New Arab platform for MOOCs launched
Arabic is one of the top six languages of the United Nations and is the mother tongue to more than 350 million people in 22 Arab countries including eight in Africa, six in the Arabian Gulf and eight in Asia. Arabic is the seventh most used language on the internet after English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and German.
To serve the large Arab speaking community, Edraak was launched on 19 May as a platform for massive open online courses, or MOOCs.
It is an initiative of the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development and is powered by the American-based Open edX platform, a non-profit enterprise involving dozens of universities worldwide.
Edraak will deliver high quality online education from leading Arab instructors and academic institutions and, through its partnership with edX, the platform will also give learners access to courses in Arabic developed at top tier institutions like the universities of Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Queensland, Tsinghua and California Berkeley. All courses are delivered at no cost.
It is offering education institutions an opportunity to explore the realm of online education, gain insights from cutting-edge educational analytics, showcase the talents of faculty and reach and attract new groups of learners.
The platform will offer original Arabic courses – developed by the Queen Rania Foundation – and will showcase short online courses by practitioners, industry specialists and professionals from a wide variety of fields.
Edraak allows companies to train and assess current and prospective employees online, and says that creating a MOOC on the platform would provide a great opportunity for companies to locate and attract talent from across the region.
Arab university professors and regional experts will also be able to use the platform to deliver courses in English about the region and its history, serving to inform a global audience interested in the region’s development.
Samir Khalaf Abd-El-Aal, professor of genetics and molecular biology at the National Research Centre in Cairo, welcomed the launch of a free Arabic-language MOOC portal which could be “a tool for empowering academic and scientific communities to come online and tap the power of the internet.
"Edraak will remove the language barrier, enhance higher education access through promoting online learning and reduce the digital and knowledge gap between the Arab world and developed countries," he told University World News.
"However, MOOCs are only available to those who have access to the internet, thus preventing low-income households and individuals without the internet from taking part," Abd-El-Aal pointed out.
According to a 2008 report commissioned by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Bahrain, due to lack of competition among internet service providers, high-speed internet users in the Arab world pay on average six times more for their services than users in Europe. This is hindering the penetration of broadband internet in the region.
Arab countries constitute 5% of the world population but Arabs represent 3.8% of all internet users and average internet penetration in the Arab world is only 23.9%, according to Arabic Speaking Internet Users Statistics.