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Its name is Edraak and it is the first Arabic free MOOC platform. Launched in May, Edraak is supported by the Queen Rania Foundation and powered by the Open edX platform. The aims of the Edraak platform are to advance Arab education by broadcasting the best Arab professors and offering original Arabic courses, to showcase Arab role models through courses by professionals from diverse fields, to offer courses in English for global audiences interested in the Arab world. At the same time, Arab learners will be able to benefit from online courses provided by renowned higher education institutions such as MIT, Harvard and UC Berkeley.
The platform targets three groups of collaborators – professors and practitioners, education institutions, and companies, each of them having a particular role to play in the academic and professional community, be it through knowledge dissemination, research, talent display or talent recruitment. Educators will have the opportunity to provide thousands of Arab learners with relevant content and “create a lasting legacy in the academic community”; education institutions are invited to explore the world of online learning, to make their talented lecturers more visible and to attract new groups of learners. Companies will be able to train and assess employees through the platform, or recruit new ones from across the region.
At the launch of the platform, Queen Rania stressed that “transformative shifts usually happen when need and opportunity meet”. What the Arab world needs is quality education and online learning is the opportunity, she said.
As it is with MOOCs and the usual contentions around them, so is the concern about digital divide surrounding Edraak as well. Statistics on internet penetration in the Arab world vary, ranging between 24% and 27%. According to the Arab ICT Use Report 2012, this figure is around 27%, which is still quite low compared to the percentage of Arab population in the world.
At the moment Edraak’s future looks bright knowing that within the first 2 weeks, around 35 000 users registered for its online courses. The first courses have already started this month and they cover a wide range of topics from "Introduction to Computer Science" to "CV and Cover Letter Writing" and "Personal Branding".