An investigation into the contribution of e-learning to the improvement of higher education opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia
Electronic learning (e-learning) has recently introduced by the Saudi government to expand educational opportunities at higher education level, especially for women. However, due to the status of women in Saudi society, understanding the ability of women to take advantage of such technology rather than just making it available to them is required and should not be ignored. In this regard, this study aims to illuminate the ability of Saudi women to convert the opportunity offered by e-learning into a valuable educational achievement, by identifying the factors that affect their ability and the dimensions that characterise their capability requirements. To achieve this, the study adopts the capability approach as a guiding theoretical framework to provide a strong foundation and address the developmental theoretical insights as well as to demonstrate the ability of Saudi women to access and use e-learning freely in order to achieve their higher educational goals. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect data from twenty-four women living in the Najran and Northern Border regions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia using a proxy interview approach. Alkire’s and Robeyns’ techniques, with the support of the Straussian grounded theory procedures, were used to analyse the data collected. The study finds that the ability of Saudi women to convert the opportunity offered by e-learning into a valuable educational achievement is limited and affected by four factors: tribal society culture, cultural use of the internet, family willingness and government stimulation factors. It also identifies thirty-four dimensions that empower or prevent Saudi women’s freedom to access and use e-learning efficiently as a means to attain a valuable educational outcome. The value of the capability approach to inform an analysis on Saudi women's access to e-learning as well as the usefulness of applying the grounded theory to support the capability approach in the process of selecting the valuable dimensions for Saudi women to access e-learning, were also found. The study concludes that e-learning could probably be a bridge to enable women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to access higher education. However, the issue is not just about technical availability, it is also about the capability of women to benefit from such a technology. Therefore, it is not enough to provide Saudi women with an opportunity to complete their higher education via e-learning without giving them the power to access and use it freely, whenever they are able to and want to do so. The study contributes by helping to open the window in front of women so they can make their voices heard and draw the attention of the government on the dimensions that characterise their capability requirements to access and use e-learning freely, as well as to give a better understanding about their situation within Saudi society and its role in affecting their ability. It also introduces a distinctive analytical framework to combine practical and theoretical strands in order to develop practical capability approach dimensions.
- PhD