A coup for the Innovative Learning Center and the Zvi Yavetz School of Historical studies at Tel Aviv University: The online course “Arab-Islamic History: From Tribes to Empires” has made the list of the world’s top 50 online courses. The course, launched only two years ago, has gained immense popularity among young people from all over the world who are interested in the history of Islam. So far, over 20,000 students from 155 countries around the world have enrolled in the course.
There has been a record level of interest among residents of Muslim countries, including those with whom Israel has no diplomatic relations. 318 students from Pakistan, 301 from Turkey, 205 from Indonesia, 109 from the United Arab Emirates, and 86 from Egypt are enrolled in the course.
The course also includes students from Iran (31), Lebanon (8), Saudi Arabia (52), Qatar (30), Kuwait (23), Jordan (39), Syria (4), Iraq (21), Yemen (1), Afghanistan (8), Sudan (5), Oman (14), Malaysia (51), Bahrain (6) and the Palestinian Authority (12).
The ranking of the top 50 courses is carried out by the website “Class Central,” the most widely-recognized body listing online courses from a variety of platforms and leading academic institutions from around the world. The course was developed in collaboration with The Council for Higher Education and Digital Israel.
The course lecturer, Prof. Miri Shefer-Mossensohn of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Middle Eastern and African History, who heads the Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies, points out that since the outbreak of COVID-19, enrollment in the course has significantly increased as many young people are taking advantage of the time at home to enrich their knowledge. “Lots of students from the Muslim world have signed up for the course because it makes the history of the Muslim people accessible to them from an academic point of view, without a religious tone,” explains Prof. Shefer-Mossensohn. “The course has resonated so much that our students in Pakistan say that it is considered to be the best course on Islamic history in their country.”
Prof. Shefer-Mossensohn adds: “I taught this course for many years in the classroom and usually, several dozen students enrolled each year, all of whom, naturally, were Israelis. The digital space opened up new avenues to us, and to our delight the course quickly aroused great interest among Muslims from around the world. We receive very positive responses to the course, and many students have told us that they were very surprised that it was a Jewish and Israeli woman who succeeded in captivating them and teaching them about the history of their people.”
One of the students from Syria thanked the lecturer at the end of the course, writing: “Thanks to this course I went back to my roots. I am a Muslim Syrian and wanted to learn more about our history, which made us who we are today. Tribes to Empires – what a thoughtful title for the beautiful journey we have been through.”
Yuval Schreibman, CEO of TAU Online, Tel Aviv University’s Innovative Learning Center: “This is a major achievement that proves that even in the age of high-tech, the humanities are flourishing. Young people all over the world are seeking to learn good, quality content. Thanks to the digital tools at our disposal, we are creating a relevant and innovative learning experience that opens a door to Israel for various audiences around the world, including from Arab countries.”
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