ICT Faculties' Usage in the UAE Private Universities: A Case Study
College of Communication, University of Sharjah, UAE
- *Corresponding Author:
- Thouraya Snoussi
College of Communication, University of Sharjah
Received date: Jul 17, 2019 Accepted date: Aug 12, 2019 Published date: Aug 19, 2019
Citation: Snoussi T. ICT Faculties’ Usage in the UAE Private Universities: A Case Study. Global Media Journal 2019, 17:33.
Copyright: © 2019 Snoussi T. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
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ICT; Blackboard; Moodle; Learning; Education;
Usage appropriation; UAE
Recently, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
have brought an immense change in every walk of life, right
from the habits of reading, writing and communicating to habits
of learning, expressing and thinking. In this respect, education
cannot be an exception to this alteration. In order to meet up
with societal demands, universities around the world are moving
rapidly to incorporate new technologies into all aspects of their
core business of teaching and learning [1,2].
In fact, traditional approaches of teaching and learning have
witnessed a reformative transformation with the incorporation
of the ICT tools, such as online smart-boards, projectors,
laptops, android systems, PCs, online lectures, tablets, cellular
phones, e-readers, web resources and many other software and
ICTs are nowadays recognized as very useful, and in some
cases even essential tools in higher education environment.
Radloff highlights the opportunities that ICT presents for
enhancing the quality of teaching and learning to include :
• Providing encouragement for staff and students to reflect on
how they teach and learn.
• Applying theory and research on learning and principles of
good instruction to designing online learning environments.
• Making teaching (and learning) more visible and public.
• Encouraging collaboration and team work among staff (and
• Offering greater access to learning for more people.
• Increasing the skills and status of university teachers.
As a matter of fact, the ICT implementation and usage in the
teaching and learning operations poses a great challenge to the
academic staff. The realization of the ICT benefits in the
educational process to a large extent depends on the academic
staff that play crucial role in any innovation that takes place in
the educational system. It is obvious that ICT requires academic
staff to continuously adapt to the changes brought about by any
technological development. As mentioned above, ICTs tools
enable interactive and collaborative learning best, but their full
potential, as educational tools, may remain unrealized if they
are used merely for presentation or demonstration.
Linking ICT tools usage to the Course Learning outcomes or
Program Learning outcomes, as well as choosing the adequate
technologies to be used and knowing their modalities of use, for
each course, must be the main goals guiding faculties to the
good appropriation and utilization. For this purpose, Haddad
and Draxler identify at least five levels of technological use in
education: presentation, demonstration, drill and practice,
interaction and collaboration.
The aim of this paper is to examine, from faculties ’
perspective, how ICTs should be used within the university in the
Emirates. It will suggest a number of concrete and down-toearth
proposals, reaped by semi-structured faculties’ interviews
(qualitative analysis) conducted by the researcher himself.
Based on the foregoing, a guide of a number of semistructured
interviews was designed to find answers to the
• What are the ICT tools available at the universities included in
• What is the nature and level of ICT usage in the Teaching and
• What are the main ICT usage limits in the universities included
in the sample?
• What Kind of training/education needed according to the
Background of the Study
The information and communication sector has always been a
priority for the UAE government; and which, over the past
several years, has implemented various initiatives to deploy the
most recent and innovative ICT technology solutions and
In this respect, the UAE has become the second in the world,
and the first in the Middle East and Africa region in the
“Government Usage of ICT” index in the Global Information
Technology Report for 2014, jumping 30 places, in accordance to
the report released by the World Economic Forum .
His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,
Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of
Dubai, launched in May 2013 the government initiative of smart
government to transform the government services into smart
services through mobile phones. The move has created a
qualitative shift in the structure of federal government’s ICT.
Concerning the way public education institutions are making
use of e-learning tools, classrooms are becoming less restricted
to their physical location as e-learning tools can support learning
here. A growing number of schools in the UAE are adopting elearning
platforms, which is helping enhance the quality of
In fact, e-learning platforms have become popular over the
years as an education delivery and management tool for many
public academic institutions. It allows students to learn beyond
what is taught in a classroom and be able to engage with their
peers and teachers online. These platforms are often used to
assign tasks, set collaborative learning experiences, share
learning resources and collect and mark student work.
A combination of offline learning- face-to-face traditional
tutoring - and online learning, widely known as 'blended
learning', is the method mostly used in many UAE schools.
Students attend classes, and then supplement by completing
their online multimedia coursework [5,6].
