education standards for both instructors and students. Introduction of the Internet in the 1990s was one of the key development programs in the Umm Al-Qura University that allowed for flexibility in the learning section, which also involved the use of mobile phones, wireless network, tablets, and smart phones.
1.3. Rationale for Blending Education
This research study has identified reasons why blending education is a key requirement in the Umm Al-Qura University. The number of students in the university has kept on rising. The country itself has a higher percentage of population growth with the youth being the majority in the population. This has resulted in the crowding in higher learning institutions, leading to insufficiency in the ratio of the number of instructors to students. Several problems like accommodation issues have also emerged.
1.4. Research Purpose
This study mainly calls for understanding of merits and demerits of blending education in the university. This will include discussion of impacts on instructors and students. It will further involve matters arising when the blended education is implemented fully, as well as checking existing differences in perceptions of male and female students concerning this newly introduced program.
1.5. Research Questions
In analyzing the research questions, the study focuses on the usefulness of blending learning in the university. Moreover, it also focuses on researching influences of the learning system on the student-instructor interaction and its implications for the quality of learning (Al-Kadhi, 2011). In terms of the research methodology, semi-structured interviews, sampling techniques, and triangulation methods were employed to collect both qualitative and quantitative data needed for the study.
1.6. Significance of the Study
The purpose of the study is to contribute to the research sector of the institution in Saudi Arabia. It helps in the assessment of the general literature review relating to outcomes that may affect the quality of both learning and teaching. This study has a good chance of forecasting future implications, challenges, benefits, and impacts of assessing higher learning institutions in the country.
1.7. Scope of the Study
This research study is aimed at adding value to the general growth of the blended learning system in tertiary learning institutions in Saudi Arabia. The study was conducted during the second half of 2009. The perception and use of this learning system were interdicted concerning the aspect of each instructor using their individual websites at the university mainly due to the lack of the formal education and control system.
Chapter 2: The Study Context
This section covers various aspects such as geography of the location of Saudi Arabia, its demographics, government structure, economy, and social religion influences. It also focuses on education, the university itself, as well as ICT and Internet technologies in the university and the country. The kingdom happens to be formed 80 years ago. With respect to education, the number of universities has increased rapidly with all departments being professionally upgraded with the Internet supply through cabling.
Chapter 3: Literature Review
In this section, the research paper mainly discusses ways and approaches used by the teaching staff when setting up the Internet education. It also looks at the government’s goals to ensure that universities are supplied with the Internet. In terms of higher education, the paper gives the main goal of the higher education, which is to impact knowledge and skills of scholars. The study also looks at the development of learning theories in school by focusing on a need to have an interactive environment for learning, which ought to be supported with the Internet and other information capabilities.
3.1. Characteristics of Higher Education
Higher education centers in the kingdom are characterized by the presence of learning infrastructures like classes, buildings, libraries, and other facilities. Moreover, these characteristics may include standards and the quality of co-curricula activities that may be academic, commercial, or economic, as well as faculty qualifications, experience, and remunerations. The study recognizes motivation of learning and study as a characteristic of higher learning so that students are motivated by the installation of the Internet; therefore, they are highly encouraged to take up research courses.
3.2. Emergence of the ICT Usage
The study analyses the role of the ICT in school and society and the significance of the ICT in general. However, to some extent the ICT has not been fully accepted into the education section in Saudi universities. In this section, multimodal learning has also been identified whereby scholars learn and interact facially, mainly through visual and audio communication. Online publishing has also been affected by marketing of online writing and skills.
3.3. ICT in Education
Many developing countries have quite a good coverage and installation of the ICT in their schools. The government plays a significant role in implementing and employing institutions that should take care of education matters in learning institutions. This study has tackled the aspect of ICT in co-curricula and delivery, whereby ICT plays a major role in imparting news, content, and entertainment among scholars.
3.4. Blended Learning
The study reviews the literature concerning blended learning and its significance. This section covers adoption of influences, blended learning strategies, perspectives of students, online interactions, and faculty perspectives. Some merits of blended learning include promoting efficiency in online tutoring and good assessment for scholars. Others include promotion of efficient management of courses, monitoring of studies, and provision of good opportunities for digital and online learning interaction.
3.5. Theoretical Frameworks
The importance of understanding these frameworks and the usage of ICT is essential for the understanding of its incorporation in the university. Theories that enhance development and support blended online learning are discussed in a model form. This shows the rate at which ICT has been used and accepted in universities in spite of the Islamic religious culture. Such models include the technological acceptance model, the unified theory of acceptance, and technology use.
