Do we need Arabic MOOCs?

09 أغسطس

As an academician and educator, I have been on one side of the educational equation most of the time. For the past few years, I have been teaching heavily at the university and at national and international orthopaedic events. On the other hand, I would attend a day or two of a special course, a workshop or a conference in orthopaedic surgery or spine surgery to learn the recent advances in my specialty every few months. Most of the time, the knowledge gap is not big. It is a matter of tweaking and updating some knowledge base and new procedures skills.

A couple of weeks ago, I enrolled in the Stanford University “Mobile Health Without Borders” Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Although I have enrolled in multiple online courses, this massive course was an exceptional educational experience for me for multiple reasons.

  • It covers an area that I have no previous experience in as a spine surgeon. This translated into a motivational drive for me to learn more.
  • The widespread geographical distribution of participants. I bet that there was a participant from almost every country in the world, which added richness to the discussion.
  • The diversity of participants’ background. There were high school students, medical students, healthcare professionals, engineers, IT specialists, entrepreneurs, and others. Although we have few weeks more to go, the different perspectives of discussion so far have been phenomenal.
  • The entrepreneurial culture of the participants. This basically translates into how we can make a financial gain from every possible idea.
  • The high potential for these courses to develop communities of practice with like-minded people.
  • The fact it is a free course definitely helped in the recruitment of such a diverse pool of participants.

I have always thought about the business model of such free & freemium MOOCs & how they cover their costs. I have always thought why would Harvard, MIT, Stanford and a whole list of Ivy League universities provide such courses for free in edX, Coursera or NovoEd. Is it part of their corporate social responsibility or is it part of their marketing strategy?

I recalled what Prof. Sanjay Sarma, Director of Digital Learning at MIT told us during the Radical Innovation course in Dubai last week. The president of MIT recruited him for this position and asked him to “disrupt” the MIT using digital learning. We need more of educational visionary leaders like MIT’s president.

Regardless of their business models, what these courses are offering in improving the knowledge and prosperity of the global community is exceptional.

My questions are:

  • When will we see MOOCs directed to the Arabic world?
  • Where are all those “leading” universities in the Arab world? What are they doing in the MOOC “business”?
  • Where are all those rich Arab philanthropists? What have they contributed to sustain the MOOCs?
  • What will be the impact of these Arabic MOOCs in building a knowledge-based economy of the Arab countries?
  • When will the Arab youth divert a little bit of their attention from Facebook and Twitter to edX, Coursera and NovoEd or their future Arabic counterpart?

Until then, I will continue to enjoy the remaining few weeks of my MOOC and thank you Stanford!


3 responses to “Do we need Arabic MOOCs?

  1. AlaaQ

    أغسطس 9, 2014 at 8:06 م

    I’ve just started the same course at Stanford 🙂 and completed two in the past. What I like about Stanford’s online courses is the team concept and the way the scientific material is presented.

    Learning and working along with members from different parts of the world is magnificent. People from different backgrounds and expertise enrich the course discussion and brings about innovative ideas to be applied in reality.

    Regarding your points, I also was wondering about having MOOC as well and that we would miss many opportunities by not having such platforms until I find this website, Rwaq.
    It is a Saudi Startup (2013) that offers free academic courses for the Arabic World AMOOC (Arabic MOOC). Doctors and demonstrators from different universities start giving courses in this website, which is great!..

    By seeing what the new generations are up to today with different views and projects, I am optimistic of the future of the Arabic World.


  2. سهيل باجمال Sohail Bajammal

    أغسطس 10, 2014 at 12:23 ص

    Thanks Dr. Qari,
    It’s great to hear about Rwaq. I have registered there. Well, this answers the first question of my inquiries. How about the rest of the questions?
    Thanks again for your input.


  3. epigenetist

    أكتوبر 5, 2014 at 12:21 م

    قام بإعادة تدوين هذه على Stem cells.



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