Alhamdulillah, it is now almost a year since I began teaching online for the Islamic Online University, and its been three years since I began studying through it. So I thought I would share some of my experiences in the field of online education, as this is increasingly becoming a common method of teaching and studying Islam. Before I do so, I think it is best to explain exactly what I do online.

I serve as a Tutorial Assistant for Aqeedah, Arabic and the history of Fiqh in the BAIS (Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies) program on the Islamic Online University. My job entails replying to email questions, forum posts and teaching weekly live online classes using the WiZiQ virtual classroom. It is actually a very enjoyable job to teach hundreds of students around the world through my computer and here are some of my reflections on this interesting concept on online education:

1. One of the main points raised against Online Islamic Education is that one is not sitting with a teacher, which is the traditional method of studying Islam. Some people point out that this is dangerous as to truly understand Islam, one needs to study it under authentic teachers. I believe this is true if someone is self-studying online without guidance, i.e. if a person is just taking articles and lectures from a variety of random websites then presenting themselves as authorities of Islamic knowledge.

However an online university like Knowledge International University or the IOU offered structured online courses under the guidance of scholars. It is for this reason that I feel the above problem does not apply to it.

2. Another issue with online education is that it requires a lot of self-motivation as you are not in a physical class with other students and a teacher who can motivate you to study harder and notice if you are lagging behind or not paying attention. The plus side of this is that only those who are truly interested and dedicated will see the course through and this in return will produce better quality students of knowledge.

3. Something I noticed with online education is that in a virtual classroom it is difficult to know if the students are paying attention. All you see are their usernames on the screen, so aside from those who constantly ask questions, there is possibility that some people might just be showing online while playing The Sims or surfing the web, but of course as Muslims we should always think the best of everyone. Yet this is something I prefer about teaching in person, in that I can immediately tell when my students are day dreaming or not paying attention, while this is not possible with the current online system. Once again it comes down to self-motivation and dedication.

4. When studying in person, I notice a lot people begin to judge each other and force each other to become pious at, at times, a too quick pace. So you will find people putting on a false image in order not to be judged. When studying online, you become responsible for your own implementation of knowledge and as a result the change comes gradually and based on knowledge, not wanting to fit in.

5. My favorite part of teaching online is that I have hundreds of students around the world without having to leave my home. Many of my friends who travel internationally to teach Islam find it difficult being away from their wife (or wives in some of their cases) and children for extended periods of time. Some feel that they are neglecting their children in order to teach Islam to others, and sometimes this leads to them looking for a job closer to home or one which requires less travel. Alhamdulillah, through online education, I too have students around the world but everyday I spend time with my wife and kids as I don't even have to leave my home. To me, this is one of my favorite things about online teaching, although I love to travel and see the world but now when I do travel it is never something I feel guilty about.

So for me, there are many benefits of online education, and a few problems which could be resolved as we develop better programs and technology. I know that many sisters love the online system as it allows them to study without leaving their homes, while many others find it suits their lifestyle in that they don't have to give up their job in order to study.

I know many people these days are involved in different forms of Online teaching or studying, whether it is self-study, live online, Islamic or academic, I would like to hear your experiences and what you feel are the Pros and Cons of using the internet for education.

38 Responses

  1. Nayma

    Assalamu alaikum. JAK for outlining the positives of online teaching/studying. My kids and I have been learning Arabic thru http://www.lqtoronto.com with a group of sisters in DE. Br. Asif has videotaped his classes so people all over the world can study Arabic grammar.

    Alhamdulilah it has been very beneficial for all his students. You can be at the comfort of your own home, which is so necessary for moms with little children.

    It truly is a blessing to have online studying nowadays.

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    • Ismail Kamdar

      This is excellent, Mashaa Allah. I find many people studying Arabic online, and as an Arabic teacher (both online and in person) I can understand why.

      Although personally, I prefer teaching Arabic in person as I feel it requires a lot of interaction and practice. Nonetheless my online students are learning very fast and well Alhamdulillah.

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  2. Daughter of Adam (AS)

    Online education options are amazing opportunities for women at home as well. It’s interesting to hear the perspective of an online teacher.

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  3. Hafsa

    AssalamAlaikum.

    I got introduced to the IOU at the perfect time, Alhumdulillah and it’s been awesome so far, Alhumdulillah. The pace is comfortable and the lectures are thorough, MashaAllah.There is the high distraction factor during the live sessions (what with the net browser sitting pretty in the task bar and all) and though it pushes us to be motivated and check ourselves, at times we do need a bit of a nudge.

