Towards E-Learning in Higher Education in Libya
Rhema, Amal, Miliszewska, Iwona, Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology
Libya has the highest literacy rate in the Arab world, and the United Nation's Human Development Index, which ranks standard of living, social security, health care and other factors for development, keeps Libya at the top of all African countries. Libya has always been enthusiastic to ensure access to appropriate education for all members of the society, males and females. Government reform plans to improve and develop ICT infrastructure in Libya and it seeks to develop and renovate the entire educational process, including the development of curricula and updating its scientific content; adopting ICT in education including higher education is an essential factor in its overall development plans. Libya wants to play a leading role on the African continent by promoting and sponsoring major initiatives and projects, including those in the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger, and Rwanda. However, the challenges of poor and undeveloped existing infrastructure and a lack of skilled, qualified and ICT-savvy teachers present a great challenge to the current reform process (Hamdy, 2007).
Over the last twenty years, developed countries and emerging economies have introduced ICT to enhance all their sectors of society including the educational sector. This change has had a significant impact on the curricula, the methodology of teaching, and learning processes. Gerry (2005) sums up the history of ICTs in education by explaining that the period from 1981 to the current age has seen the educational use of computers developing from standalone data processors in computer labs, through to accessing the Web, to being able to provide integrated Web services for teaching and learning, resource collections, student records, administration, professional development and community relations now.
E-Learning is an ideal learning environment using modern means of information technology, through the effective integration of information technology and the curriculum to achieve, a new learning style which can fully reflect the main role of the students to thoroughly reform the traditional teaching structure and the essence of education, to train large numbers of high quality personnel. (Ma, Wang, & Liang, 2008, p. 54)
E-learning has started to emerge in many developing countries where it is likely to have a huge potential for governments in helping to meet an increasing demand for education and address the growing decline of trained teachers (UNESCO, 2006). Higher education institutions throughout the world are in a period of rapid change, as "Changes occurring in the primary processes of higher education courses and degree granting are closely related to the contextual trends of virtualization, internationalization, lifelong learning and customer orientation that are part of society in general" (Collis & Moonen, 2001, p. 30). In this context, traditional universities have no choice but to significantly alter their instructional methods to keep pace with developments spurred by the Internet. Thus, adopting and adapting to "the technology of the 21st century" is unavoidable for everyone in society and in particular in the educational context (Ali, 2003; Collis & Moonen, 2005).
This paper presents the higher education context in Libya, outlines the applications of ICT and e-learning in Libyan higher education to date, and discusses the challenges of, and prospects for, further integration of e-learning in higher education in Libya.
Higher Education Context in Libya
In Libya, higher education is offered in universities, both general and specialized, and higher vocational institutes. These include teacher training higher vocational institutes; higher institutes to train trainers and instructors; polytechnic institutes, and higher education institutes for technical, industrial and agricultural sciences. Several higher education institutes for teacher training were founded in 1997. New scientific institutions called Scientific Research Centres have been created in such fields as Health and Pharmacy, Education, the Environment, and Basic Sciences; they are both educational and research institutions. The National Authority for Scientific Research is responsible for higher education and research and the University People's Committee, chaired by a Secretary, manages university education. Each Faculty within a university also has a People's Committee, chaired by the Dean and with heads of departments as members. Each university manages its administration and its budget. University-level education includes three major sections: university education (lasting four to seven years), university vocational and technical education (lasting three to five years), and advanced graduate studies. Education in Libya is free to everyone from elementary school right up to university and post-graduate study abroad. Postgraduate studies at home (in Libya) are fee-paying but also subsidized by the government; for example, the cost of a Masters' degree at the Academy of Postgraduate Studies may cost around 3,000 Libyan dinars, or about USD$2,300. In addition, schools and universities are located throughout the country to facilitate better access to educational opportunities and, in an effort to meet the needs of students from remote and hard-to-reach areas, mobile classrooms were introduced in 2006 to cover all parts of Libya (Hamdy, 2007).
History of Higher Education
After Libya's independence in 1951, its first university, the Libyan University, was established in Benghazi. It was named the Faculty of Arts and Education and was followed in 1957 by the establishment of the Faculty of Science in Tripoli. In 1957, the Faculty of Economics and Commerce was founded, followed by the Faculty of Law in 1962, and the Faculty of Agriculture in 1966; by 1967, the Libyan University witnessed further expansion with the inclusion of both the Faculty of Higher Technical Studies and the Higher Teachers Training College. The Faculty of Medicine was founded in 1970 and, in the same year, the Islamic University in Al-Bayda was incorporated by the Libyan University under the name of the Faculty of Arabic Language and Islamic Studies. In 1972, the Faculty of Oil and Mining Engineering was founded and then moved in the late 1970s to the Brega Oil Terminal Complex.
In 1973, the Libyan University was separated into two independent universities: the University of Tripoli and the University of Benghazi; these universities were later renamed to the University of El-Fateh in Tripoli and the University of Garyunis in Benghazi respectively (Libya--Education, 2009). Because of the increasing number of students who have enrolled in higher education since 1981, the university system was restructured and many public universities were launched (El-Hawat, 2003); currently, there are 18 public universities consisting altogether of 148 specialized faculties and more than 500 specialized scientific departments.
University level studies are divided into three stages Bachelor's degree, Master's degree, and Doctorate:
1. First stage: Bachelor's Degree; conferred after four to five years' university study (five years in Architecture and Engineering) in universities and higher institutes.
2. Second stage: Master's Degree; conferred after two years' study following a Bachelor's Degree and offered mostly by large universities, such as Garyounis and El-Fateh.
3. Third stage: Doctorate; may be awarded after a further two …
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Publication information: Article title: Towards E-Learning in Higher Education in Libya. Contributors: Rhema, Amal - Author, Miliszewska, Iwona - Author. Journal title: Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology. Volume: 7. Publication date: Annual 2010. Page number: 423+. © 2008 Informing Science Institute. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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