The Emergence Of Mobile Learning For Higher Education In Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia

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With the rapid development of mobile technologies, a new style of learning, termed as mobile learning, has exploded everywhere in the world. This is now considered as an essential learning style in the future. The transition to m-learning is inevitable; m-learning with its all forms can promote the learning process in a way that encourages a pedagogic shift from a teacher-centric model to a learner-centric approach. The students can learn just in time in their daily lives whenever they need to learn using mobile devices like Tablets and Smart Phones.

Higher educational institutes across the globe are investing heavily to advance teaching and learning to cope with students’ needs in the emerging knowledge economy and information technology world.

Interest in mobile learning in Saudi Arabia has grown enormously within the last few years due to the rapid advancement in mobile technologies, wireless networks, and specifications of today’s mobile devices. In Saudi Arabia, the acceptance of new smart devices is growing exponentially. There is tremendous focus from Saudi Government to look beyond oil, aiming at creating a knowledge-based economy. It is now investing heavily in IT for Saudi school systems and funding Mobile Learning projects, particularly in higher education institutions.

In Saudi Arabia, global economic competition has had a major impact on the development of large scale ICT educational projects. The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) launched a national project, “AAFAQ”, to develop a comprehensive long-term plan for higher education, to address current and future challenges. This project has encouraged the implementation of e-learning and distance education.

As a result of this project that encourages the implementation of e-learning and distance education; several infrastructure projects have been established as follows:

  • The National Centre for E-Learning and Distance Education (NCELDE).
  • The Learning Portal of the National Center of E-learning & Distance Learning.
  • JUSUR, LMS System.
  • Saudi Digital Library.
  • SANEED, the Saudi Centre for Support and Counseling to all beneficiaries of e-learning.

Some interesting statistics:

  • The Qassim College of Medicine claims to be the first Mobile Learning program launched in Saudi Arabia. (Source: Ambient Insight’s 2010-2015 worldwide market forecast for Mobile Learning Products & Services)
Mobile Learning Products & Services Revenue Forecast (in US$ millions)
Mobile Learning Revenue Forecast in KSA 2010 2015 5-Year CAGR
Saudi Arabia $15.7 $45.6 23.8%
Middle East $54.2 $134.1 19.9%

(Source: Ambient Insight’s 2010-2015 worldwide market forecast for Mobile Learning Products & Services)

Saudi Arabian universities have been early adopters in the region followed by corporate.

Integration of HTML5 output in smart phone devices is now seen as the solution that will register the growth of mobile learning. M-learning is only the way to reach the large number of expected audience and one that can meet the demand for speed, flexibility and outreach when learners are dispersed in terms of time and geography.

To catalyze mobile learning, Saudi market has seen rapid growth in the number of mobile subscribers and penetration rates have now reached 175%. 3G subscribers now make up around 15% of the total. In SA mobile companies are making an extensive push with mobile broadband. Saudi Arabia’s handset sales are expected to grow at a CAGR of 7% to US$1.1bn by 2014, as mobile subscriber penetration reaches 214%.

Mobile learning is seen widely accepted in Saudi Arabia; one of the companies in Saudi Arabia is launching m-learning modules on English language for its mostly Arabic speaking clients and expecting huge response from different types of users covering students, housewives and professionals.

The Higher Education Ministry’s recent decision restricting e-learning to Saudi Electronic University (SEU) will boost distance education in the Kingdom, offering advanced courses to students. This decision aims at unifying national policies and improving the quality of learning services.

The biggest education-centric exhibition held in Feb 2011 in Saudi Arabia focused on the increased utilization of modern technology to bring the quality of education in the Kingdom on par with international standards. Increasing integration of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in education, proliferation of modern smart devices and bandwidth-intensive e-learning applications, these few examples show that the country is moving in the right direction and m-education sector is ripe for change.

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