Now that it is obvious that Emirati elementary and secondary
public schools are well advanced in using ICT, the question has
to be raised about the higher education. What is the nature,
level and particularities of ICT uses? and what are the
shortcomings that must be overcome for improvement in ICT
usage at UAE universities in the private sector?
In general, academic institutions around the world are
investing heavily in various Learning Management Systems
(LMS) to deliver and manage e-learning services. The focus of
many research papers has been on the student’s perception of
LMS with less emphasis on the instructor’s attitude .
To serve better the aim of this paper, the researcher selected
a number of previous papers that have a significant link with the
ICT uses and its background (UAE universities).
Patronis et al. conducted a study about Blackboard
Satisfaction: Use and Preference among Faculty and Students at
Zayed University. Their main concern was better understanding
the use, needs and preferences of students and faculty when
using (BB). Two questions were asked at the very beginning:
What are students and faculty level of satisfaction with the BB
features? What are the students and faculty preferences for
specific BB features? And how often and when do students and
faculty use various features of BB ?
Among the most significant survey results, we found that
more faculty use BB in their courses, the more likely they are to
report positive satisfaction with it Readiness students like to use
it the least (still like to use it). Students like to use LMS more
than faculties. Also, Blackboard seemed to be a great tool for
students to use. But unfortunately the faculty never or rarely
used it”. Faculty education of BB tools is needed to develop their
competency in ICT usage .
Vrazalic, et al. described in their paper “E-learning Barriers in
the United Arab Emirates ” , a collaborative research project
which empirically investigated the perceived barriers to elearning
for students studying at tertiary institutions in the UAE
using an online questionnaire. The paper analyzed the
associations between e-learning barriers and students’ age and
gender. The ease of use, usefulness and satisfaction with elearning
are also examined in relation to e-learning barriers. The
preliminary findings of the study indicated that while the gender
of the students was associated with a lack of interest for elearning,
as well as a lack of time to use e-learning, the
relationship needs to be studied further. Data suggests that
female students found e-learning to be less exciting, but male
students had less time to use this type of learning. Of particular
interest is the association between the usefulness of e-learning
and e-learning barriers, which requires additional analysis. The
lack of associations between e-learning barriers and student
satisfaction is also worth noting [10-12].
Prescott aimed in his paper entitled “Faculty use of the course
management system (iLearn) at the American University of
Sharjah”, to gain a clear appreciation of how iLearn is being used
at AUS and to recognize the faculty members’ opinions and
perceptions of the CMS iLearn. The researcher tried to
determine the patterns of usage among faculty members at
In answer to his first research question, “For what purposes is
iLearn being used by faculty?”, the administration, management
and pragmatic communication are the most common purposes
for ILearn usage by faculty; Using a CMS in these administrative
management and communicative ways has advantages for
students and faculty. The answer to the second research
question, “ What factors encourage faculty to increase or
decrease their usage?”, the indications are that ‘ease of use’
factors tend to discourage uptake and usage .
Mouakket and Bettayeb, in their study “ Factors Affecting
University Instructors Continuance Intention to Use Learning Management Systems: The Blackboard System Case”, tried to
investigate the factors affecting instructors’ continuance usage
intention of the LMS in academic institutions in the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) . They proposed a framework based on the
expectation-confirmation model (ECM) to examine the influence
of several critical independent factors related to organizational,
technological and individual characteristics on university
instructors’ perceived usefulness of Blackboard system, which in
turn will affect their continuance intention to use this
technology. Their findings can be summarized as follows :
First, they have found that the technological characteristics,
represented by user-interface design, influence perceived
usefulness of Blackboard system. Second, they have found that
having good technical support and proper training, as factors of
organizational characteristics, can increase the feeling of the
benefits of Blackboard system, suggesting that regular training
and offering technical support to users will allow them to
become familiar with LMS and consequently realize the benefits
of these technologies.
To sum up, the mentioned studies were focused on how the
ICT’s systems are being used by faculty and students, in higher
educational institutions like American University of Sharjah,
Zayed University, Wollongong University, Middlesex University
and HCT . The majority of papers were based on surveys
distributed to students or/and faculty as quantitative method of
gathering information. Most studies focus on ease of use or on
how faculty use CMS. Very few discussed the way these systems
This study will include a qualitative analysis and investigate
the ICT usage and appropriation level, with a special concern on
LMS . 34 semi-structured interviews with the deans, head of
departments and programs directors belonging to four (4)
private higher education institutions, implemented in the widest
emirates (the most populated agglomerations in the UAE): Abu
Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. The choice of the sample
components is guided by the researcher determination to enrich
the research community and make it reflect as much as possible
the real state of all the private universities in the Emirates .
