Close to 60 representatives from 20 major universities in Lebanon gathered at an event on the “Future of e-learning in Lebanon”, hosted by Notre Dame University. Organised by Lebanese Erasmus+ Office and the HERE Team, it aimed at initiating a debate on the issue among Lebanese universities.
In his welcome speech, Fr. Walid Moussa, President of Notre Dame University, emphasised the urgent need to explore the topic that would indeed change “the modalities” of higher education, but not the mission of the university itself.
Colleagues presented interesting case studies on how e-learning is already used in Lebanon, on a multitude of purposes. A Tempus Pro-Green project initiated by Arab and European universities offers enhancement for a wide range of professionals. A Tempus ADIP project initiated by francophone universities aims to innovate in teaching and introduce distance learning. A course on Christian and Biblical education delivered in Spanish addresses the Lebanese diaspora in Latin American. EUA/Sphere contributed a presentation on the state of e-learning in Europe, and there were also presentations from Egypt (AUF), Canada and the UNESCO.
While nobody principally contested the feasibility and benefits of e-learning, there was concern regarding how quality could be ensured – given also that currently there is no national QA agency. A critical point is recognition: to take the example of the Biblical course, its diplomas are recognised in Argentina, but not so in Lebanon. An issue was also the question to what extent e-learning should involve undergraduate students: some participants voiced concern that students would be deprived of teacher contact, and generally of the campus social experience. On the other hand, it was stressed e-learning does not imply the absence of teachers, but rather a different role, and may open opportunities for more individualised teacher attention, and student-centred learning. Classical distance learning modes would usually cater only to people, who for personal reasons cannot attend classes, but not to undergraduates. Pierre Gedeon, Notre Dame University and a member of the HERE team, proposed a scaled set of modes for e-learning and plied for a blended approach of e-learning comprising “up to 50% online”. Recommendations submitted by participants agreed on both, the need for a continuation of the debate, but also the development of experiments and pilots in e-learning, in order to gather hands-on experience. Ahmad Sami Menkara, President of al-Manar University, and former Minister of Education and Higher Education, emphasised the need for close collaboration between the Ministry and the Association of Lebanese Universities Universities Association of Lebanon (UAolb), and reminded participants that this is not just about disciplinary learning, but about educating citizens. Ahmad Jammal, Director General of Higher Education, announced the need of an in-depth analysis of the results of the conference, and the establishment of a dedicated task force.
An excellent reader has been prepared for this event, which provides a list of questions that should be relevant also for other countries and institutions which are considering e-learning.
The reader and the presentations are available at http://erasmusplus-lebanon.org/event/711.
For further information, please contact Dr. Pierre Gedeon, at email@example.com.