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The Developments of ICT and the Need for Blended Learning in Saudi Arabia

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The provision of information and communication technology (ICT) to academic staff and university students is critical in order to offer them more effective learning environments. Investigating the current status of the developments of ICT may help decision makers and academic staff to employ them successfully by overcoming the needs and reinforcing the good aspects. This study focuses on the pertinent literature that intends to present the developments of ICT in the Saudi higher education context and the reasons behind the need for blended learning at Saudi universities. The findings indicate that the supply of ICT equipment appears to be adequate which might be due to the recognition of its importance, but that training in using ICT is required for some academic staff and students. Academic staff and students seem to be using ICT unevenly with different levels of skills and experiences that vary from one university to another across the country. The findings also indicate that learning style, the dominance of traditional learning, and the universal pedagogical demand are likely to be some of the reasons behind the need for blended learning. Implications of these findings are provided.
The Dedicated Mobile Data Subscriptions Market Growth in Saudi Arabia Research in Saudi Arabian higher education showed that the Internet is being used extensively and is perceived as an essential element for teaching and learning (Aldebasi & Ahmed, 2013; Alshawi & Alwabil, 2013). For example, 71% of 504 academic staff (53% were males and 47% were females) from King Saud University, Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University, Prince Sultan University and Al-Yamamah College believe that the Internet plays an increasingly substantial role in academic careers, and more than four-fifths of them had been using the Internet for more than four years with moderate to high levels of proficiency (Alshawi & Alwabil, 2013). Alshawi and Alwabil (2013) found that male and female academic staff were using the Internet similarly with no significant differences, and that computer skills were found to be a strong predictor of Internet use. The main purposes of using the Internet were teaching, communication and research. There were some associated problems facing academic staff of which information inaccuracy was the highest rated Internet problem (Alshawi & Alwabil, 2013). Another example showed that 70% of 500 students (80% were males and 20% were females) at Qassim University used the Internet for information retrieval, and 72% to obtain knowledge related to their study due to time savings, currency of knowledge and easy accessibility (Aldebasi & Ahmed, 2013). Aldebasi and Ahmed (2013) concluded that the Internet produces an educational delivery system that is highly necessary for both male and female students. The high use of the Internet shows how students in Saudi universities such those in Qassim University perceived the Internet to be an important educational tool that is likely to enhance their learning. The location university students used to access the Internet was given high attention by many researchers. The majority of studies revealed that home access to the Internet is most common for university students in Saudi Arabia (Al Otaibi, 2012; Aldebasi & Ahmed, 2013; Ali, 2013; Aljumah, 2012; Almalki, 2011; Hallila, Zubaidi, Ghamdi, & Alexander, 2014; Rahman, 2011). Al Otaibi (2012) found that home Internet access had a more significant and positive relationship with students' use of, and general attitudes towards, the Internet than Internet café access. Most importantly, students who had home Internet access were found to perceive online education positively (Al-Arfaj, 2001; Alaugab, 2007). Interestingly, Al-Zahrani (2011) found that students' familiarity with Internet applications 1 , especially at home, had a positive impact on their use of technology at the university and lead them to use it more effectively. More recently, Alojaiman, Alturise, and Goodwin (2014) declared that recent research " shows that the students who do not have internet access at their homes have lower grades than the students who can access internet at their homes " (p. 182). These studies consistently indicated the positive effects of home Internet access. However, as a result of the segregation of genders in Saudi Arabian culture (Madini & de Nooy, 2014) and its conservative context (Robertson & Al-Zahrani, 2012), Miliany (2014) found that Saudi female university students are " more likely to have their Internet access monitored and circumscribed by family members, with parents controlling the location and the amount of time spent using the Internet " (p. 3160). Similarly, Alebaikan (2010) pointed out that some female students had limited access to the Internet at home. Miliany (2014) also added that " females are more likely than males to face family restrictions on their use of the Internet " (p. 3166), while female participants in Miliany's study reported that " males