    Well, Alhumdulillahi ala kulli haal. =)

    P.S. I’m horrible at SIMS, so!

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  4. Hassan Adnan

    Assalam O Alikum Wr Wb,
    I am studying from Br. Ismail Khamdar :) Do agree that online studies ask for greater commitment. Personally I like traditional approach. :)

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    • Enough!

      I think it was a smart & wise decision. Sh Abdullah Adami has a huge fan following but more important than that he is more articulate, eloquent and intelligent than the previous Imam. I think he could definitely bridge the gap between American Muslims and rest.

      I wouldnt mind volunteering for the cause under his leadership.

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  5. Mohamad

    Assalamu Alaikom,

    Mashallah very good point, online university sort of filters out undedicated students. I ask Allah to make projects like IOU successful and to produce sincere and quality students of knowledgde. May Allah reward those working on these projects with the highest level of firdous.

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  6. Sara

    Assalamo’alaykum,

    Though I do prefer the traditional way, however my circumstances are such that I can only study at home. I have a 6 month old son. Without the benefits of online education I don’t know if I would ever have had the chance to study Islam. I also like the point br. Ismail made about students trying to appear pious in front of others when we use the traditional approach. Also since the university is operating under the guidance of scholars, there shouldn’t be any objection to online education.

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  7. Sajjad Ahmed

    Salaamalaikum warahmathulLaahi wabarakaathaHu,

    While Online education has its pros and cons, in my opinion the pros very much outweigh the cons. Other than what br.Ismail (my ustaadh in IOU) and other readers have written, for me the time saved by avoiding travel and traffic is one of the major pros, which I would say would have accounted for about 1.5 hours per day, had I chosen to do the same Islamic course through a local contact class. AlhamdulilLaah, This is my first experience with online edu. and I am enjoying and learning from every moment of it along with my wife, with whom I had done some direct contact classes earlier as well. Both of us share the same opinion. I would say this is the medium of education of the future which all should try to experience and benefit from, inshaAllah.

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  8. Roshanara

    My immediate response is that “it is too good to be true”. I did not ever imagine that I would get an opportunity to study Arabic, Foundations of Fiqh and Aqeeda from Dr. Bilal Philips. He is the Moderator of our video lessons and Dr. Ismail Khamdar our Teaching Assistant for the live sessions. This duo is doing wonders in the virtual world now spreading Islam in its true perspective to thousands of youth world wide. This twenty first century is truly blessed by Allah swt, I sincerely hope that all the youngsters will give it a try.
    I am a student of BAIS course in IOU and have learnt from Br. Ismail Khamdar for four months now. Brother, I am very happy to note that you are as much comfortable teaching from home as much as we are learning from home. It saves us a lot of time, money, stress and tension of traveling to reach on time besides enabling us to gain a vast number of global friends. Of course there are naughty students among us who just log in for attendance, and disappear or go back to sleep, but the majority of us stay glued to the screen to the extent that it has become an Obsessive Online Learning Disorder!

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  9. Hussain

    Assalam a’laikum
    Alhamdulillah. It’s a good opportunity for me to study @ IOU and it is a wonderful project reaching many Muslims throughout the world.
    My experience is that we have to study more than as in traditional. Because online class have many module test. For a comparison – as far as I know Engineering have max. 4 tests (3 sessional test + final). which means we have to prepare for 4 tests whereas incase of module test, at least we have to give 1 test/week – depends on no. of subjects. Though, module test have few questions, we have to prepare equally. The advanatage is that the final exam will be easy as we are continuously studying.

    May Allah make easy our studying and grant us succecss in this life and hereafter.

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  10. OM

    I prefer studying online and having the ability to download lectures/videos. This is mainly because I can pause and speed lectures. Lets assume that I am in a live class-room: If I did not’t understand a concept or started day-dreaming and was not paying attention, the chances are I will be lost for the remaining lecture. However, with audio/video, I can rewind and easily go back and sometimes play the same part multiple times until I fully undestand the concept. Also, I like the idea of being able to pause lectures for various reason: washroom, mentally drained etc. The best part of watching lectures online is being able to play them at a faster speed without the voice being disorted (VLC allows this) or slowing them down.