The interview guide was built accordantly with the TEDS
Approach (tell, explain, describe, suggest), to allow the
interviewer to probe where she feels extra information might be
forthcoming. Lindlof and Taylor point out that interview
schedules are often considered a means by which researchers
can increase the reliability and credibility of the research data
Interviews with 34 faculties were conducted between
01/01/2018 and 15/03/2018. The interviews data was ready for
analysis through qualitative data analysis (QDA) computer
software “Hyper Research” which was partially used for this
purpose. However, the researcher experienced some difficulties
fitting interview data into the software frameworks. Some
information and correlations were identified and compared
manually and checked many times before confirming the result.
The sample of this study includes 4 universities.
• Al Ghurair University (Dubai)
• University of Sharjah (Sharjah)
• Al Ain University of Sciences and Technology (Abu Dhabi)
• Ajman University (Ajman)
The interview data was grouped into recurrent themes based
on specific verbal cues. Considering the interviews as elements
of a case, within-case analysis was used to search the interview
data for confirmation of identified patterns and to discover any
The researcher divided the interview data in four themes:
• ICT tools available at the universities included in the sample,
• ICT usage in teaching and learning process (nature and level),
• ICT usage limits in the sample,
• Kind of training/education needed according to the
Theme 1: ICT tools available at the universities
included in the sample
Each theme has its verbal cues. For this first theme, we traced
a number of tools as mentioned below:
• Learning Management System (LMS): Software designed to
manage user learning interventions and provide access to
online learning services for students, teacher, and
administrator. It allows the development and delivery of
educational courses using the Internet as a delivery system.
• Course Management System (CMS): System designed to help
lecturers to create an online learning environment. This
system provides functions such a register courses online,
course cataloging, bulletin system, information searching,
• Blackboard (LMS Commercial platform): Online learning tool
used by both teachers and students. It can be accessed both
on and off campus and allows teachers to organize course
information so students can retrieve it online like grades,
syllabus, assignments and lecture.
• Moodle (LMS open source platform):
This study showed that the LMS is available to everyone in the
universities’ sample. The tool adopted varies from one university
to another. The author notices that the use of ICT is limited to
two types of Learning Management Systems: Blackboard and
The use of Blackboard is confined to Al Ghurair University and
University of Sharjah, while using Moodle is the choice of Al Ain
University of Sciences and Technology and Ajman University.
According to the interviewees, this division is mainly being the
result of financial aspects. Moodle is an open source platform;
free for use. Blackboard is commercial/paid.
In fact, Blackboard is perfect for educational institutions, but
it is very expensive, takes a lot of time to sort all the software
out, and is not convenient for businesses . But, in the
meantime, even free LMSs like Moodle can require a significant IT investment, whereas premium LMSs like Blackboard can end
up paying for them in the long run. The numbers show a strong
split between LMS choice depending on how limited high
school’s student body is (and thus their resources) (Table 1).
||Freemium (open source)
||Activity list on a single page
||Weekly activities tab
||Automatic content management.
||Manual. You have to change settings every time.
||Limited options, need to create new plugins and develop them
||Extra features are included in the price
||Many supporting companies and vendors
||Only one company to work with
||Forums, Knowledge Base
||Forms, Knowledge Base + Live Tech Support
||MoodlEZ iPad app for $2.99 and/or free MyMoodle app
||Free Blackboard Mobile app
|Market share (2015)
Source: Moodle VS Blackboard: that is the question, August 27, 2015
Table 1: Moodle vs. Blackboard.
Al Ghurair University has supplementary tools widely used,
such as Google Drive, particularly used in the College of Design.
In fact, Google Drive is a personal cloud storage service from
Google that lets users store and synchronize digital content
across computers, laptops and mobile devices, including
Android-powered tablet and smartphone devices.
The Dean of the College of Design at AGU explained, while
being interviewed, that he resorted to the use of Google Drive
because the storage possibilities in the Blackboard are limited
and the architecture students’ projects require large bearings.
Theme 2: ICT usage in teaching and learning process
(nature and level)
In this stage, the researcher tried to find out how faculty members use available tools in their educational environment.
For that, she chose not to fix verbal cues in advance but to
accumulate them while interviewing .
A large difference in terms of appropriation was noticed.
While the deans and heads belonging to the colleges of sciences,
engineering and architecture declared using LMS deeply and
with a very accurate way, respondents from the colleges of
social sciences, literature and humanities.