frequent Internet cafés to access the Internet, due to the permissibility of males visiting and patronising them as they please " (p. 3165). This was demonstrated by the findings of Aldebasi and Ahmed's study (2013), when they sought the locations that university students used to access the Internet. The results revealed that while the Internet café was applicable to male students, it was not applicable to all female students (Aldebasi & Ahmed, 2013). This restriction of Internet access seems not only to be for female students, but it involves females over the country, as Alhareth (2013) stated that Internet access for females in the Saudi context " is really unavailable because of the culture of the society and negative male beliefs of using the Internet by females, which they could use in a wrong way " (p. 646). Most
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Journal of Education and Practice www.iiste.org
ISSN 2222-1735 (Paper) ISSN 2222-288X (Online)
Vol.8, No.9, 2017
79
The Developments of ICT and the Need for Blended Learning in
Saudi Arabia
Dr. Majed Gharmallah Alzahrani
Faculty of Education, University of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Abstract
The provision of information and communication technology (ICT) to academic staff and university students is
critical in order to offer them more effective learning environments. Investigating the current status of the
developments of ICT may help decision makers and academic staff to employ them successfully by overcoming
the needs and reinforcing the good aspects. This study focuses on the pertinent literature that intends to present
the developments of ICT in the Saudi higher education context and the reasons behind the need for blended
learning at Saudi universities. The findings indicate that the supply of ICT equipment appears to be adequate
which might be due to the recognition of its importance, but that training in using ICT is required for some
academic staff and students. Academic staff and students seem to be using ICT unevenly with different levels of
skills and experiences that vary from one university to another across the country. The findings also indicate that
learning style, the dominance of traditional learning, and the universal pedagogical demand are likely to be some
of the reasons behind the need for blended learning. Implications of these findings are provided.
Keywords: Information and communication technology (ICT), the Internet, blended learning, higher education,
Saudi Arabia
1. Introduction
This study is divided into three sections. The first two sections review the literature pertinent to ICT and the
Internet use in Saudi Arabia in general and in the Saudi higher education context in particular. The final section
justifies the need for blended learning at Saudi universities.
2. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
In the 21st century, ICT is an integral part of our daily lives and plays an important role in human development,
including the education field. Economically, Saudi Arabia is considered to be the largest ICT market in the
Middle East (Al-Khalifa, 2010; Aljahni, Al-Begain, & Skinner, 2011). Consequently, the Saudi government has
taken fundamental steps to enhance the use of ICT within the country. For example, the Ministry of
Communications and Information Technology launched the National Plan for ICT
1
in 2008 which keenly sets
out the vision of ICT in Saudi and how to implement it (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia,
2009). As a result of the continuous developments of ICT in Saudi Arabia, the chairman of the Saudi
Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) (2014) stated that:
…the Kingdom today has a strong ICT network infrastructure, capable of providing all modern
services and accommodating the high data flow resulting from the use of these services and applications, thus
supporting a knowledge-based economy, and achieving our government's goal of building an information society.
(p. iii)
In addition, the Saudi Ministry of Education – Higher Education has conducted many projects that aim
to build adequate ICT infrastructure. According to Alebaikan and Troudi (2010a, 2010b), the main ICT project
of the ministry was to establish the National Plan for Information Technology, which attempts to improve the
quality and extent of learning in higher education by encouraging e-learning and distance education.
Consequently, based on the National Plan, The National Center for E-Learning and Distance Learning (NCEL)
was established, which supplies tools and technical support to improve digital courses for a standardised
university context (Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010b). The NCEL (www.elc.edu.sa) has established a number of
projects such as a learning management system (LMS) called Jusur
2
to provide course materials that universities
design. Jusur is an Arabic word that means bridges. Another example is the Saudi digital library (SDL) that has
worked towards a knowledge-based society by providing electronic recourses for academic staff and students at
Saudi universities such as doctoral and masters theses of Saudi students around the world.
