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Only 18% of training seekers in the Middle East  prefer classroom-only format, according to a research done by GulfTalent! The research showed that among 1600 professionals surveyed based in nine countries across the Middle East, 62% prefer classroom based trainings accompanied by online elements.

A result that reveals a growing interest in online courses; a prompt transformation towards learning and learning tools. Online courses are known for being cheaper and adaptive to participant’s timing and motivations, as they can work according to their own pace and obligations.

Many individuals seek trainings in order to improve their careers or just to move to another job, where 52% according to the survey seek to improve their skills especially in subjects related to engineering and project management; subjects considered as essential in the region.

The main objective of online courses is to expand access to different educational materials. Therefore, quality and reputation of those courses do matter for the participants notably when they search for certificates and recognition.

Unfortunately, the supply of online courses is not sufficient in comparison with the high demand of those courses, and the gap became greater for those looking for courses in arabic language, according to the same research, 23% of those professionals are not satisfied with the arabic content and are unable to find what they are seeking.

Disappointing laws
In some Arab countries, the government regulations and laws limit the massive open online courses (MOOCs) advantages. Those out-of-date regulations were adopted when MOOCs as a method of learning didn’t exist, and therefore universities do not recognise any award achieved or obtained through online education.

Despite the rules, some ambitious MOOC platforms that provide learners with a high quality free online courses were established but still with no national university recognition.

Consequently, there is a need to amend the regulations and create new policies that support and enhance online education, especially for arabs who might lack financial resources, or face some movement restrictions.

A glimpse of hope
An ambitious project funded by a UAE charitable foundation will enable young arabs aged 15 to 30 to gain qualifications online from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  The program targets 15000 students online over the next decade. The online courses topics are related to science, technology, engineering, maths and systems.

The partnership with MIT, as a top ranked university in the world, aims to conquer a common regional stigma – that online courses are worth less than those earned at bricks-and-mortar colleges.  According to the chairman of the foundation, this program will force every government and institution in the region to change their acceptance of online courses.

Another inspiring project, Edraak a MOOC Arab platform that aims to provide the Arab world with opportunities towards innovative learning. An initiative by the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development. The courses are in arabic as well as arabic translated courses from Harvard University and MIT.

To conclude, Arab online learners are increasing rapidly and seek a high quality education to expand their knowledge and skills. Therefore, there should be more work on policies to facilitate the work of massive open online courses platforms (MOOCs) and more support to create arabic language platforms provided with academic content in arabic language in order to reduce the gap between the demand and the offer, and to provide arabic language education seekers with a high quality recognised online courses to help them pave their future with solid complete tools.