Online education takes wings in Oman
Going back to studying at the age of 43 years was an enjoyable experience for Saleh Salim al Kindi, a Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) employee.
In February 2016, he was among the first batch to graduate in MSc in Project Management from the University of Roehampton, London’s online programme.
Kindi learned about the course from a friend who came to know about it from an online advertisement. Kindi was attracted to the University of Roehampton because it is on the list of institutions approved by Oman’s Ministry of Higher Education.
Saleh says that before joining, he didn’t know anyone else who had done an online course. “It was sort of an adventure for me. I always kept in mind that if someone else can do this course then why not me. From that perspective, I was motivated to join the course irrespective of it being an online course.”
The course is divided into eight 12-week modules. “I am very happy about the structure of the course. Students are connected with each other and the faculty through an internal e-mail network. Instructors were quick to reply to our queries. The reading material is of very high standards,” says Kindi, as he appreciated the flexibility the course provides.
Kindi says the assessment process included the examination of a student’s written essays by fellow students, a question-answer session and an overall interaction between the students and instructors. “Feedback was very helpful and instructors were always accessible.”
In addition to being recognised by the UK government, the University of Roehampton’s MSc in Project Management programme has been accredited by the Association for Project Management (APM), the largest professional body of its kind in Europe. It offers students the opportunity to study an accredited programme while remaining employed, wherever they are in the world.
Kindi, while employed with PDO, felt the need to develop his project-management skills. “Around 85 per cent of all projects fail due to poor planning,” he says. “I knew that to take on greater responsibility and ensure the future success of the company, I had to strengthen key professional skills such as planning, budgeting, and responding effectively to client demand.” Kindi is completely satisfied with the course as it has helped him to grow in his profession. He now has a much greater understanding of his work profile.
On balancing his studies with personal life, Kindi says, “I made a timetable. After returning from work, I would rest for a short while and then study for two to three hours. If I had any family or social commitments during weekdays, then I would compensate by studying extra on the weekends. So it is all about planning. I made sure to meet the deadlines.”
About support from his family, Kindi says, “My children were also doing their homework, so they were able to understand my situation and support me while I studied. I was able to set them a good example by studying hard and with dedication.”
There are currently more than 6,000 students from more than 160 countries pursuing online programmes with University of Roehampton. Last year, the institution saw the number of students from the GCC region increase by 40 per cent.
As far as online education in the Middle East is concerned, only a quarter of institutions in the region provide online learning.
According to a survey by Bayt.com, the skills gap in the Middle East is prevailing. The problem is particularly amplified for senior-level positions, with 70 per cent of respondents claiming it is difficult to find senior-level candidates with the required skills.
According to online recruitment firm Gulf Talent, professional training courses delivered online are rapidly increasing in popularity across the Middle East, but the supply of suitable courses is failing to keep up with rising demand. Surveyed countries included the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.
Kindi recommends the system of online education. “People in Oman have started to realise the benefits of studying online. In the absence of the availability of a similar college programme, an online course is a good solution. It is also beneficial for those who are unable to travel for their studies.”