1
This plan was approved on 28/5/2007 and started in 2008. It went for five years and its vision was: "the transition to the
information society and the digital economy, and the building of a strong industry in this sector to become one of the main
sources of income" (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, 2009, p. 2).
2
According to Albarrak, Aboalsamh, and Abouzahra (2010), Jusur is an Arabic LMS adopted by the National E-learning
center in Saudi Arabia which "has excellent localization features as it was developed mainly to be an Arabic LMS system and
therefore, it has superb localization features. Moodle Arabic version is also there but with limited features compared to Jusur"
(p. 674).
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ISSN 2222-1735 (Paper) ISSN 2222-288X (Online)
Vol.8, No.9, 2017
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In addition to these projects, the ministry launched The Plan for the Future of University Education in
the Kingdom (AFAQ) in 2011 (Al-Ghabban & Zaman, 2013). This plan is one of the major developments in
higher education which is considered to be the strategic plan for the introduction of e-learning and other new
technologies. This project was established to support and develop the quality of the higher education system in
Saudi Arabia for the next 25 years. One of its strategic objectives is to enhance the use of ICT among academic
staff and students at Saudi universities, as well as to adopt various learning styles that focus on the integration of
ICT into teaching processes. Moreover, four international conferences of e-learning and distance learning were
held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015 respectively. These conferences were organised by
the Ministry of Education - Higher Education, incorporated with NCEL (National Center for E-learning and
Distance Learning, n.d.). These ministry developments urged the actual movement to deploy and enhance ICT in
Saudi higher education.
Although ICT seems to be well developed within the country in general, as mentioned by the chairman
of the CITC above, its developments at Saudi universities in particular are more required. Colbran and Al-
Ghreimil (2013) stated that “information technology plays a central role in a modern university. If Saudi Arabia
aspires to have a number of leading universities by world standards, it will need to invest heavily in technology,
infrastructure, and skilled human resources” (p. 81). In addition, Alturise, Calder, and Wilkinson (2014) advised
that if Saudi universities are planning for e-learning and the consolidation of required resources they “must
improve their IT infrastructure, including the provision of suitable connection networks and formal training of
staff in utilising IT resources” (p. 123).
Therefore, the use of ICT in Saudi universities is highly valued due to its impact on improving the
quality of teaching and learning (Ageel, 2011; Alfahad, 2012; Saqlain & Mahmood, 2013), and this in turn
necessitates the supplying of Saudi universities with ICT equipment. The literature review within the Saudi
context suggested that the supply of ICT equipment within universities seems to be adequate, but that training in
the use of ICT is required for academic staff and students (Ageel, 2011; Al-Zahrani, 2015b; Althobeti, 2013;
Mulhim, 2014; Saqlain & Mahmood, 2013). For instance, 14 academic staff at Northern Border University in
Saudi Arabia asserted that ICT was available to them at their university as with any other university, but that
training and technical difficulties were the main concerns (Saqlain & Mahmood, 2013). Similarly, 16 academic
staff at a leading university in Saudi Arabia revealed that the majority of them do not make use of ICT in their
teaching, but were willing to use more ICT once training was provided (Ageel, 2011). However, this might be
not the case with the academic staff of all Saudi universities and institutions of higher education. For example,
assessing eight academic staff and 40 students at Yanbu University College in Saudi Arabia revealed
shortcomings in ICT usage and applications for students, but academic staff were qualified to use ICT and that
no training need be provided to them (Al-Alwani, 2014). Training on how to use ICT properly seems also to be a
requirement that should be provided to Saudi university students, especially pre-service teachers. Mulhim (2014)
asserted that “education colleges in Saudi universities do not pay great attention to training student teachers in
using educational technology.” (p. 489). Therefore, it was concluded that “Saudi pre-service teachers are not
being effectively prepared for the Information Age.” (Mulhim, 2014, p. 489).