Declared a very basic kinds of uses:
We tried to compile the key words used by the sample in Table 2 below:
|Homework management system
|Social media platforms
||Put Course material
||Group/individual submission for research work
||YouTube, daily mention
|Pearson’s mastering physics
|Grading and correction comments
Table 2: Sciences VS Humanities ICT Usage.
It is obvious that there are certain operations that are used in
common. The generated usage of ICT in the universities included
in the sample can be resumed as following:
• Communication between faculty and students,
• Courses planning and organization,
• Feedback collection from students,
• Making the teaching material available for all the semester,
• Grading and announcements.
Thus, there is certain number of specific uses for colleges with
scientific and technical specialties:
• John Whitmer presented on the use of analytics in improving
student achievement at Blackboard conference. He
encouraged staff tasked with increasing the adoption of
analytics to focus on the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’ of analytics.
This particular use is relative to College of Science (COS) at
University of Sharjah (UOS).
• Blackboard Collaborate, freshly used at UOS, as a browserbased
web conferencing solution that makes synchronous
collaboration simple and clear. (http://www.blackboard.com/
• VitalSource, used also by COS at UOS, as an online bookshelf
program that is used to access eBooks, download, access, and
read course materials. (https://www.vitalsource.com, 2018).
• Wiley and Wiley PLUS, implemented as a research-based
online environment for engineering programs at UOS.
Students can access a wide range of content, including selfstudy
tools, the online text and assessment questions.
Overall, accuracy and depth of ICT uses are confirmed by the
respondents belonging to colleges of sciences and technology,
(mainly University of Sharjah). They declared being focused on
linking the student to electronic references and e-libraries, as
well as conducting qualitative and analytical researches. It is
considered as the most important media of communication.
Using LMS (Moodle or BB) fosters an interactive experience
between faculty and students whereby they can not only access
all the material needed for courses, but also introduce different
dynamic exercises like quizzes, exams and questionnaires. No
real interest for electronic references or text book was showed.
A specific interest heading towards social media as a vital
source for the applied courses carried out by the respondents
belonging to the colleges of communication including programs such mass communication, Radio and TV, electronic Journalism,
Advertising and public relations .
The use of social networks (YouTube, Facebook, twitter, etc.),
is becoming an essential component of the learning process in
the College of Mass Communication at Al Ghurair University for
example, especially when it comes to lessons such as production
of PR materials, Online PR, Social Media, Media and PR
Respondents declared that in these courses, students are
required to produce information materials such as Logos,
brochures, posters, magazines, and to apply public relations and
media campaigns through social media channels. The creation
and posting of blogs, Facebook pages for example, are part of
the Course Learning Outcomes CLO’s.
The Head of College of Mass Communication insisted on the
effectiveness of the SM uses. According to her, CMS usage
definitely influences positively the pedagogical side of the
teaching and learning operations.
Moreover, Mass communication and PR programs require
specific software for the printed materials design, such as
Keepvideo, In Design, Photoshop, as well as software related to
audio and video editing such as Avid, Final Cut, and Cool Edit Pro
The last notice is about the LMS uses in the colleges of
humanities and social sciences which remained superficial and
Theme 3: ICT usage limits in the sample
Talking about the LMS usage limits cannot be achieved
without investigating about the sample perception concerning
their added value, in the teaching and learning process.
Tracked answers are gathered in two themes: Advantages and
disadvantages (limits) of ICT uses.
Advantages of using ICT from faculty perception are
• LMS made it practical to use homework and assessment for
the large number of students in the service courses,
• LMS for a certain degree of integrity, make it possible to use
HW as a part of the assessment process,
• Video conferencing is becoming an important tool for
recording and disseminating educational material,
• LMS is very helpful for faculty to make announcements at any
time from any place.
