SPOCs PILOT: APPLIED IT + GLOBAL STUDIES
From September to January 2017 the Jamiya Project piloting two 12 week blended (online and in-person tuition) ‘Small Private Online Courses’ (SPOCs, not MOOCs) in Applied IT, delivered in Arabic and certified by University of Gothenburg. These were delivered in collaboration with a small team of Syrian academics and NGOs in Jordan - Norwegian Refugee Council and Jesuit Refugee Service - across two locations Zaatari Refugee camp. By making use of existing courses, learning infrastructure and technology, the pilot tested a model that made use of the skills of refugee communities leading creation and delivery of new higher education solutions. It is safe to say the we learned a lot from the pilot. You can read up on this in more detail below under 'Pilot Evaluation'. To summarise four of our own key findings:
1. The challenge remains, but meeting it is more complex: There is significant appetite among Syrians for higher education. But opening up existing courses online or broadening scholarships is insufficient. It fails to recognise the pressures and need for remedial courses.
2. Blended models: an opportunity, not a compromise: Adapting university education to student needs is key. It is unreasonable to ask a refugee student to fit a conventional university experience into their unconventional life. Blended education should be seen as an opportunity: Interacting with peers andlocal tutors were instrumental; but online provides a wealth of teaching dynamics and flexibility.
3. Working with Syrian academics: Another social interaction the Jamiya students valued was connecting with Syrian academics, Oula and Firas. Students were able identify with and to build personal relationships that supported attainment, aside from the experience, additional capacity and language skills they brought to the course.
4. Online and social media: We partnered with Edraak to use their top quality, Arabic-friendly LMS . This provided a good base for hosting our content and designing the course. However, throughout the course, we found that WhatsApp increasingly took over as the primary channel of discussion, as it allowed for spontaneous study and timely responses on their phone.