In an ongoing effort to lay the foundation for a new post-oil era, the Arab Gulf states face the challenge of securing economic and social transformations while preserving their cultural identity and keeping the control of their own resources. A cornerstone of the development of the region depends on education and capacity building. In the Arab world alone, some 80 million young people - out of a total population of 300 million - are seeking jobs. The urgency for accelerated educational development raises quantitative, structural and qualitative challenges at individual, cultural and organizational levels. These challenges cannot be met through the traditional forms of learning and process development. In the quest for high-quality, wide-access, reasonable-cost education, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have a major role to play as the mediating artifacts of emerging networked educational systems supporting Open Distance Learning (ODL), Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) and other emerging kinds of blended learning. As for any social organization, the design of complex distributed learning systems requires some considerations on their conceptual structures and architecture, whose challenge is to combine pluralism, diversity, and global consistency. These dimensions are most often regarded as difficult to conciliate and conflicting, rather than as the guarantee of a rich texture avoiding ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions. The ultimate challenge is to open and sustain a creative space where learning, innovation and work can be integrated. The transition towards ICT-based educational process development calls for research on new specific forms of learning and epistemological issues regarding how learning occurs and how knowledge emerges, beyond the borders of traditional systems of education. Although today ICTs are more and more available to allow the deployment of large scale ODL systems, their effectiveness and efficiency is often blurred by a lack of understanding of their intrinsic openness, and operational semantics. The first purpose of this paper is to draw the attention of the stakeholders on the need to use ICTs as an enabler of scalable and flexible education systems. The paper proposes then some elements for understanding ICTs’ operational semantics allowing to harness their potential and take full advantage of their capacity to act as change agents for the educational systems of the Arab world.
|Keywords:||Educational Change Management, Technology-enhanced Learning, Open Learning Systems Semantics|
Dean, School of e-Education, Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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