Interview: Ibraheem Almuaqel
What is the importance of using new technology to make positive impacts in all levels of education?
IBRAHEEM ALMUAQEL: It is imperative that current education models recognise the role of technology in knowledge transmission and is responsive to the needs of the millennial generation that grew up in an era of pervasive use of IT. Therefore, the education sector must adopt strategies that incorporate technology in teaching and learning that meet the needs of today’s generation. The traditional teaching pedagogy of learning, whether face-to-face or from blackboards and textbooks, is being progressively replaced by online learning and interactive whiteboards. Developing a plan to train Saudi nationals to compete in the labour market is key. Achieving this requires initiatives to invest in human capital, especially highly qualified teachers who can integrate technologies to support instruction. Partnerships with the private sector can help support the planning and implementation of such innovative initiatives to improve educational outcomes.
How has the ICT sector enhanced education?
ALMUAQEL: Within the education sector ICT has been instrumental in bringing about innovative practices in teaching that have created personalised and collaborative learning environments, and have solved day-to-day challenges. ICT enables learners to engage with their peers in the classroom, across the region and around the world, and participate in dialogue that is conducive to intellectual growth and increased understanding of different backgrounds and cultures.
In many ways ICT can support assessment and evaluation, and make the curriculum meaningful and responsive to students. Assessment tools and grades since the year 2000 have greatly benefited from the use of ICT. The interactive nature of assessment tools and reports has greatly enhanced teachers’ ability to interpret results, and make teaching and learning more responsive to the individual needs of the learner. ICT can also be used to support people with disabilities by enhancing their independence, productivity and capabilities. The benefits of ICT in education, particularly in assessment, will allow people with disabilities to be assessed more effectively. Additionally, ICT increases fairness and reduces discrimination, allowing all students to be assessed according to their conditions and needs. ICT therefore helps all students reach their full potential. ICT has also helped to facilitate the democratisation of the education sector and the notion of access to education anywhere, anytime and at a minimal cost. A good example of this is a massive open online course (MOOC), which is provided by leading higher-learning institutions and offers high-quality education for free or at a minimal cost. It also turns higher education into a public asset by allowing anyone to enrol in courses. MOOCs also provide opportunities to connect openly on a global scale with international peers.
In what ways does the blended learning model fit within the education system in Saudi Arabia?
ALMUAQEL: Blended learning is a new and effective student-centric education model with the potential to transform teaching and learning in higher education. This can be done by enhancing flexibility and access, and optimising resources. It helps provide the digital literacy that is essential for graduates in today’s global knowledge-based economy, while also facilitating soft skills in terms of lifelong learning. Blended learning came in response to the diversity of learning needs, enabling students in employment to enrol and expanding access in more than 10 cities and their surrounding towns and villages. It also provides the flexibility that students and instructors require, as it allows some time for face-to-face student and instructor engagement, as well as online learning that enables students to work on course activities at their own pace and convenience. Studies have indicated that blending online learning with face-to-face learning can be even more effective.
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