However, investigating uses and experience levels at using ICT for students at Saudi universities and
institutions was given high priority (Alfahad, 2012; Robertson & Al-Zahrani, 2012). For instance, Robertson and
Al-Zahrani (2012) found that Saudi students at King Abdulaziz University generally had high skill levels with
ICT, particularly with computers, in which almost two-thirds of them (63.4%) had more than three years
experience and more than half of them (55.4%) reported that they had access to computers at university. In
addition, investigating the different purposes for using ICT, from the laptops and computers of 161 female
students at King Saud University based on weekly use or less, revealed that more than 60% of students were
using ICT for course activities and writing documents for their course work, 56.6 % for accessing libraries at the
university, 47.2% for creating presentations, and 21.7% for accessing learning management systems (Alfahad,
2012). The results of these studies showed that ICT is used frequently with an adequate experience level and that
the supply of ICT seemed adequate at these universities.
However, the Saudi culture seems to be a hindrance to the use of global ICT in Saudi higher education
(Ageel, 2011; Al-Zahrani, 2015c; Alturise & Alojaiman, 2013; Shaabi, 2010). For example, a recent study
conducted by Al-Zahrani (2015c) revealed that integrating ICT into educational levels is important due to its
advancements and global demand, but the domination of cultural-religious conservatism seems to be a
substantial dimension behind the resistance to adopt best practice levels of ICT integration internationally. Al-
Zahrani (2015c) stated that “as a result of conservatism, traditionalism is widely prevailing as the obvious model
of education.” (p. 157). Thus, he concluded that the enforcement of innovative ICT pedagogical models is
recommended for Saudi higher educational contexts.
These findings generally indicate that ICT equipment appears available within the Saudi higher
education universities and institutions, which is in accordance with ministry objectives, though training in using
ICT seems to be required for some academic staff and students. In addition, academic staff and students seem to
Journal of Education and Practice www.iiste.org
ISSN 2222-1735 (Paper) ISSN 2222-288X (Online)
Vol.8, No.9, 2017
81
be using ICT unevenly with different levels of skills and experiences that vary from one university to another
across the country. Moreover, the importance of using ICT in educational settings seems to be clear for decision
makers, academic staff and students. Therefore, investigating ICT applications such as the Internet within Saudi
higher education is an essential element.
3. Internet Use
Internet use is spreading rapidly into daily life, and directly affecting people’s ideas and behaviour. In fact, the
Internet influences most individuals’ lives on a daily basis (Morse, Gullekson, Morris, & Popovich, 2011), which
might be due to the rapid growth of communication technology. For example, the Internet in Saudi Arabia
became officially available to the public in 1999 (Al-Gahtani, 2011; Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010a; Alshawi &
Alwabil, 2013; Simsim, 2011), but the number of users has expanded dramatically. Saudi Arabia had a huge
growth rate of Internet use during the last few years (see Figure1).
According to the CITC annual report (2015), the number of Internet users in Saudi Arabia reached
about 21.6 million at the end of 2015. Those users were more than two-thirds of the Saudi population of 31.7
million in mid-year 2016 (Central Department of Statistics & Information, n.d.). Figure 1 shows the number of
Internet users based on the data revealed in the Commission’s Annual Report (2015) during the last eight years.
The dramatic growth of Internet services and broadband was attributed by the CITC to the high use of social
networking applications, video downloading and gaming. Prior to that, Alebaikan and Troudi (2010a) attributed
the rapid growth of Internet users to the high proportion of young people among the Saudi population and their
fast adaptation to new technologies. In addition, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (2009)
reported that “the reasons behind this growth are due to an increasing awareness regarding the benefits of the
Internet, the growth in broadband services, and the cheaper computers, communications and Internet services” (p.
5).
Figure 1: The Number of Internet Users in Saudi Arabia
The number of subscriptions for the Internet services has also increased dramatically in Saudi Arabia
(see Figure 2). The CITC report (2015) also revealed that the number of subscriptions at the end of 2015 was
3.56 million for the fixed broadband services
1
and 33.4 million for the dedicated mobile data subscriptions.
