Muscat: A study on the efficacy of the e-learning format in Oman during the COVID-19 pandemic by Dr Mohammed Al Siyabi, Dean of the Military Technological College, is among the research projects funded by the COVID-19 Research Programme of the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.
Titled “A Study of the E-Learning System Efficiency during the COVID-19 Pandemic in a Higher Education Context in Oman” the aim of the project was to determine the difficulties, complications, and potential solutions of the e-learning system implemented in Omani higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Principal investigator Dr Mohammed Al Siyabi and his team, which consisted of Mr Hussain Al Rashdi, Dr Abid Khan, and Dr Tariq Hussain from the Military Technological College, used both quantitative and qualitative approaches that subsequently lead to an explanatory sequential mixed-methods approach in which a questionnaire, interviews and an experiment were used as date collection tools. The participants comprised of academic faculty, students, administrative and technical support staff from four different higher education institutions: the Military Technological College, Sultan Qaboos University, Dhofar University and the University of Buraimi.
According to Dr. Mohammed Al Siyabi, the main findings of the research project revealed that “e-learning is more prevalent to produce good quality results for mature learners and that the alertness and concentration level among young learners during online lesson delivery adversely impacts its outcomes”. He added that there is still a long way to go to adapt to the e-learning mode of study with higher confidence in Oman despite all the efforts, new teaching techniques and advanced tools. He further stated that the research showed that assessment, which is an integral part of learning, is far behind to replace the conventional methods of supervised assessments and there is a need to build a higher confidence level in the process.
Based on the results, Dr Mohammed Al Siyabi suggested to continue online education even after the pandemic ends through hybrid mode of education and find alternative e-learning assessment tools which can make the online assessment system more reliable and effective. Moreover, he also recommended providing more technical support to teachers and students, making available all the necessary e-learning materials, developing students’ self-learning motivation, enhancing the ways of informing and communicating with students, and enhancing senior management’s awareness in crisis management.
As for giving more aid to teachers when it comes to e-learning, Dr Mohammed Al Siyabi suggested building up teacher’s knowledge and professional experience in how to integrate pedagogy with technology in the learning and teaching process and to develop teachers’ ability to share knowledge, collaborate, coordinate, and support each other within the organisation.
Lastly, he recommended providing effective and user-friendly e-learning technology and infrastructure as well as investing more on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology to find innovative and effective e-learning tools for practical course delivery in the Sultanate of Oman.