Mobile learning in Qatar is just getting off the ground, thanks to the efforts of a research team at Qatar University. In collaboration with mobile learning experts at Canada’s Athabasca University, the Qatari researchers are developing a mobile learning template they hope will be adopted by a wide range of sectors in the country. The team has built and tested an app that supports employee learning in the oil and gas industry, and is also experimenting with mobile learning as a way of helping students learn English.
“The m-learning project is novel,” says Dr. Mohammed Samaka, co-lead researcher at Qatar University. “There is no history of mobile learning applications being used to train employees in the work place in Qatar.”
The project supports Qatar’s “National Vision 2030,” a framework for overcoming the challenges currently facing the country. Those challenges include sustaining its rapid economic growth, maintaining a high standard of living, and becoming an advanced society while remaining true to its traditional values.
Below is an interview with Dr. Samaka about mobile learning’s role in the country’s economic and social development.
What are the objectives of the m-learning project?
The overall objective is to introduce mobile learning in Qatar to help Qatar achieve its vision. The specific objectives are to determine the effectiveness of mobile learning in workplace English training and to develop a model for mobile learning in Qatar based on the findings of our research project.
How do you foresee mobile learning being adopted outside the oil and gas industry in Qatar?
Our mobile learning research is being conducted in the oil and gas industry, but the lessons and best practices can be transferred to other corporations and educational institutions. We are also testing mobile learning in educational institutions in Qatar. This will provide the project team with information on how to implement mobile learning in other organizations.
Are there any barriers to adopting mobile learning?
Since mobile learning is new in many organizations and even in many countries, it is difficult to find experts in the field. This project was fortunate because the two collaborating organizations, Qatar University and Athabasca University, had researchers who have experience designing and delivering mobile learning. Also, many learners have to be trained on the use of mobile technology before they can use it effectively for education and training. However, these barriers can be overcome as organizations continue to implement mobile learning.
Qatar’s National Vision 2030 focuses on sustainable economic growth, especially in the oil and gas sector. How can mobile learning and other forms of employee development contribute to this goal?
Growth in any organization depends heavily on the quality of the workforce. The flexibility of mobile learning will give the oil and gas industry more trained employees, which could result in economic growth. The younger generations are also very comfortable with mobile technology; hence the use of mobile technology for learning will motivate them to learn.
The National Vision also includes world-class education that promotes technical skills and critical thinking. How can m-learning and other forms of e-learning play a leading role in this area?
Mobile learning allows students and employees to have control of when and where they learn. For example, if an employee is working on a piece of technical equipment and needs the operating procedure for the equipment, he can use his mobile device to take a picture of the machine, or scan a bar code on the machine, which will bring up operating information through the app. Also, because of the information explosion, information changes on a frequent basis. Employees can use mobile technology to access current information. Activities can be included in mobile learning lessons to encourage critical thinking skills. Employees can use mobile technology to interact with each other or with experts to critically analyze situations.