Figure 2 shows the trend of dedicated mobile data subscriptions market growth based on the data revealed in the
Commission’s Annual Report (2015) during the last five years. The number of Internet users is expected to
continue growing dramatically, as indicated by the statistics in the Saudi context. This also indicates an
increasing number of users within higher education academic staff and student populations, pointing to their
readiness to adopt new technologies.
1
Including digital subscriber line (DSL), fixed wireless (WiMAX), fiber optics (FTTx) and other fixed lines.
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Figure 2: The Dedicated Mobile Data Subscriptions Market Growth in Saudi Arabia
Research in Saudi Arabian higher education showed that the Internet is being used extensively and is
perceived as an essential element for teaching and learning (Aldebasi & Ahmed, 2013; Alshawi & Alwabil,
2013). For example, 71% of 504 academic staff (53% were males and 47% were females) from King Saud
University, Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University, Prince Sultan University and Al-Yamamah College believe
that the Internet plays an increasingly substantial role in academic careers, and more than four-fifths of them had
been using the Internet for more than four years with moderate to high levels of proficiency (Alshawi & Alwabil,
2013). Alshawi and Alwabil (2013) found that male and female academic staff were using the Internet similarly
with no significant differences, and that computer skills were found to be a strong predictor of Internet use. The
main purposes of using the Internet were teaching, communication and research. There were some associated
problems facing academic staff of which information inaccuracy was the highest rated Internet problem
(Alshawi & Alwabil, 2013). Another example showed that 70% of 500 students (80% were males and 20% were
females) at Qassim University used the Internet for information retrieval, and 72% to obtain knowledge related
to their study due to time savings, currency of knowledge and easy accessibility (Aldebasi & Ahmed, 2013).
Aldebasi and Ahmed (2013) concluded that the Internet produces an educational delivery system that is highly
necessary for both male and female students. The high use of the Internet shows how students in Saudi
universities such those in Qassim University perceived the Internet to be an important educational tool that is
likely to enhance their learning.
The location university students used to access the Internet was given high attention by many
researchers. The majority of studies revealed that home access to the Internet is most common for university
students in Saudi Arabia (Al Otaibi, 2012; Aldebasi & Ahmed, 2013; Ali, 2013; Aljumah, 2012; Almalki, 2011;
Hallila, Zubaidi, Ghamdi, & Alexander, 2014; Rahman, 2011). Al Otaibi (2012) found that home Internet access
had a more significant and positive relationship with students’ use of, and general attitudes towards, the Internet
than Internet café access. Most importantly, students who had home Internet access were found to perceive
online education positively (Al-Arfaj, 2001; Alaugab, 2007). Interestingly, Al-Zahrani (2011) found that
students’ familiarity with Internet applications
1
, especially at home, had a positive impact on their use of
technology at the university and lead them to use it more effectively. More recently, Alojaiman, Alturise, and
Goodwin (2014) declared that recent research “shows that the students who do not have internet access at their
homes have lower grades than the students who can access internet at their homes” (p. 182). These studies
consistently indicated the positive effects of home Internet access.
However, as a result of the segregation of genders in Saudi Arabian culture (Madini & de Nooy, 2014)
and its conservative context (Robertson & Al-Zahrani, 2012), Miliany (2014) found that Saudi female university
students are “more likely to have their Internet access monitored and circumscribed by family members, with
parents controlling the location and the amount of time spent using the Internet” (p. 3160). Similarly, Alebaikan
(2010) pointed out that some female students had limited access to the Internet at home. Miliany (2014) also
added that “females are more likely than males to face family restrictions on their use of the Internet” (p. 3166),
while female participants in Miliany’s study reported that “males frequent Internet cafés to access the Internet,
due to the permissibility of males visiting and patronising them as they please” (p. 3165). This was demonstrated
by the findings of Aldebasi and Ahmed’s study (2013), when they sought the locations that university students
used to access the Internet. The results revealed that while the Internet café was applicable to male students, it
was not applicable to all female students (Aldebasi & Ahmed, 2013). This restriction of Internet access seems
not only to be for female students, but it involves females over the country, as Alhareth (2013) stated that
Internet access for females in the Saudi context “is really unavailable because of the culture of the society and
negative male beliefs of using the Internet by females, which they could use in a wrong way” (p. 646). Most
1
For example: Email, forums, blogs, social networks, etc. (Al-Zahrani, 2011, p. 135).
