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Running head: ONLINE LEARNING IN SQU 1

Online Learning in

CET (Center of Educational Technology) in Sultan Qaboos University

Omar Al-Breiki

Sultan Qaboos University

Online Learning in
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CET (Center of Educational Technology) in Sultan Qaboos University

Overview

Centre of Educational technology provides support for teaching staff in Sultan Qaboos

University by its activities; Workshops, seminars, consultancy and advice on designing effective

instructional materials and utilizing educational media and telecommunications. One of main

goals that CET is targeting is to enhance teaching and learning at SQU through supporting faculty

members and departments with the latest technologies in teaching and encouraging the adoption

of best instructional practices. Currently, CET is venturing into the e-learning domain. E-learning

is commonly referred to the intentional use of networked information and communications

technology in teaching and learning. They include online learning, virtual learning, distributed

learning, network and web based learning.

The main purpose of this quality assurance plan is to consider the current status of online

learning technologies in CET and to suggest the issues that need to be addressed to maximize the

opportunities and minimize the risks associated with their uptake and implementation. Three

measurable objectives could be included;

1. Identifying the main issues which CET must deal with to achieve

maximum potential from online learning technologies.

2. Describing the number of strategies for dealing with the issues in ways

which provide the means to support and sustain quality online learning programs within

CET.

3. Informing teachers more than administrators because the best opportunities

with online learning come from successful bottom-up approaches undertaken and owned

by the most important stakeholders, teachers and their students.

The main reason of considering online learning technologies especially WebCT, that the

moving from traditional learning to using digital learning environment like WebCT may have

some implications on students’ attitudes and learning.


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Moreover, as quality assurer, I'm informing teachers more than administrators because

teachers in most institutions receive guidelines from leaderships to implement them in learning

environment. Most Administrators often assist a public image for technology in their institutions,

where the practical sector always done by teachers.

First Meeting

In Oman the introduction of information technologies is very recent and traditionally the

preferred way of communication and learning is through the face to face mode. In this kind of

environment resistance to adopt the new technology is expected. Besides all these resistance and

difficulties Omani educational institutions are embracing technology though slowly to get its

benefits in their educational activities. Sultan Qaboos University is the only national university in

the country, serving to more than 10000 male and female students at a time. Recently the Center

for Education Technology (CET), of Sultan Qaboos University has provided an online learning

environment which called WebCT & affords access to it to all colleges in the University.

Expectations

Centre of Educational Technology in Sultan Qaboos University expect that they will

Support faculty to develop quality e-learning materials through training, consultancy and

technical expertise. In Addition, They are supposed to provide a wide range of audiovisual

services and facilities to assist academic, technical and administrative staff in developing and

producing audiovisual materials and packages, which will facilitate the online learning. They also

look forward to contribute to the University programs of staff development by offering

workshops and consultancy in the fields of communication skills and instructional media and

design.

Concerns

Despite the promises and obvious advantages to online learning, there are concerns must

be taken into account. These concerns include the quality of instruction and the attitudes of

instructors, students, and administrators. Each one of these has an effect on the overall quality of
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distance learning as a product. In many ways, each of these issues relates to the others. However,

these concerns could be uptake because most of CET objectives are measurable & focus on the

educational process.

Personnel

To identify the personnel opinion about services provided especially WebCT, I've

choosed the online survey questionnaire. Depending on the study represented by Syed Jafar

Naqvi, who is a member in international association of engineers IAENG, most students who

were exposed to the WebCT online learning environment, had positive attitudes toward WebCT

and in turn had better learning and understanding of the course material. The results showed that

students did not reject class sessions face to face mode but preferred this mode be complemented

with WebCT for better learning and understanding the course material.

Curriculum/training

To assure the quality of the content, I've coosed again the online survey in addition to a

test. Much of the quality of instruction depends on the attitude of the administration and the

instructor. Data collected in a 1999 study by Elliot Inman and Michael Kerwin showed

instructors had conflicting attitudes about teaching online learning. They report that after teaching

one course, the majority of instructors were willing to teach another, but that they rated the

quality of the course as only equal or lower quality than other classes taught on campus. Many

times it seems that the administration believes the technology itself will improve the quality of

the class. However, technology does not teach students; effective teachers do.

By testing the content delivered in each course in WebCT, content are excellent

prepared, deadlines of submitting assignments are fixed correctly, group discussing forums &

chat rooms are working properly without any errors.

We have other concerns towards the administrators. Sherritt (1996) found in her survey

of higher education administrators that many of the decision makers view online programs as

second rate, a “necessary but deficient form of education”. Sherrit also cites a study in 1992,
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which found off campus instructors to be “a demoralized bunch, perceiving poor working

conditions, isolation, personal and professional deprivation” (pg.3). This attitude hardly seems

conducive to an effective learning environment for the students. If the administration and

instructors are lacking in true commitment, it is bound to have a negative influence on the entire

online learning experience.

Environment

To assess the collaboration system in WebCT, I've used the descriptive checklist to

identify the environment parameters and guidelines. I have found that WebCT offers a number of

tools to facilitate collaboration between professional colleagues, between faculty and students,

and between classmates. These tools include an internal email system, a bulletin board/discussion

area, and synchronous chat rooms. Because WebCT is a secure, password-protected environment,

all communication, interaction, and transfer of documents is protected, helping to preserve the

intellectual property rights of collaborators. Moreover, WebCT lets an instructor to create various

quizzes types like, multiple choice, matching, calculated, short answer and paragraph type

quizzes. At the end I can say that there is no gap in the whole online learning environment system

in WebCT.

Conclusion

In summary, there are no concerns towards instructors & students attitudes towards

using WebCT which is a powerful tool in online learning. The results showed that students have

positive attitudes toward WebCT and in turn had better learning and understanding of the course

material.

However, there are concerns towards administrators; by they view online programs as

second rate, a “necessary but deficient form of education”. Seriously, administrators should take

the online programs as a first rate & carefully weigh their goals and objectives when taking on an

online learning program.


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The online learning through CET makes higher education a possibility for those who

face obstacles to taking undergraduate or graduate courses in a traditional face-to-face classroom

setting particularly in Oman. As the Internet and other information technology devices are

becoming more prevalent while technological fluency is becoming a common expectation.

Distance education is becoming more abundant, especially online, and location independent,

increasing the need for effective course management systems and teaching strategies that utilize

technology. The more use of WebCT may impact the students learning and understanding with

positive attitudes may pose a challenge to our traditional institutions offering courses in

traditional face to face mode. Most students preferred face to face mode along with supported

online digital course contents for comfortable learning.


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References

Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume V, NumberIII, Fall 2002

State University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center. Retrieved from Online Journal of

Distance Learning Administration:

http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall53/valentine53.html

American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual of the American

Psychological Association. (6th Ed.). Washington, DC: Dr. Abel Scribe PhD

Sultan Qaboos University, Center for Educational Technology, Retrieved from Center

for Educational Technology webpage: http://www.squ.edu.om/tabid/373/language/ar-

OM/Default.aspx
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•quality of instruction
• personnel attitudes

assessment
Tools Online Learning
in CET
•Online Survey
questionair
•Describtive Checklist
•Testing materials
•Personnel
•Content
•Environment

Personnel Content Environment

Students Excellent
POSITIVE
Prepared Quizzes
Teachers

Administrators Chat
rooms

Discussion
board

Connected

No Gap