• LMS helps faculty to save a lot of time in grading the
assignments and quizzes especially for a large number of
• In addition of saving time spent in printing and copying exam
papers for hundreds of students, faculty also saved an
important of papers and ink which is of great importance in
protecting our environment,
• Social media (SM) usage makes the PR courses furnished. It
supports the pedagogical process:
• Brochures and PR magazines, as well as audio and video
editing software, such as Avid and Final cut for video and
Disadvantages of using ICT:
• Subjects pertaining to technology and science have benefited
immensely from the use of ICT in classes because the nature
of the subjects taught lends themselves easily to the
integration of technology. However, less benefit has been
marked with literary, oral and theoretical subjects,
• ICT tools are updated and students are kept abreast of
changes and new technologies,
• In some areas, ICT tools do not give detailed students'
performance, punctuality, and attendance. Many projects and
assignments in humanities courses do not fit to LMS
• Some universities are weak on BB support and especially on
maintenance and faculties’ support and tutoring,
• Some faculties are a little lax, they show some resistance to
any change and they think that teaching process in some fields
has to remain classic to keep its authenticity, without recourse
to technology (Humanities in particular),
• In some scientific colleges (College of Pharmacy, at Al Ain
University), some faculties resist any kind of changes in their
learning environment. (According to the HOD in the named
College, the incapacity of using ICT for some instructors is due
either to their age (old people), or their lack of interest),
• Some technical issues related to IT also hinder the use of ICT
sometimes, especially when internet connection is needed but
not available all the time,
• Some faculties are not very enthusiastic to using ICT because
are not technology savvy,
• Some respondents claimed that the limited use of the Arabic
language in the E-learning environment represent a barrier for
them to integrate ICT,
• Some respondents affirmed that CMS causes too much
dependency on the internet which damages the student ’ s
capacity of creation and creativity,
• Blackboard has a limited size for submitted files that is not fit
with design college file submission. This submission has
multiple files from different origins and some of them have
bigger sixe than what allowed by blackboard.
To summarize, ICT usage limits are related mainly to missjudgment
of their added value in the teaching and learning
process, (especially among faculty belonging to Colleges of
Humanities and social sciences). Besides, technical issues related
to IT departments in some universities included in the sample,
also hinder the use of ICT (lack of IT help desks to orient
students and advice faculties, slow technical updates to
software and internet interruptions, etc.) .
The last factor driving to avoid ICT usage (mainly LMS) is
faculty and students’ lack of proficiency in technology.
The sample was unanimous on the need to receive intensive
training in LMS and software platforms and applications in order
to improve productivity and deepen the linking of technology
with the CLOs and PLOs, in all disciplines included in the sample.
Theme 4: Kind of training/education needed
according to the interviewees
The kind of education and training demanded by the
respondents are various. They vary accordantly with the nature
and level of ICT usage of each interviewee.
Faculty affiliated to colleges of sciences and technology
claimed training sessions for the following subjects:
• Blended Learning,
• More assessment tools to be included,
• Discussion forums techniques.
Faculty belonging to colleges of Humanities and social
sciences are claiming basic level of training. They are still
discussing issues related to the following:
• Intensifying awareness and sensitization campaigns on the
importance of integrating information and communication
technologies in the teaching and learning process,
• Planning an electronic courses,
• Examination process.
Discussion and Conclusions
The most important result reached is the consensus to engage
seriously in the investment of modern technologies within the
educational institutions that have been studied. The type of
applications used varied according to the faculties and
While applications were advanced and in-depth in terms of
use in the colleges of sciences, medicine, engineering and
pharmacy; the use of information and communication
technologies in the colleges of arts and humanities seemed basic
and in some cases marginalized. ICT usage limits in these
colleges are related mainly to miss-judgment of their added
value in the teaching and learning experience as well as faculties
The results related to the resistance of some faculties to use
the ICT and to engage in eLearning process, correspond to a
number of findings reached by Olivier in his study about the role
of ICT in higher education for the 21st century applied to
Australian sample of universities . Olivier confirmed that there have been a number of factors impeding the wholesale of
ICT in education across all sectors. There have been included
such factors as lack of training among established teaching
practitioners, a lack of motivation and need among teachers to
adopt ICT as teaching tools. But, in the meantime, the author
explained that new factors have emerged which have
strengthened and encouraged moves to adopt ICTs into
classrooms and learning settings. There have included a growing
need to explore efficiencies in terms of program delivery, the
opportunities for flexible delivery provided by ICTs .
Noted that the situation experienced by the Australian
professors at the beginning of the second millennium (2002), is
similar to the Emirati sample situation in the present (2018). The
author tends to predict that this situation is temporary, and that
the turnout of technologies will increase with the years in the
UAE universities, when it proves its worth in all curricula and
disciplines (humanities and sciences in particular).
In the same context, another study about challenges for using
ICT in Education, conducted by Salehi confirmed that insufficient
technical supports (trainings and orientations) at schools and
little access to internet (weak WIFI network) were considered as
the major barriers preventing teachers to integrate ICT [27,28].
The interviewee unanimously claimed their desire for multiple
training to get familiar with the E-learning environment and to
assure its usage.
At the end, some disciplines included in the Emirati private
universities, face challenges of transformation of curriculum,
mainly programs related to humanities and social sciences.
To enable faculties to effectively use ICT, respondents claimed
many recommendations, such as implementing platforms that
recognize the Arabic language and organizing orientations and
training sessions for both faculties and students.
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