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importantly, the findings of Alebaikan’s study (2010) revealed that female students who did not have access to
the Internet at home had poor ICT experiences, which ultimately may make them resistant to adopt blended
learning.
Although female students seem to face some cultural barriers, the indicators of using the Internet
within Saudi higher education institutions are in line with developments and the tendency of the Ministry of
Education - Higher Education to use ICT as mentioned in the previous section. Ultimately, these changes in the
Saudi context encouraged academic staff to look at new teaching and learning strategies that employ ICT, in
which the Internet applications are used with traditional learning classes in what is known as blended learning
environments.
4. The Need for Blended Learning
Blended learning, also known as hybrid learning and mixed learning, is a broad concept that can be defined
differently based on many dimensions. However, Graham (2006, 2008) identified three major categories of
blended learning: enabling blends, enhancing blends, and transforming blends. Some of the reasons behind the
need for blended learning at Saudi universities might be related to the preferred learning style, the dominance of
traditional learning and the changing universal pedagogical demand to improve the quality of teaching and
learning.
The first reason is the increasing number of students within the Saudi higher education which is a
challenge due to their different preferences towards learning that need to be fulfilled. According to the Education
Statistics Center at The Ministry of Education (n.d.), the number of registered students during 2009-2010
academic year was 784,068 while during 2013-2014 academic year was 1,307,481 in Saudi public universities.
This shows that the number of students is increasing more than 100,000 students annually. One of the most
important characteristics of students is their preferred learning style, which plays a major role in their learning.
Learning style can be defined as “the composite of characteristic cognitive, affective and physiological factors
that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with and responds to the learning
environment” (Furnham, 2012, p. 189).
In the Saudi higher education context, the literature indicated that learning styles have a great impact
on student outcomes (Al-Saud, 2013; Nuzhat, Salem, Al-Hamdan, & Ashour, 2013; Nuzhat, Salem, Quadri, &
Al-Hamdan, 2011). For example, 72.6% of 146 students (gender was almost equally distributed) at King Saud
Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences preferred multiple learning styles (Nuzhat et al., 2011). The
effect of learning style on students’ achievement was investigated, and the results indicated that students who
preferred multiple learning styles achieved higher results than those who preferred a single learning style,
regardless their gender (Nuzhat et al., 2013). Similarly, more than half (59%) of 113 students (63% were males
and 37% were females) at King Saud University preferred multiple learning styles, and a statistically significant
association between the grade point average (GPA) and learning style preferences was found, suggesting that
students with multiple learning style preferences had a higher mean GPA than those with a single learning style
preference (Al-Saud, 2013).
It is likely that the learning style of each student tends to be different and, therefore, “a single mode of
instructional delivery may not provide sufficient choices, engagement, social contact, relevance and context
needed to facilitate successful learning and performance” (Singh, 2003, p. 51). Modifying the teaching styles
according to students’ preferences of learning styles may enhance the quality of education significantly
(Marković & Jovanović, 2012). In addition, the results from the previous studies of Saudi students that addressed
learning styles indicated that there is a need for blending traditional learning with online learning, which is likely
to accommodate students’ differences and enhance students’ achievement. Consequently, academic staff
members are encouraged to implement blended learning in order to create more effective learning environments.
