Research Output
Enabling female student interaction in synchronous virtual classrooms in Saudi Higher Education
  A new approach to classroom technology is required to meet the challenges of 21st Century learning in Saudi Arabia. This study explores the effectiveness of classroom interactions from the perspective of students and instructors with a view to establishing how technology could be used to benefit Saudi women learners. Saudi Arabia is a country with a culture derived from Islamic religion and traditional values. These Islamic rules determine that, when a Saudi woman meets a non-mahram man (a man who does not belong to her family), she must be covered by a hijab, (a loose cloth that covers the body and a piece of cloth to cover the hair and sometimes covering the face), so as not to be seen by such men. Consequently, education in Saudi Arabia has always been segregated based on gender. At all educational levels boys and girls are taught separately, and there are women-only campuses at all universities. In higher education, it has been recognised that female students have needed to be taught by male teachers due to the shortage of female faculty throughout the country. Therefore, synchronous virtual classrooms (SVCs) have been created to reinforce constraints and allow female students to be educated by male teachers and among male students, where the female can participate in the class by being heard, but not seen. Classroom interaction is dictated by this context and students lack direct communication.

The first aim for this thesis is to investigate factors that affect interaction practices in SVCs in Saudi higher education. The second aim is to develop, implement, and evaluate assistive technology to enhance interaction SVCs. The first aim is explored in a mixed methods case study consisting of three inter-related studies: Investigative Study, Interaction Study and Evaluation Study. While the second aim is explored by following the User Centred Design process to implement a technology-based approach to improving classroom interactions for female students.

The Investigative Study surveyed students about their perceptions of the classroom environment, and through questionnaires collected both instructors' and students’ perceptions of the quality of the interaction. Instructors were interviewed and students participated in focus groups to illuminate the quantitative findings. The findings show that there is limited interaction in these virtual classrooms. Influences on interaction in female virtual classes are examined, including cultural factors, pedagogical approaches, technological methods, classroom management, practical courses, and opportunities for feedback. The findings suggest potential technological solutions for enhancing interaction and improving the educational experience of students and staff in the virtual classroom. It is concluded that applying advanced technology that takes culture into consideration may be an effective solution to enhance interaction and open the doors to effective virtual education.

In the Interaction Study, observations and a student survey were used as methods to collect data from four courses. The findings paint a general picture of traditional, formal teaching traditions and instructor-student interactions showing limited interaction in these virtual classrooms. However, the results show that there are pedagogical approaches used by some faculty, with varying levels of success, to engage students’ attention include questioning strategies, quizzes, and presentation assignments.

The Evaluation Study developed and evaluated the My Virtual Classroom (MVC) App as a solution to improve the student-instructor interactions in the SVC. A mixed method approach was used to collect data from students and instructors, to ensure an effective user experience. The design of the MVC App was found to be simple and attractive and students reported that they would use the app. The design supports Saudi culture which was taken more carefully into account, allowing for effective student-instructor interactions. The results revealed that such technology can address the challenges of interactions in the SVC. That is one of the contributions to knowledge that was discovered as a result of the thesis. In addition, the findings of the three studies that contribute to this thesis were diverse, such as: the frequent appearance of factors that affect the interaction in SVCs, the user interface design preferences in a novel context of female students' education in Saudi Arabia, the factors that may have a negative or positive impact on online evaluation sessions in the novel setting of Saudi Arabia education of female students.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    07 July 2022

  • Publication Status:


  • DOI:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Alamri, N. M. Enabling female student interaction in synchronous virtual classrooms in Saudi Higher Education. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from


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