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Online education: Analysis of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) in the Arab World

MOOC, online education and e-education in the arab world

A summary report of MOOCs in the Arab World in 2019

  • Science aversion is a serious shortcoming vis-a-vis economic and societal development in a few parts of the Arab World. Science and mathematics are technical programs that require a solid technical grasp of the English language from Arab students. Hence the need to provide high-quality Arabic contents and/or instructor-led online platform.
  • Technological advances have increased demand for skilled workers, and many rapidly expanding industries are experiencing serious shortages of trained labor.
  • The priority is to provide young Arab students with skills that are in high demand and courses that are tailored to meet the needs of the job market.
  • Despite the potentials promised by MOOCs, the dropout rates for learners is very high. Enrolment rates typically decrease over time, and the completion rate is still very low (10% in the West, 2 – 5% in the Arab World on average).
  • Providers like Coursera did not offer localized content to suit the needs of specific populations. Most MOOCs in the Arab World are offered in English. As a result, only a few group of people who master the English language were able to benefit from existing MOOCs.
  • Arabic platforms like Rwaq and Edraak offer their courses in Arabic, as they try to fill the MOOC gap in our region; but each targets a different niche ( K- 12 or secondary-level education); hence there’s still a substantial market opportunity.
  • For a serious and professional MOOC project to be profitable and survive, it needs adequate funding to start with (as long as any platform offers a limited number of high-quality courses only). Courses also need a clear pedagogical purpose, highly- qualified academic experts and a dedicated management team.
  • A successful MOOC is advised to enter into agreement with top Arab universities and academic experts in the Arab countries in order to develop premium contents.
  • It’s critical for any MOOC to determine exactly what, where and how the platform would deliver on its promise. In other words, is it going to be a fun app, or one that offers low value, shallow or deep learning.
  • It’s a myth to believe that free courses attract millions of learners and earn money. The vast majority of MOOCs are struggling to be profitable or have already closed down; edX itself is losing money after at least five years in business.
  • To be profitable and avoid any risks of failure, an investor is highly advised to plan and develop a new MOOC according to the highest standards right from the start, or don’t invest in it at all. A half- measured approach is a sure recipe for failure: Education is costly.
  • Education start-ups in the Arab World, India and the rest of the world raised minimum funds of USD 8.5 Million before they even turned a wheel (they offered dozens of courses instead of the 15 we recommend at the start). Noon Academy in KSA raised USD 8.6 Million in 2019.
  • Select and focus only on a limited range of courses (minimum 15 to start with). One entry strategy is to choose scientific and technological courses that are highly demanded in the job market in key areas such as healthcare, agriculture and teaching and specializations such as machine tooling, metalworking, mining and minerals, electro-mechanics and auto mechanics, pilot training and aviation maintenance, nursing, x-ray technology, emergency aviation, cyber security, medical assistance, pharmacy and medical sciences, culinary arts, and logistics.
  • A new MOOC start-up is advised to deliver contents through instructor-led courses and by using the most advanced, interactive and immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality and interactive sessions. It should become a cost-effective way to deliver education and skills in specific subjects (and not generic contents).
  • A good strategy is to provide qualitative and financial incentives (discounts) that encourage learners to enrol in more courses and to refer others (friends and family) to the platform.
  • Provide degrees, micro-specializations and certifications because revenues are likely to grow by more than 75% if an online educational platform would provide them.
  • A new educational platform is advised to enter into agreement with top Arabic companies to customize courses that suit their workforces. B2B is a key are of growth.
  • A new start-up in the educational Arab World would be better-off if it offers its educational partners with generous profit- sharing incentives (10 to 20% at start fees per student).
  • An MOOC is advised to provide more courses only when the increase in the number of courses (and the corresponding equal increase in the number of employees) lead the number of learners to increase more than proportionately.
  • A professional-grade MOOC requires a team of minimum 20 people (who can sustain an offering of 10 well-developed and produced subject area courses only). Such MOOC has substantial growth opportunity to reach more than 82,000 unique learners Arab-speaking individuals from around the Arab World and over 205,000 registrants.

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