2014, Rey Ty, M. Alkarzon, Arab Women, Education, Empowerment, approved proposal r2 p
ABSTRACT FOR A 45-MINUTE CONCURRENT SESSION ON
REPORT ON RESEARCH
Arab Women, Online Learning, and Empowerment:
Gender, Education, Culture, Tradition, Religion, Politics, and Class
(Rey Ty and Manal Alkarzon)
The paper addresses the problem of Arab women’s challenges that prevent them from
pursuing their educational degree. Distance education is a practical solution to empower
nontraditional learners, in general, and women, in particular, achieve their educational goals
(Hopper, 2000). In the Arab world, wives and mothers in families practicing traditional
patriarchal cultures and conservative interpretation of Islam have difficulty in taking time away
from their husbands and children due to their domestic roles and different family responsibilities
(Omar, 2005). Hence, there is a need to shed light on distance education and its importance in
enabling Arab women to achieve their educational goals. Distance education provides hope and
opportunity for women in the patriarchal societies of the Middle East to achieve their educational
Research Objectives and Research Questions
This research is linked to the practice of distance education. The objectives of this paper
were twofold: one, to examine the perspectives of Arab women on distance education; and, two,
to find out how distance education can improve their individual learning.
Focused on distance education as the area of inquiry, the questions this paper addressed
were the following:
(1) How do Arab women describe their experiences in distance education in relation to
their cultural barriers?
(2) How do online courses support Arab women’s individual learning?
There are two co-authors of this paper. One is a Muslim Arab woman from the Middle
East and another is a feminist male who conducts research on gender issues involving women in
different parts of the world; both of whom are committed to women empowerment.
This qualitative study involves four participants from different Middle East countries
who are studying in a university in the Midwest. One comes from North Africa (Libya) and three
come from West Asia (two from Saudi Arabia and one from Palestine). The data were collected
from face-to-face interviews and artifacts. Analytical memo was used for data analysis. Concepts
emerged from which themes were woven together about the online-learning experiences of Arab
women to create a story.
Stage of the Research at the Time of the Proposal
Interviews have been conducted. Concepts and themes have been coded. From the codes,
a story line has been developed. The research is completed. The paper is already written.
Summary of the Findings
This study responded to the need to find an appropriate way to empower Arab women
achieve their educational goals. The main findings for this study show that Arab women found
distance education as a solution to surmount traditional cultural barriers to their education and to
improve their individual learning.
Distance education is an innovation in scholarship and practice of teaching and learning
that has far-reaching implications for the empowerment of Arab women in North Africa and
West Asia. Higher education administrators in the Arab world can contribute to knowledge and
practice not only by understanding but more importantly by also implementing online learning as
one solution for the empowerment of all students in general and female students in the Arab
world in particular. In terms of practice, Arab women must consider online learning as a way by
which to surmount their cultural barriers. In terms of politics, policy makers, public
administrators, and public officials in the Middle East can do well by institutionalizing distance
education so that Arab women. This research is useful in Arab countries, because it encourages
higher education administrators to reconsider their philosophy and approaches to online learning,
curriculum, and higher education system. By the successful implementation of distance
education in the Middle East, Arab women whose families practice traditional patriarchal culture
can overcome cultural barriers not only to attain their educational goals but also land a
professional career thereby achieving educational and economic empowerment.
A list of references will be provided in the final paper.
As an ice-breaker, the two co-authors will start by asking the session participants the reasons
for which they attend this session, after which the key points will be summarized and discussed.
Thereafter, a PowerPoint file will be presented. Session participants will be allowed to interrupt
and ask questions for clarification in the middle of the presentation. At the end of the session,
guide questions will be presented to the audience for their critical thinking and feedback,
especially with regard to their specific recommendations for the ways by which distance
education can be refined to meet the needs of Arab women in North Africa and West Asia.
Audience members who are Arabs or who have experiences in the Middle East or with Arabs in
general will be asked to share their insights.