Another reason for the need for blended learning is that, in Saudi higher education traditional learning,
lectures seem to be the dominant teaching method, while modern teaching methods are used infrequently (Ageel,
2011; Al-Zahrani, 2015a, 2015b; Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010a; Colbran & Al-Ghreimil, 2013; Hamdan, 2011,
2014b). However, academic staff found that online learning and blended learning contexts make students more
active, and that they preferred these methods over traditional learning (Hamdan, 2014a). The literature review
within the Saudi context showed that blended learning has a positive effect on students’ achievement and
satisfaction. For example, students’ achievement was found to be better in blended learning environments than in
the traditional learning environment (Al-Qahtani & Higgins, 2013; AlMahamoud & Elebiary, 2013; Alseweed,
2013; Alzahrani, 2017; Badawi, 2009; Makhdoom, Khoshhal, Algaidi, Heissam, & Zolaly, 2013; Riad, Saadat,
& Badawy, 2013), and even better than in the e-learning environment (Al-Qahtani & Higgins, 2013; Alseweed,
2013). In addition, students’ satisfaction was found to be higher in blended learning environments than in the
traditional learning environment (AlMahamoud & Elebiary, 2013). The empirical investigation of AlMahamoud
and Elebiary (2013) revealed that students’ higher learning achievement and satisfaction “most likely were
impacted by the more active classroom teaching approach utilized in the blended course format.” (p. 4658).
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Although the results showed that blended learning seems to be the most effective learning method, it is believed
that its implementations are in an early stage in Saudi universities (Alebaikan, 2010; Almalki, 2011; Alshahrani
& Ward, 2014). This made the need for effective learning environments high in the Saudi higher education
context. Thus, the Saudi Ministry of Education - Higher Education has started to move with the international
trend and encourage Saudi universities to move towards this as one of its rapid developments. Because blended
learning aims to combine the advantages of online learning and more traditional contexts, it seems to be the
coming trend in the delivery of courses at Saudi universities.
The third reason behind the need for blended learning is that higher education is universally changing
due to the tendency of using technology to enhance teaching and learning, which involves offering learning
environments that can meet the twenty-first century needs. Garrison and Vaughan (2008) stated that blended
learning “addresses the issue of quality of teaching and learning. It is an opportunity to address pressing
pedagogical concerns, while distinguishing and enhancing the reputation of institutions of higher education as
innovative and quality learning institutions” (p. 153). Blended learning is an attempt to build on the strength of
online learning without surrendering the advantages of direct contact between academic staff and students.
Therefore, the pedagogical demand within the Saudi higher education institutions to provide more effective
learning environments, such as blended learning environments, seems to be a necessity for improving the quality
of teaching and learning.
Pedagogically, blended learning could be the best solution for improving higher education in many
countries including Saudi Arabia. The literature appeared to be undecided regarding the most effective learning
approach, either fully traditional learning or fully online learning, and perhaps blending both environments will
produce the most effective courses. According to the Güzer and Caner (2014) review and analysis of the 28 most
frequently cited articles/books from Google Scholar on blended learning that were published from 1999 to 2012,
blended learning is perceived as useful, enjoyable, supportive, flexible and a motivator of students. However,
they asserted that planning the implementations of blended learning precisely, and encouraging student
participation, are important components for obtaining more positive blended learning environments.
The stated reasons behind the need for blended learning in the Saudi higher education context, make
this pedagogical change an essential issue that needs to be considered seriously by decision makers and
academic staff.
