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The use of Avatars in gender-segregated blended learning and MOOCs in Saudi Arabia

Adham, R. S. (2017) The use of Avatars in gender-segregated blended learning and MOOCs in Saudi Arabia. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in the Arab World are still in their infancy. Many Arab countries are now starting to launch their MOOC platforms; however, there are only a few who have actually implemented such systems. One of the first MOOC platforms in the Arab World is ‘Rwaq’ MOOC in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, gender-segregation is a known issue within higher education that often deprives female tutors from providing online learning and MOOCs, and students may not be getting the benefit of their experience and teaching. The purpose of this study is to develop an Avatar tool to represent a female tutor in a MOOC course with the aim of alleviating the issues of gender-segregated society in online learning. Three case studies have been conducted concerning the experience of online courses within MOOCs in Saudi Arabian higher education. Background research is reported concerning the most important aspects of the rise of MOOCs as a new system around the world, and the Arab world specifically. Then female-segregated education, gender-segregation in online learning, and cultural implications in Saudi Arabia, are analysed. In considering education technology, as an example, 3D Virtual Worlds and 2D animated Avatar videos, uses of Avatars in education and the adoption of the Avatar tool in MOOCs platform in Saudi Arabia are examined with relevant pedagogical approaches. This study examines the female experience and socio-cultural barriers in online teaching, as well as current ways of coping with such issues. It also identifies the impact of the Avatar technology for female tutors using a mixed-method research approach. One of the objectives of the study is to develop a social interaction environment with learners in online learning within MOOCs. The ultimate objective of this study is to examine if this Avatar tool could alleviate issues of gender-segregation for female lecturers in online learning within MOOCs in Saudi Arabia. The findings indicate that MOOC environments have had a positive effect on offering students a better learning experience. Additionally, female teachers showed positive attitudes towards teaching on MOOCs in terms of helping them to overcome the lack of interaction and communication with both male and female students. The Avatar as a representation of a female teacher can play a positive role in overcoming cultural and social barriers in Saudi Arabia. Overall, participants were more positive in the implement of an Avatar tool in term of inspiration, increased confidence, enhanced satisfaction and reduced social boundaries in the Arab world and Saudi Arabia in particular.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Parslow, P., Dimitriadi, Y. and Lundqvist, K.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences
ID Code:76300


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