A COVID-19 Impact Study on Higher Education Online Learning in Saudi Arabia

Executive Summary

As COVID-19 spread across the globe and disrupted nearly every sector and institution of public life in 2020, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia promptly moved its higher education programs and services online. Additionally, the Kingdom commissioned a developmental study to understand the state of online higher education and to ensure quality offerings. That study, known as Phase I, was published during the fall 2020 semester and began visioning the post-COVID online learning environment. Key recommendations from Phase I have led to this Phase II developmental study as a follow-up, which was conducted to analyze the progress made on the recommended initiatives and measures the satisfaction of key stakeholders, challenges, as well as the opportunities for future investment. This study benchmarks those measures of satisfaction, as well as the challenges and opportunities, against the dimensions of the National eLearning Center’s (NELC) comprehensive online learning evaluation framework.

This developmental study is Phase II in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s pursuit to ensure that high quality online learning is being offered in the higher education sector pre-, peri- and post-COVID-19. This report includes a survey and analysis of stakeholders engaged in online learning during the pandemic, including administrators, faculty, and students—and includes further recommendations based on stakeholders’ experiences with online learning over the past year. Satisfaction with online learning in response to the global pandemic is reported by the different stakeholder groups. While emergency remote instruction and learning at a distance became the short-term solution, more strategic online learning efforts have developed to ensure satisfaction.

In total 66,637 administrators, faculty and staff, and higher education students from public, private, and technical institutions across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia participated in the study. Survey data collected from respondents, along with supporting interviews with select participants provide the data for the report.

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