International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning Special Regional Issue CALL FOR PAPERS — “A BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER: LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST”

Prof. Cengiz Hakan Aydin, Anadolu University, Turkey
Prof. Yoram Eshet-Alkalai, The Open University of Israel

Publication target date: Spring 2009

March 31, 2008: Send an outline of proposal (500-700 words) to

April 15, 2008: Notification of Acceptance of Proposals


September 1, 2008: full length papers due (5000 – 6000 words, double-spaced)

December 15, 2008: Peer Review and revisions finished

January 1, 2009 – February 19, 2009. Copy and production editing

This Regional Theme issue of IRRODL aims to describe and analyze current trends and issues in ODL in the Middle East. It will seek to detail the actual and potential contribution of ODL to the educational, social and economic development in the region, and will do so by discussing the challenges and obstacles to ODL’s optimal effective and efficient utilization. As such, we seek proposals from a broad range of topics and sub-themes:

  • Models and paradigms of ODL
  • Cognitive aspects of using ODL
  • Usability aspects of designing ODL
  • The effectiveness of teaching and learning with ODL platforms
  • Issues in the management of ODL
  • Innovative technologies for ODL
  • The interaction between learners and computers in distance learning
  • Widening access to education through ODL
  • ODL in the service of people with special needs
  • Gender and cultural aspects of using ODL
  • ODL in teacher education
  • ODL for improving governance and national development
  • Policy issues in designing and implementing ODL
  • Economical and ethical aspects of ODL

The proliferation of communication technologies in the last decade has opened new horizons for learners and instructors, offering new modes for learning and communication. With the modern open and distance learning technologies, instruction and learning receive new dimensions and new meanings. For the first time, education becomes independent of time and space and can be delivered anytime and anywhere and to everyone. Nevertheless, despite their great potential, the use of learning technologies raises a wide range of questions regarding the traditional learning paradigms, and poses challenges for learners, instructors and policy-makers, who need to develop new teaching and learning strategies that fit the new synchronous and asynchronous ODL platforms.

Educational technologies are used today in most educational systems for a large variety of purposes, including delivering knowledge, managing the teaching\learning process, as well as for communication between learners and instructors and between learners and their peers. Present-day studies on the use of educational technologies in educational systems indicate that they have become an inseparable part of the teaching/learning process. However, a meta-analysis of the last-decade’s research on the integration of ODL technologies suggests that it suffers from a series of severe pedagogical, political, cognitive and technological problems that hinder their successful implementation and lead to frustration among educators, decision-makers and learners. The major problems are: Problems of users to read effectively from a digital display of text and to cope with graphic user interfaces.

Learners and instructors are not proficient in making an effective use of ODL platforms.

Learners face problems in gaining knowledge from the hyper textual and non-linear learning environments, which are most common in ODL learning.

Most present-days ODL environments are ineffective for learning, due to their design as a trivial conversion of the "good and old" traditional, face-to-face teaching & learning paradigms into the ODL platforms, without making an educated use of the pedagogical possibilities, which are available in the ODL technologies.

Learners suffer from feelings of loneliness and non-ownership, and face learning difficulties in a distance-learning situation, without the physical presence of an instructor.

Learners face problems screening the huge volumes of information available in ODL environments and constructing from them coherent bodies of knowledge.

As indicated by most recent studies, the key issues in developing effective distance learning models are the adoption of adequate pedagogical paradigms that make educated use of the special technological features of ODL technologies, and the consideration of the state-of-the-art knowledge on designing effective distance learning environments. These studies also indicate the pivotal role that the local conditions, such as the cultural, political, economical, sociological, ethnographical and geographical circumstances play in designing effective ODL.

In this respect, the Middle East is a unique and challenging geographical, economical, cultural and political region, mainly because of its heterogeneous nature, calling for serious and unprecedented considerations in planning, designing and implementing distance and open education:

It is composed of a large variety of cultures, languages and religions, which calls for special considerations in designing effective open and distance learning environments which are available-to-all.

Economically, countries in the region range from very poor to extremely rich countries, which call for special policies, which consider the ability of some of them to cope with the high cost of ODL.

Technologically-speaking, the region consists of very advance countries, and others, which are only in the early stages of ODL systematically.

The above-listed problems and considerations, illustrate the special challenges that educators, designers and decision-makers face in developing policies, strategies and models for distance and open learning, which make an educated use of the available educational technologies on the one hand, and which fit the unique abilities and needs of countries in this extremely heterogeneous region. In this respect, the major challenges are:

Develop and improve the technological infrastructures to enable using the state-of-the-art educational technologies.

Develop adequate models for distance ODL.

Develop adequate policies and strategies for a proper integration of ODL in educational systems.