Mobile Learning in the Arab World: Contemporary and Future Implications

Mobile Learning in the Arab World: Contemporary and Future Implications

Saleh Al-Shehri (King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8789-9.ch105
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Most Arab countries started their own e-learning and mobile learning initiatives in order to cope with global integration of latest educational technologies. The high mobile phone penetration among Arabs as well as availability of good mobile infrastructure are all important factors that can enhance the shift to mobile learning. Moreover, several studies indicate positive attitudes and perceptions toward mobile learning at different Arab learning institutions. However, specific challenges may act as barriers to mobile learning in the Arab world. This chapter reviews some of the current mobile learning practices in the Arab world and provides an overview of challenges faced by Arab students, educators, and probably researchers. A description of future mobile learning in the Arab countries is then provided.
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Current Practices

The integration of mobile technology into educational systems in the Arab world came as a result to the global shift that implemented more technological solutions in education. Ministries of education as well as universities in the Arab world are enthusiastically working on improving their academic processes and learning outcomes. Several e-learning initiatives and practices were found as a result to cope with contemporary education systems. For example, schools and universities have already provided technological infrastructure and invited all educators to take part in those promising initiatives. Some universities have also trained their staff to use technology effectively, and provided online courses for students in different mediums.

According to Sawsaa, Lu, and Meng (2012), mobile learning has not been widely adopted in Arabic countries. However, “several attempts have been made to identify and discover the importance of m-learning and its use for improving the educational services and developing the existing systems” (p. 172). One major factor that made mobile learning a suitable and effective choice in the Arab world is the widespread penetration of mobile devices, mobile phones in particular, among Arab young students (Al-Shehri, 2012). Saudi Arabia Consumer Electronic Report Q3 (2013), for instance, reports that mobile handset sales reached US $ 1.2bn in 2013 and expected to grow to US $ 1.6bn by 2017 due to the strong demand and popularity of internet-enabled mobile devices. Almutawwa (2012) also reports that mobile phone penetration in Saudi Arabia exceeded 200 percent in 2012. SHUAA Capital issued a report on the Gulf Countries telecom sector and states that United Arab Emirates has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in the world exceeding 230 percent (Mubasher, 2012). The mobile market in Kuwait, another Gulf country, experienced strong growth in mobile penetration to 175.9 percent in 2012 (Kuwait Telecommunications Report Q4, 2012). Mobile penetration at other lower-income Arab countries such as Egypt has also passed 100 percent and reached 100.79 percent in 2011 (Telecompaper, 2012) and 113.2 percent in 2013 (Eid, 2013). However, Eid reports a decline of mobile phone penetration in Egypt with 3.74 percent in 2013. This might be attributed to the current political events taking place in Egypt. Mobile penetration at other “unstable” Arab countries such as Iraq is still only 80 percent in 2013 (Al-Khalidi, 2013). Nevertheless, high mobile phone penetration in the Arab world can be attributed to the high improvement in smart phone sales in the region, particularly Apple and Samsung products (see Figure 1).

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