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. …