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  11. T

    Alhamdulillah, studying through the IOU has been a wonderful experience. All the lecturers & TA’s are exceptionally good.
    This is a great venue for those sisters who are homemakers & would love to study the deen, but are restricted due to their family. If it were not for online education, most of us would be wasting our time gossipping or watching TV. And those brothers who have jobs or those young students who’ve just completed their school & would like to continue their education in Islaam from their homes-is there a better opportunity available?
    Yes, it does require sincerity & dedication (like waking up at 4 am for a live session)-but I look forward to all the classes.
    Everything has pros & cons, but the pros far outweigh the cons, like Br. Ismail pointed out.
    This may well be the most common medium of future education, InshaAllah.
    If you’re sincere, you’ll know how addictive this is!

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  12. Faiza

    As salaamu alaikum

    I’m a student of IOU and studying from shaykh Ismail. Studying online is very convenient for me. When I joined IOU, I was always thinking that who will clear my doubts and how? But Mashaa Allah there are many of ways by which we can clear our doubts from our teachers via email, discussion forums, and live sessions. Like brother Ismail said, the best thing which I like about online education is that we don’t need to go anywhere,Alhamdulillah . All of our teachers are very helpful and I never felt that I’m studying online because whenever I need my teacher’s help I always find them available for answering my questions regarding my studies. I recommend everyone to take complete benefit of studying Islam online at IOU, it’s a rare opportunity to learn authentic knowledge of Islam ONLINE without travelling anywhere.

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  13. Umm Muhammad

    Assalamu alaikum

    I love studying online. I am a student of Br. Ismail and I enjoy his classes. There is hardly any cons to online studying if you are a sincere student. The only one that I can think of is that due to MCQs, its a little bit less motivating for us to memorize the ahaadith. Other than that, we still have to be very thorough with the concept or else we will end up loosing a lot of marks. I love the fact that I don’t have to leave my home. I find this better than going to a college and studying. Because there is no time wasted in going and coming, or taking rest after coming back, etc etc. In the 4 or 5 hrs (sometimes 6) spent in college, the knowledge we gain there is comparatively less than what we gain if we studied for two hrs from the modules. There is a lot of distraction in the college too, socializing etc etc. This is a great opportunity for moms and dads whose hands are full. it requires only a little sacrifice of time and input of effort coupled with sincerity to be a successful student of deen Insha Allah. The teacher’s response to students querries are almost always immediate, which are a great help.
    PS: I think I am a victim of “Obsessive Online Learning Disorder”, mentioned by sister Roshnara.

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  14. Ismail Kamdar

    Jazakallah khair to all my IOU students for your kind comments. :D

    I’d like to hear the thoughts of those who teach/study online through other institutes or privately as well.

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  15. wajid

    I think as a student of IOU, there are pros and cons. For example, the course like Tajweed and Arabic, I would like to learn in person. But courses like Aqeedah and Fiqh which require me to be more acquainted with understand the concepts, I am OK with the online class provided there is ample time to resolve my queries.

    This also gives us an opportunity to embed these courses in our daily life without causing much change to the daily routine Alhamdulillah.

    As a student, in online courses I get baised in attending what I like to learn. And leaving those which I think are easy and less interested. :) Allah Help me on this.

    -Wajid Khan.

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  16. Naeema Halim

    I am all for online education..and esp. with the IOU ‘s impeccable standards,its the right choice in today’s era..about the only Con you mentioned about not knowing what the students do in the Live class,Br. Ismail ,you and my other fellow BAIS students will have to agree with me that no one can sleep in the Arabic class atleast !!. :-) ….keep up the good work …

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  17. Bushra

    Masha’Allah, Br. Ismail. Must say that there are some very good points up here. I also must ask – how much did you pay each of your students to write an unofficial review of you on here? :D

    Just kidding.

    Anyway, I’m an Al Kauthar student…and that doesn’t mean I just attend the lectures :D
    They have a 5 year program called The Students Guild taught by Tawfique Choudhry, Bilal Ismail, Nabeel ul-Haq, Tariq Appleby and others. Masha’Allah, it’s a fantastic program covering fiqh, aqeedah, arabic, hifdh and more (I can’t remember right now). It can be really tough at times, but the most wonderful thing about it is that it is online and they are recorded lectures which we can watch and make notes from. We also have weekly or fortnightly webinars to ask our teachers any questions we might be confused about. They’re all AMAZING teachers and they put in so much time and effort into this for us. It is also free. The only thing the students have to do is attend 3 AK weekend seminars a year and also do the exam. My husband and I are coming to the end of the first year of SG. May Allah(swt) make us successful in the completion of its 5 years…ameen.

