Friday, May 23, 2008

BPN 1107 Developing m-learning in Bahrain

On my last day in Bahrain, Wednesday, I was invited by Dr Ali M.A. Al-Soufi, one of the eGov jury members, to the Arab Open University Bahrain branch. He is there the section manager for ICT. I was welcomed to the campus by Prof. Samir Qasim Fakhro, the director of AOU Bahrain branch. AOU is a collective of branches in the Gulf area. The Bahrain branch is housed on a small campus just outside Manama. I had a tour of the building, the library and the facilities as computer labs.

The Arab Open University (AOU) offers three streams of learning. One stream is for a BA degree, accredited by the British Open University; the second stream is a centre of excellence for the Open University of Malaysia and the French university of Rouen offering a Master’s degree. The third stream is the hosting of professional skills enhancing graduate programs. The BA program includes a BA in Business Administration and a BA in Information Technology. The Master's program offers amongst others MBAs in General management, ICT and HR/Marketing. Most interesting is the course on Islamic finance, a new way of interest free banking. And as Bahrain is a kingdom, it was interesting to hear that the AOU offers a course on water management, a speciality of our Dutch crown prince (The AOU Bahrain branch is sponsored by one of the three crown princes of Bahrain).

The AOU offers its own e-learning campus system. It was started between 2003 and 2004. Their system contains five modules. There is a learning management system, containing all the administrative procedures for entry to the AOU and for payment. The second module is the virtual classroom in which you can talk to the instructor, but also the other students. There is a an e-library system, linking the students amongst others to the Open University Malaysia with its 21 databases of bibliographic book information, e-journals and repertory of master theses. Of course there are e-lectures. Last but not least there are the student packages of books and CDs. The Arab Open University believes in blended learning, using all the tools, analogue or digital, but also in studying at the university and virtual classes. The trade language is English while there is also support material for Arabic. The professional courses in for example finance, health, hotel management and manufacturing are produced in cooperation with industry, government and institutions; the students receive a certificate for following these courses.

The AOU Bahrain branch is ambitious. They are developing a platform for m-learning. But they are also eager to link up with other universities to develop programs. They look at this world in terms of networked learning. But even important to the management is the exposure to other cultures. I had a chance to them about digital paper and the experiment with digital paper by the Dutch Open University.

Blog Posting Number: 1107

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