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Realizing Potential: The Growing Trend Of E-Learning Among Arab Youth Studying and learning are no longer confined to the classroom- internet users can learn anytime and anywhere with just a tablet or a smartphone.

By Safaa Nhairy

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Studying and learning are no longer confined to the classroom- internet users can learn anytime and anywhere with just a tablet or a smartphone. In 2017, the estimated value of the online learning industry was US$176.12 billion. A forecast from Research and Markets predicts that e-learning revenues will triple to $325 billion by 2025.

More and more US business schools are shutting down their MBA programs, because millennials are reluctant to incur substantial debt just to get a diploma. One alternative they have come up with is to turn toward short-term specialty degrees in subjects such as coaching, web programming, and entrepreneurship, which can help them land a job quickly or launch their own business.

Large e-learning platforms understood the power of e-learning early on. They found their niche by offering mass-market, online courses at a reasonable price. However, many professionals have also morphed into online instructors by building a personal brand, and creating digital courses to sell to their tribes.

Online courses cover a wide variety of topics: from how to start a business, to how to grow tomatoes. No matter what the area of interest, there's bound to be a course that fits. Given the sheer mass of information available online -for free- one might wonder why people should even pay for an online course. Many topics have already been methodically explained in various blogs and YouTube channels. What advantage does a paid course provide that you can't get in free online content?

First of all, online courses are more flexible than traditional courses. Students can study remotely at their convenience and learn at their own pace. Professionals can schedule classes to advance their careers and improve their lives after work or on weekends. This aspect of e-learning is particularly attractive to people who live in rural areas, or in countries where students may not be able to attend the course of their choice in a physical classroom.

Generally, online courses offer more than just information. They are designed such that students have access to their teachers during business hours. Often, mastermind groups are set up so that students can exchange information and interact with their peers. Thus, the course becomes a learning experience where students share stories, interact with each other and face the challenges they wish to overcome together as a group.

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Khalid Ouassar, a 26-year-old programmer based in Rabat, Morocco, created a job for himself thanks to free and paid online courses. "I am able to work today thanks to online courses," he says. Several months ago, he took programming and digital marketing classes on Udemy, Udacity, and Coursera. He followed the classes religiously and graduated with the skills and knowledge he needed to find work as a freelance programmer. Today, he is so passionate about programming that he launched a podcast where he deconstructs programming to speakers of the Moroccan dialect Darija.

Khalid is not the only one who has benefitted from the boom of online courses that provide training, in an informal environment, that allows for new possibilities. Ghislaine Taja, based in Tangiers, Morocco, learned graphic design by watching YouTube tutorials, and by also taking paid classes in Photoshop and InDesign. She opted for online classes because of the flexibility they offer. "I don't have to be attending class at a specific place and time," she notes. "I can take the classes from the comfort of my home." After learning the basics of graphic design, she offered free graphic design services to local charities, so that she could obtain credentials and references. After a few volunteer projects, she landed a full-time job at a communications agency. Once she has more experience, Ghislaine hopes to launch her own business.

Taking advantage of the opportunity and the growing need for online courses, web entrepreneurs have launched platforms that cater to those seeking knowledge on their own time. Thami Kabbaj is a coach, entrepreneur, investor, and author based in Dubai. He built an entire educational empire through his YouTube channel. He captures his viewers' interest with his free videos, then offers them the option to enroll in his online courses on trading and financial freedom. His audience consists of mostly French-speaking males who long to leave the rat race. Thami"s message resonates with his tribe, and they are willing to pay a couple of thousand euros for training they hope will change their lives for the better.

Online course instructors can monetize their products even further when they offer their students guidance and support. This generally translates into business hours when students can pop in at certain times on days, where the instructors make themselves available to answer questions one-on-one. Teachers can also organize mastermind groups in which an entire class participates in a live call where students share their challenges and ask questions- all while learning from one another.

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Many coaches dream of establishing themselves on an online platform where their courses can be sold while they sleep- the ideal passive income stream. However, reaching that point requires lots of hard work and commitment. In order for students to be willing to pay for online courses, teachers need to establish trust and make students feel confident that they will find the knowledge they seek- despite the fact that they must work remotely, without the physical presence of an instructor. The element of credibility is fundamental in the online teacher-student relationship.

Given the high demand for her services, coach and trainer Loubna Allane is now launching her own project management and business school, both online and on-site. She has been training employees, unemployed individuals, and people looking for a career change for years. "The courses I offer are fun, and involve lots of creativity," she says. She explains that her audience -mostly young, active females- are tired of traditional classrooms. Although she is concerned that some concepts may be difficult to convey online, still, her mission is to provide her students with the tools they need to learn through classes that are both fun and enjoyable.

Be that as it may, it is undeniable that the missing element in online courses is the human touch. Although the knowledge imparted may be the same, students won't be able to interact in the same way with their instructor and their peers, as they would in a physical classroom.

As with formal education, online course instructors cannot guarantee results. But, at least, most offer a money-back guarantee policy to reassure their students. Most students are happy and eager to learn. They are looking to transform and improve their lives. But to achieve this growth, students must be committed and have the desire to learn and grow. E-learning offers a flexible platform for students to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to live up to their full potential.

Related: Education Basket Wants To Guide MENA Youth In Their Higher Education Forays

Safaa Nhairy

Entrepreneur, Blogger and Speaker

Safaa Nhairy is an entrepreneur, blogger and speaker. She has founded Leader Media in London and iMediaRt in Casablanca. Both companies are communications agencies specializing in media relations, PR, event management and copywriting services. She has also launched and run several other ventures and is always on the lookout for the next opportunity. 

Safaa also teaches and gives seminars. Passionate about helping the youth help themselves, she blogs regularly and posts videos on her YouTube channel on topics of entrepreneurship, leadership & communication. She dedicates a lot of her personal time mentoring and coaching young professionals and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Safaa contributes to Entrepreneur Middle East and writes about entrepreneurship and business-building. After Casablanca, Washington DC and London, she currently resides in Paris. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication from George Mason University in Virginia, USA as well as a Master's degree in International Commercial Law from City University in London, England.

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