Strategic use of ICT in the Saudi system of higher education: King Saud University
Alkhatnai, Mubarak Hadi Marie
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This study investigates ICT in Saudi HE as represented by the researcher’s own institution: King Saud University (KSU). Using a naturalistic approach in pursuing the inquiry and making use of mixed methods, the research questions were investigated using surveys and in-depth interviews. A convenient sample of the University’s stakeholders; namely the senior managers, the academic staff and the students were investigated and asked to explain the process of ICT adoption and deployment on the management level; their use and adoption of ICT in their personal and professional activities and elaborate on the ICT adoption process at KSU and compare it to that of other universities. They also related these experiences to the University’s plans and efforts in this regard. The findings indicated a boom in ICT adoption over the course of the recent years. However, this process did not follow a clear strategic plan. Rather, it was based on an administrative decision by the recently appointed KSU management. The rector’s positive attitude and belief in ICT played a role in this process. The study showed that KSU administration values ICT and views it as a means for the University to achieve its aims. The results also showed the increasing use of ICT among the three groups in the study both on personal and professional levels. While these professional purposes may differ between the three groups in this research, results indicate that there is an increasing implementation of ICT in the daily work of all the groups, both in and out of KSU. These uses are also supported by the positive attitudes all the stakeholders hold towards ICT, as the study indicated. The study also revealed the aspiration of both KSU and Higher Education System in the country in general, and the role that ICT is perceived to play in helping them to achieve these aspirations. Results indicated that the current state of ICT in Saudi HE is increasing when compared to that of other universities and countries, especially in terms of hardware implementation. Although it was not possible to achieve specific comparisons between Saudi universities due to lack of data and access, many different comparison points were pointed and elaborated on both nationally and internationally. Finally, the study revealed many ICT enablers in the Saudi HE system, such as the generous financial support provided by the government, the positive attitudes, and the changing role of the university, as well as the technical, administrative and sociocultural barriers facing more ICT integration in Saudi HE, and how KSU dealt with these opportunities and threats. Based on the results, implications for future research were elicited and recommendations for better practice were provided. The urgent need for a clear ICT strategic plan for KSU as well as the other Saudi universities seems inevitable. A need for clear benchmarks within this plan is an important indicator of the need for the institution to evaluate the process. Of importance concern is the fact that these plans need to include all the stakeholders in the planning phase so as to properly conduct the assessment, implementation and evaluation successfully.