Chapter 4: Methodology
The methodology section displays some of the methods used in this research to an extent of giving grammatical structure of the research design. This chapter has clarified issues relating to sampling processes, design of the research, qualitative and quantitative methods of research, data, some of the instruments used in data collection, and analysis of the data.
4.1. Research Design
This section analyses the influence of websites on learning and interactions. This tries to answer research questions on how scholars and instructors view online blended learning. The paper discusses effects of this learning module on students and the university in general, as well as the way female and male students differ as much as blended learning is concerned. In the section, three major aspects are three main components of research design, including philosophy, methods, and strategies of inquiry.
4.2. Sample Selection
Faculty websites were selected first and then students and instructors were selected through sampling techniques. Multi-stage and random samplings were the major two types of sampling techniques used. The samples obtained were website samples, instructor evaluation samples, and student samples.
4.3. Quantitative Data Collection
This involved the use of questionnaires in the data collection administered to a wide range of people during a short period of time. It involved the use of a self-reporting questionnaire to gather data among undergraduate students in the university. The questionnaire construction entails learning overall aims before other things. Questionnaire administration was easy, whereby the university management had to be consulted on the availability of their students. Handing out questionnaires was mainly used to increase the response rate.
4.4. Qualitative Data Collection
This involved administration of interviews to get first-hand data by conforming them to the quantitative data. This involved having interview design and content in a proper manner to avoid errors. Questions are mainly based on website purposes, website issues, obstacles to the online learning module, and reasons for having supplementary classroom learning. The interview procedures were followed by an official invitation of nine school university faculties. Other aspects tackled in this section of the chapter include data validation and interviews.
4.5. Data Analysis Procedure
Selection of analytical tools was undertaken and this called for consideration of consistency to avoid errors. For example, the best method employed here was the use of the approach of thematic analysis (Al-Rubaish et al., 2010). The main aspects covered by this study include the quantitative data analysis, whereby questionnaire forms were arranged and allocated on the basis of ID codes and data extracted for the analysis. There were performed calculations of mean, mode, and median involved in this section. This was essential for the measurements of variables of central tendency measures.
Chapter 5: Quantitative Data Analysis
The study includes the data analysis section. Various categories and key issues were considered, including the category of students, demographics, gender, and travel distance. The second phase explains the students’ experience with blended learning and online modules, while the third aspect covered the significance of websites to students and the university (Koch, 2014). Other aspects and variables discussed in this chapter are faculty affiliations, undergraduate student years, the study load, and student demographics.
Chapter 6: Qualitative Data Analysis
This section concerns interviews carried out with instructors and students. This was done to complement the quantitative results and gain an in-depth understanding of blended learning. Furthermore, seven instructors with websites were interviewed, after which emerging themes were collected and recorded from the notes that had been made during the interviews.
6.1. Objectives for Instructor’s Websites
The main objectives included supplementing the course delivery to augment teaching techniques, enhance proper learning, and improve interactions between students and instructors. Moreover, the study includes the augmented teaching techniques, enhancements of learning techniques, improvements in communication, and ICT in the university.
6.2. Website Users
Users included mainly students and instructors.
6.3. Website Benefits
Benefits of the websites to both students and instructors included enhancement of good teaching for communication purposes, as well as for learning and interaction purposes.
6.4. Issues Regarding the Website
Both students and instructors had issues with the websites. For students, issues of illiteracy, low accessibility, and low motivation were common. For instructors, the key issues included the lack of enough time, insufficient recompense, the nature of the discipline, and insufficient motivation from the government.
Chapter 7: Discussion
Various discussions in this case were focused on the thematic area, including changing environments in the university, benefits of blended learning, and students’ views on blended education. Others included communication and interaction, the pedagogy of blended education, and blended learning issues (Assaf et al., 2011). This chapter compared the skills of instructors and students in Umm Al-Qura University. The discussion emphasized several benefits of blending learning in the institution based on answers of respondents who were directly interviewed. The learning model is both a supplementary resource of instructions and an effective means of the technology education. Websites, for instance, promote effective learning, teaching, and good communication between the university management and students.
Blended learning is a formal education system under which the Internet and other modern technological aspects are combined to benefit students, instructors, and the entire educational institution. This learning system has seemed to be promising immediately since its introduction and up to the last section of the study under consideration. It is a leaning tool entailing professional development. This has significantly increased the level of education in Saudi Arabia. By looking at the country’s religious culture which prohibits intermingling of males and females in school, this tool has helped a lot, being especially beneficial for female students who lack enough instructors during most of their learning and class time. The most important issue preventing a complete implementation of this model has been reluctance to accept change.