Learn the future - Hashemite University's e-learning centre

Jordan's only e-learning centre at the Hashemite University was a major achievement - but the biggest challenge was not technology, but encouraging staff involvement. ACN reports.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  August 9, 2008

Jordan's only e-learning centre at the Hashemite University was a major achievement - but the biggest challenge was not technology, but encouraging staff involvement. ACN reports.

E-learning is starting to take off in a big way across the Middle East, as access to technology improves, and educators and governments see the value in disseminating lessons and educational material once electronically, rather than many thousands of times on paper. States such as Qatar have recently started to expand their e-learning facilities dramatically, and more and more governments and educational establishments across the region are set to follow.

But ahead of the vast majority of them is the Hashemite University of Jordan, which has been working on e-learning for five years, and to date remains the only licensed e-learning provider in the country.

If any one of our staff want to upgrade his rank, he needs to develop e-content – we want to motivate our staff.

Dr Mosleh Al-Adhaileh, head of the Hashemite University's E-Learning Centre, believes the institution was the first in the region to make extensive use of e-learning, starting with its deployment of Blackboard learning management system in 2003, which led in time to the establishment of the E-Learning Centre.

"We have a fully-integrated e-learning environment - the first not only in Jordan, but I think in the whole Middle East. In 2005 the university decided that it would implement a full e-learning environment on top of Blackboard and establish an e-learning centre.

On top of Blackboard we also managed to integrate a virtual classroom for distance learning or creating virtual lessons; we deployed a class-capturing and recording tool, which is also integrated with Blackboard," says Hashemite University's Al-Adhaileh.

Starting in 2003, the university has been steadily increasing its use of e-learning systems, culminating with the decision to establish its e-learning centre. Beyond offering individual modules across faculties through e-learning systems, the centre is a self-contained operation which is specifically tasked with creating e-learning materials and courses, and assisting faculty members to create their own e-learning material.

Planning started in 2005, and the centre was opened and accredited in 2007 - and remains unique in this respect within Jordan, according to Al- Adhaileh: "The centre is accredited, and we're the only university that has a licence from the Ministry of Higher Education to use e-learning and blended technology in teaching."

The E-Learning Centre is now an integral part of Hashemite University's education strategy, and the university is able to offer more courses and modules every year through e-learning. The centre also distributes its courses to community colleges in Saudi Arabia, and hasplans to expand this programme to other educational establishments across the region.

Al-Adhaileh charts the growth of the centre: "From 2003 there were only 19 courses active on Blackboard - now there are 250 courses on Blackboard, out of a total of around 450. We have around 4000 students regularly using Blackboard; the number of staff is around 200."

But he adds that establishing the centre has not been without challenges: "There are cultural issues in this, in getting staff to be used to using technology, as well as students. From 2003 to 2005, we helped our staff get familiar with using Blackboard - we also wanted our students to get involved in discussion boards and begin using this technology."

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