    I am also learning tajweed and perfecting recitation of the Qur’an online through teachers in Egypt. This is through another programme via AK, also free.

    One of the most beneficial things about this is that it has helped my time management a lot. I work, do housework, travel on the weekends to visit my parents and inlaws and study all the abovementioned. Like I said, it can be quite tough, but alhamdulillah, Allah(swt) puts barakah in my time and I manage to get it all done. Alhamdulillah for online learning and for the people who have worked hard to get it to this level…may Allah(swt) reward them immensely…ameen!

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    • Nayma

      Assalamu alaikum Sister Busra,

      Is there an age requirement? Like would my 12 year old daughter be able to get into the program? And what are the 3AK weekend seminars?

      Looking for a good Islamic program to put her into as I feel she will finish her high school studies earlier than her classmates inshallah.

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      • Bushra

        Walaikum assalaam,

        No there isn’t an age requirement as far as I know. I think your daughter would be able to get into the programme. 3AK = 3 Al Kauthar weekend seminars. They’re held in UK, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, India and Australia.

        I’m not sure where you are based, but if you can get to attend their seminars, then it’s not too difficult to get onto SG as long as you pass the entrance exam.

        http://www.alkauthar.org/

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  18. n/a

    As-salaamu alaikum,
    I am studying Arabic online at the shariah program and the program there is excellent. if you wanna study Arabic try this out. the website is shariahprogram.ca

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  19. Nadya

    All these things are definitely true. I think online education is an amazing resource for people in specific circumstances like mothers and people who could not study as seriously otherwise. While reading the open thread, I thought of a few things (I wouldn’t call them cons) but rather benefits of studying in person that you don’t necessarily get online.

    Firstly, I can’t count the times where during a lecture or a class, I have benefited far more from watching the instructor teach and seeing their interaction with students and others, than I benefited from the actual course content itself. Although some of this can be picked up online, I think learning from the manners of the instructor is possible to a far greater extent in person. Secondly, we all know the ahadeeth about the vast rewards of traveling for ilm. Traveling somewhere to study, or even leaving the comfort of your home just to drive to the Masjid gives me a far increased level of appreciation for the knowledge I’m getting. The sacrafice makes what’s gained far more valuable. Lastly, I love being able to leave my home for knowledge because although leaving home includes leaving family and comfort, it also includes leaving a whole bunch of distractions. When you go somewhere for your ilm, that is what you are there for. It allows you to focus solely on the knowledge without a parent calling you from the other room, trying to do dishes while the class is in session, a child crying, etc…

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  20. Christopher Ward

    The benefits of online Islamic education are far more than the disadvantages. I could only dream to study in person under the shcolars like Dr Bilal and Ismail Kamdar. If it were not for the IOU, I may have never learnt about my Deen.

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  21. Sarkkarai Beer Ismail

    Online education will be the future to reach out the masses. It has many advantages such as time, cost, convenience, global audience etc, etc, It would be blessing for working community as well as house wives. Dedicated and brilliant students would benefit from it, while there is no way to personally guide and improve the average students.

    Though online courses like BAIS would benefit many of us, insha Allah, I am afraid of the other side. That is the value of seeking knowledge is diminished !!!. We must read the history and know the hardships of early ummah in order to really appreciate the value of seeking knowledge irrespective of the mode of teaching.

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  22. Hassan EYMOY

    Asalamu Aleykum folks at IOU and thanks Bro Ismail for the blog. To contribute to the discourse, my experience on online learning is varied. Firstly: Time of of essence, it taught me to manage my time, i am still struggling making best use of time, but for sure is another learning point. Secondly: The feeling is as good as being in physical class setup, build up to midterm exams, semester exams and rush to join the live sessions is as real. 3rdly: Self motivation esp when one is extremely multitasking requires sacrifice and frequent reflection on my intentions for joing IOU – BAIS, I work ( 8 hrs a day), planning to Join a Masters program in few months and being with my family. 4tthly: I am looking forward to meeting IOU brothers/sisters in my country next week (during exams), I wish one day, we could gather and have real interaction – perhaps during graduation or even Ummra – i’ll cherish such moment. As Online education and IOU is at nascent stage for us now, perhaps students joining in future may enjoy better as they will find network of IOU Allumni in place to support them. To all friends at IOU, May Allah making the going easy for us. Maasalam

