Issues and Prospects of E-Learning in Oman
Al Musawi, A. S. & Akinyemi, A.
Sultan Qaboos University, CET, P.O.Box 39, P.C. 123, Sultanate of Oman
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
The paper describes the issues and prospects of e-learning in Oman educational system.
Technology has transformed the practice of education in many countries and Oman is set to
modernize her education to align with the rest of the world. The issues which need
immediate attention include quality, security, and credibility of web-based learning. Other
concerns which include infrastructural readiness, language and related issues in e-learning are
being addressed as policies are formulated and the requisite foundations are being laid in
preparation for the national distance education program in Oman.
The Ministry of Education in the Sultanate of Oman has continued to put the education of both girls
and boys high on her priority list. During the Five-Year Plan 1996-2000, a total of 107 new schools
were built as the Ministry has a comprehensive plan to modernize the education system to meet with
meet the needs of the 21st Century. By the year 2000 about 565,856 boys and girls, aged 6-18 years
were in schools (Ministry of Information, 2000). In 1994, there were about 3,600 students, in the
various specializations at the only university, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) with 56% females and
44% males. Only a small fraction of high school graduates get admitted into SQU.
E-learning is of interest in Oman because of the apparent inability of the only public university to cope
with the large number of students who qualify for higher education but cannot be offered places.
Research and experience around the world have shown that e-learning can bridge this gap. Canning-
Wilson (2000) reports experts’ prediction that in the next few decades, over 50% of student population
will be educated using on-line learning and/or technology. What then is e-learning?
The most important concerns at this point in Omani educational development are whether or not e-
learning is the best alternative in order to increase University admissions of Omani high school
graduates? To what extent can policy-makers and educators trust e-learning in producing high quality
university graduates? What are the criteria for assessing the quality of e-learning to accord it the
reasonable credibility for acceptance? What are the issues involved in e-learning security? These
concerns are, in a sense universal. A survey entitled "The States of E-Learning in the States" found
that the current challenges most frequently cited by the States are the costs of developing content and
training instructors; the necessary enlargement of infrastructure capacity; the quality of courses and
content; agreements on articulation and residency; the responsiveness of traditional institutions; and
issues of privacy and intellectual property rights. The report shows that States rank quality issues as
their highest concern (NGA, 2001).
IT Status and Prospects of E-Learning in Oman
The Sultanate of Oman recognized IT as an enormous untapped wealth and began to focus her efforts
in setting up IT business parks and Information Technology institutions. Apart from IT adoption in
Governmental and the private sectors, educational institutions have embraced IT on a large scale. In
the last few years, there had been a proliferation of the Internet Cafes in major cities of Oman and IT
literacy continues to improve with many citizens using the email facilities and surfing the Web for
needed information on a daily basis.
It is important that Oman is able to keep pace with the rest of the world. Al Balooshi (2001) asserts
that e-learning is the “now big thing” and not the “next big thing” and that e-learning must be viewed
with some seriousness in the Gulf region. On-line learning is the future of education and it is certain
that those teachers who are still trapped in the in the chalk and talk tradition will be left behind as
education advances into the 21st century. Canning-Wilson (2000) Further states an assumption that
“Educators in the Arabian Gulf and worldwide will need to be more proficient in Educational
Technology, more aware of the theoretical and practical aspects of foreign and second language
teaching, as well as increase recognizing the need to build further awareness of how teaching
methodologies, learning strategies, and learning may be altered based on this new medium of on-line
In Oman, the population is spread thinly over a wide geographic area. To ensure that the populace has
access to the resources they need, two solutions exist which concern telecommunications. First,
electronic storage and retrieval of information via the Internet will continue to erode the role,
traditionally filled by books and printed media. Secondly, e-learning technologies will bring education
to the Omanis by providing access to learning resources at a wide variety of locations, rather than
making people travel to education. The World Wide Web offers a truly global library of a scale
unimaginable and it is available equally to students studying at home or anywhere in Oman. Oman
Telecommunication Company’s Internet service has struggled from time to time as demands
constantly outstripped capacity. There are about 40,000 registered Internet customers and over 90,000
users. It is understood that today SQU alone has over 15,000 users. Omani students get linked with
their counterparts in any part of the world through the Internet. (Al Rawahy, 2001).
Internet instructional uses by SQU faculty members are however, mostly limited to obtaining
information and rich resources available at all times. This suggests that they should be trained and
encouraged to broaden their use beyond the present status (Abdel Rahim & Al Musawi, 2002).
Currently, there are attempts at e-learning, using the WebCT by faculty at SQU and a study on the
implementation and perspectives of the early adopters has been conducted (Akinyemi et al, 2002).
Omani educational system needs to learn from other countries' experiences in her development.
While Oman is not oblivious of the advantages of e-learning many Omani educators will be better
convinced with more research evidence on the quality, security and credibility issues of e-learning.
The Omani concern for comparability of standards with the traditional system is a genuine one which
must be attended to before e-learning can be developed, disseminated and diffused into higher
education on a large scale. According to the call by Al Balooshi (2001) and Al Majdoub (2001), there
is a need for e-learning strategic plan for the Arab world and Oman will be a fore-runner in the
formulation of such e-learning strategies.
Abdel Rahim, A. & Al Musawi, A. (2002). Instructional Uses of Internet Services by SQU Faculty
Members, Part 2, International Journal of Instructional Media, 30 (2). (In Press).
Akinyemi, A., Osman, M. T. and Al Kindi, M. (2002) Implementation and Perspectives of WebCT
at Sultan Qaboos University. Unpublished CET Research, Sultan Qaboos University, Sultanate of
Al Balooshi, F. (2001). Creating E-Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Arab World.
In Educational Technology Symposium/Exhibition 2001 Proceedings, SQU.
Al Majdoub, S. (2001). A Strategy for E-Learning for the Arab World. Unpublished Workshop
presentation at the Educational Technology Symposium/Exhibition 2001, SQU.
Al Rawahy, H. (2001). E-learning: A Telecommunications Perspective. In Educational Technology
Symposium/Exhibition 2001 Proceedings, SQU. (under publication).
Canning-Wilson, C. (2001). E-learning with the E-teacher: Considerations for On-line Course
Design. Available: http://www.eltnewsletter.com/back/December2000/art422000.htm
Ministry of Information (2000). Oman 2000. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
National Governors Association-NGA- "Center for Best Practices" (2001). The States of E-Learning
in the States. Available: