A woman reading a book on her iPad. Image Credit: Supplied

The popularity of e-learning in workplaces has never been more pronounced, with demand for high-quality competencies and skills at its peak. A number of professionals now optimise the many opportunities — and flexibility — of e-learning to redefine and better control their career paths, embark on a lifelong education, make progress in their professional life, and remain competitive in the labour market.

The Middle East has been giving the e-learning approach to education much interest. This is evidenced by the intensive government efforts to build an infrastructure supporting the e-learning paradigm; the presence of numerous online courses tailored for professional development and employee training; and relevant initiatives in higher education.

E-learning has become part of regional governments’ commitment to provide their people with equal access to education as well as attain diversification in their sources of income. According to a recent report titled ‘Middle East Online Education & E-Learning Market Size, Demand, Opportunity & Growth Outlook 2023’, the region’s online education market is expected to achieve a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.8 per cent between 2017-23, spurred by government investments and adoption of online learning among academic and corporate institutions.

Saudi Arabia could secure the largest market share with a growth prediction of $237.1 million (Dh870.75 million) by 2023, followed by the UAE whose market is seen to experience a 10.3 per cent expansion over the forecast period. Another study attributes the UAE’s growth to heavy adoption and positive student attitude towards e-learning, as well as rising government investments to modernise the education sector.

Recently, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, introduced a free online learning programme designed to benefit up to 50 million pupils across the Arab world.

Shaikh Mohammad has challenged Arabs to help translate into Arabic a range of math and science materials with an aim of engaging students, increasing their interest in vital academic subjects, and bridging the knowledge gap in Arab societies.

Despite the progress, the industry is still facing several challenges. For e-learning to work, we have to make the sector more information-centred rather than technology-centred. This means that genuine e-learning is all about providing real-time interaction among experts, students, colleagues, and peers to allow for more productive discussions on solutions to pressing skill gaps.

There is no effective e-learning structure in place to teach a range of vital professional skills, from negotiating to decision making to analysis, which undoubtedly needs to be addressed as well. Additionally, the fact that only 1.5 billion out of 6.5 billion people have access to computers makes it more difficult to introduce e-learning to everyone.

E-learning plays a pivotal role in human capital development and is an effective tool for unleashing the full potential of any professional by promoting lifelong learning. While there are many challenges, this type of learning paradigm remains an influential force in modern education.

Nidal Abou Zaki is Managing Director, Orient Planet Group.