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    • UmmAbdur-Rahman

      Assalamu alaikum
      I feel one of the challenges to Online studies is that we have to learn how to balance our time. Balanced and organized, both. Yes, it is good to have dedicated students but we also want to have students that practice what they learn. So we have to balance the time we spent on-line along with the time we spent off line with our families and others. No one wants to hear their spouse say “it seems like you are married to that computer, you don’t need me anymore”

      The other thing that is important is also family support. Without my family support, I do not think that I would be able to do as well as I did in the BAIS – IOU program. When assignments are due and there are exams coming up and modules not completed as yet – I turn to my family for help. My children help with the house work and sometimes we even buy food – alhamdulillah; this gives me time to do my studies. So a good family support is important.

      I feel that communication is also necessary for success- communicate with your family and others what are you studying – share the knowledge you learn. Let them know when you have exams and when assignments are due – this helps them understand that yes you need time to study and learn and yes you are learning because you are sharing what you learn. This will also encourage others – friends, family members to want to seek knowledge too inshaallah.

      Over all Online studies have been great for me – no traveling, doing everything from the comfort of my home – mashaAllah this is wonderful. But not because it is at home it is not a struggle – I feel there is still some struggle studying online from home – I am sure my fellow IOU students will agree with me.

      One thing that I really like about studying online – esp. for Arabic- is that I get to think and figure out the answer before anyone else shout it out – because there is no one to shout it out. I tried studying Arabic the traditional way – but there is always someone in the class that is ahead and whenever the teacher ask a question they shout out the answer. So I dont even get an opportunity to think what is the correct answer or meaning. This is not the case with online studying.

      Jazakalahukhairan for being a great teacher!

      Salaam

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  23. Rooh

    For me, learning online at IOU has been a blessing in disguise. I came online to learn because I had been kind of shoved off the other work I was really wanting to do – dawah. However, when I joined IOU I was amazed at what I didnt know. I realize that there is a lot more I need to know before I can even practise, let alone teach, Islam. I always thought of myself as a good practising muslim, but lo and behold, IOU and its course have brought the mirror right into my face. SubhanAllah!

    There are indeed many benefits from online teaching or learning. No time, money , other resources wasted to go to university or classroom. No need to quit your full time job at home or outside to learn. Find everything you need right from your own desk top. No need to sacrifice on the kinds of learning or teaching opportunities even if they are outside your time zone. The internet is around for you, all the time, everywhere.

    Actually, I have to say, if I had to compare between personal education [classroom setting or one-on-one] and online education, I would prefer it online.

    WaAllahu alim
    wa jazakumAllahu khayran Br.Ismail for an excellent article

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  24. Zeemar

    I have been studying at IOU and this was my first semester. And all I have to say is WOW. I am very surprised at how organized it is and they push you. You have deadlines for papers, exams, and homeworks. And the live sessions once per week is great to remove any confusions from the lessons. May Allah reward IOU and it’s staff for an excellent opportunity of Islamic Online Education. I personally think if you are interested in a serious detailed study of Islamic sciences and are not able to travel overseas, then IOU is you best option. Allah Knows Best.

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  25. Fatima

    MashaAllaah, I agree a lot of benefits from both online teaching as well as studying..Alhamdulillah

    Yes, true self motivation is a big benefit from online studying…
    Mine is really low..& as you said there’s nobody monitoring the students for assignments, attendance etc ..a student needs a lot of self motivation…

    I still end up with loads of last minute to-dos..At times, I end up neglecting my family for the online studying which shouldn’t be the case.. :(
    I totally need to learn how to manage my time and go with the flow inshaAllaah…May Allaah make it easy for all of us..Ameeen!! :)

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  26. Online Hifz

    Asalamalikum Warahmatullah

    I am a student of two online courses and I find it very easy and convenient to do online studies. Apart from IOU i am taking tajweed classes with Hifz Online Academy, where the usdadh gives me good time to teach me tajweed and help in my hifz.

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  27. jennifer

    Salaam, I am a convert and have actually found IOU very easy to use and comprehensive. It gives me the education that I need and would find difficult to potentially find elsewhere. I do back up each module with an independent search on the same subject matter, Really interesting and educational, fits in well with my other masters and my work life.

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