5. Conclusion and implications
This study described the developments of ICT and Internet use as well as justified the need for blended learning
at Saudi universities. It is clear that the Saudi government has made many efforts to enhance the use of ICT. For
example, the noticeable efforts made by the Ministry of Education – Higher education are likely to lead the
country to a better knowledge society. The ministry’s efforts have focused on the supplement and utilisation of
ICT in higher education universities and institutions in order to create effective learning environments such those
can be found in blended learning. However, training on using ICT more effectively might be required for some
academic staff and students. In addition, the literature review showed that using ICT tools has a great effect on
university students. Therefore, it is important for academic staff to understand the blended learning environments
that employ ICT and to take advantage of best practices worldwide in order to properly apply them in the Saudi
higher education context. Researchers also are advised to conduct further studies on blended learning and to
investigate which blended learning category could be best for the Saudi universities and how that can be
achieved. Finally, the Saudi community must become aware of the benefits brought by the Internet, particularly
in the educational field. For example, Alturise and Alojaiman (2013) argued that “the advent of the Internet had
enormous implications for ICT in Saudi Arabia and its universities started to use ICT, especially in the task of
developing e-Learning” (p. 28). Therefore, the responsible person in each family within the Saudi context should
allow their family members to access the Internet at any time, while still monitor their usage. If equal access to
the Internet is offered for both genders, adopting ICT for educational purposes might be perceived as being more
effective for university students regardless of their gender.
References
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... The study extends the contribution of previous studies from the effectiveness of BL to the issues of the design of the learning environment in the Saudi Arabian context. Alzahrani (2017) cited several studies in support of the view that students' achievements are better in blended learning environments than in the traditional learning environment and even better than in the e-learning environment. Alzahrani (2017) also cited some other studies which show that students' satisfaction in blended learning environments is higher than the traditional learning environment. ...
... Alzahrani (2017) cited several studies in support of the view that students' achievements are better in blended learning environments than in the traditional learning environment and even better than in the e-learning environment. Alzahrani (2017) also cited some other studies which show that students' satisfaction in blended learning environments is higher than the traditional learning environment. Overall, the studies reveal that Saudi students have positive attitudes towards BL but at the same time, there are some problems and challenges in the implementation of BL in Saudi Arabian educational system. ...
... Many research findings confirm that BL in Saudi Arabia has a positive impact on the quality performance of the students and they have a positive attitude towards the use of BL. For instance, Alzahrani (2017) found that blended learning has a positive effect on Saudi students' achievement and they exhibited satisfaction towards BL in their studies. Sajid, Laheji, Abothenain, Salam, AlJayar, and Obeidat (2016) discovered that the application of BL and flipped classroom enhance Saudi students' satisfaction and encourage them for independent learning in addition to increased engagement in classes more than traditional lecture methods. ...
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... This due to ICT development and revolution industry 4.0 then stimulate them to arrange and provide ICT in the university. Since students and teachers tend to use ICT to meet the 21 st century need (Alzahrani, 2017) then private or small universities/colleges/institutions which do not have LSM, they will use free learning platform such as Schoology, Edmodo, Google classroom, etc. to facilitate teacher and give students new learning experience using blended learning. Further, school needs data network technology, internet and mobile communication such as mobile phone to run blended learning teaching process (Dashtestani & Stojkovic, 2015;Prabowo, 2012). ...
... In addition, to use ICT both teachers and students are required to have ability in understanding the software using English (Sumintono et al, 2012). Therefore, both lecturers and students have to train in using ICT (Alzahrani, 2017;Zainuddin & Keumala, 2018). ...
... Blended learning gives positive effect on students' achievement and (Alzahrani, 2017) because this approach helps teachers distribute materials quickly (King, 2016). Enrich materials before and discuss after class are very needed by ESP students because they have to familiar with terminology and other vocabularies and to understand different accent. ...
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... Other studies that supported the positive effect of blended learning on student performance as opposed to pure traditional learning are Sun (2017), Alzahrani (2017), and Sankaran and Bui (2001). These results point to the various advantages of blended learning in terms of task accessibility, flexibility in making changes, and peer review availability. ...
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... Higher education at most universities is blended; however, the face-to-face teaching approach is highly emphasized (Alzahrani, 2017;Anas, 2020;Khan et al., 2018;Shahbaz & Khan, 2017). The notion of openly being expressive and honest is prevalent for face-to-face learning, and students feel comfortable with it (K. ...
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