Maha Akeel, Arab News Staff
Publication Date: 
Thu, 2004-03-04 03:00

JEDDAH, 4 March 2004 — Over 500 teachers, educational policymakers, e-learning specialists and educational administrators in the private and public sector participated in the Second Symposium on Learning and Technology organized by Effat College.

Concerns were expressed about the reduction of the teacher’s role and a consequent reduction of the human factor in the learning process.

Speaking about “E-learning as a Tool for Women’s Career Advancement,” Dr. Arwa Al-Aama, assistant professor of computer science at King Abdul Aziz University, recommended that individuals and educational institutions begin developing and implementing e-learning programs at once since that is the future of learning.

Dr. Arwa pointed out that there were various institutions offering online post-graduate programs that are accredited but not in Saudi Arabia. King Abdul Aziz University’s experience in online education is very recent; it has just introduced a program for at-home students using multimedia and an online curriculum.

Dr. Arwa pointed out that e-learning would not replace traditional learning and that research on e-learning began only in 2000 so its effects are not yet known.

Marilyn Harvey, director of Training Online in Australia, spoke on “Pedagogies That Work Online.” The potential for online learning is great not only as a teaching method but also as a job creating field. Online learning designers are now much sought after. Learning has now become highly focused with the teacher acting as a facilitator for interactive education. The learner is more in control of the learning process and chooses the topic, pace and method. For teachers, there are creative opportunities in such things as game-based learning, web quest assignments, e-simulation learning and learning design.

According to research, by 2005, e-learning will be the fourth most applied online resource following e-mail, research and website construction.

Dr. Shirley Waterhouse, the director of educational technology at the US’ Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), presented ERAU’s experience in online learning as a successful example of the “Power of Learning.”

Barbara Thomas, director of professional services for PLATO learning Inc., USA, a training and educational company, spoke on “Incorporating Technology in Learning.” She made the point that technology by itself or if not used properly has little sustainable effect on improving learning.

“Information is not instruction. Students don’t magically learn because they use the computer,” she said. If used properly, technology can improve learning, provide effective instructional options, give wider access, optimize cost effectiveness and expand organizational capability.

The most important thing, she stressed, was the need for continuing professional development.

After the presentations, those attending chose to go to a workshop on a topic which appealed to them.

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