Q1. How did Islamic Online University start its journey? Tell us a little about the initial days.
Alhumdulillah, the Islamic Online University (IOU) began its journey in 2001. Unfortunately, the programme ran into technical difficulties and had to shut down; however, the material developed for its courses was used to establish a department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Preston University, Ajman, UAE, and three years later, the department had its first batch of BA graduates. In 2007, IOU made a comeback with completely free diploma courses., and in 2010, the degree programme was launched and the first batch of Bachelor’s degree students began their journey of seeking authentic Islamic knowledge in a structured manner.
Q2. Where are the headquarters of the university? Are there any onsite campuses?
The IOU headquarters are located in Gambia, where we offer locally the Intensive English Course, which is also available offline in two other countries. Insha’Allah, we will also be launching Bachelor of Education offline in Gambia.
Q3. Tell us about the teaching staff: who are they and what is the criterion for their recruitment?
The IOU teaching staff is divided into instructors and tutorial assistants. Instructors explain lessons to the best of their abilities through recorded lectures. A minimum requirement to teach at the Bachelor’s level is Master’s degree in the respective field and higher, and Master’s or Ph.D. and higher for the IOU’s Master’s level. Most of our instructors hold either Master’s or Ph.D. degrees.
IOU tutorial assistants guide and help students during their semester. Each subject has its designated and highly qualified tutorial assistant, who is available to students through emails, various forums, Skype, or telephone. They have also recorded supplementary sessions to review and further explain given material. All IOU tutorial assistants must have at least Bachelor’s degree.
Q4. The IOU is a huge project comprising of so many faculties – how is everything organized and managed? Please shed some light on the efforts of the non-teaching staff too.
From across the globe, we have more than 100 administrative staff spread over different departments such as Registrar’s Office, Academic Coordination and Development Department, Promotions, IT, Human Resources, Chat/Info/Help Desk, and individual contributors, who form the admin infrastructure of IOU and work tirelessly in the backend to support the structure in its daily operations to ensure a smooth and comfortable study environment for IOU students. Alhumdulillah, we are glad to say that over the past years, we have gained a certain extent of expertise in global online staff management.
Q5. The concept of seeking Islamic knowledge online is a rather new one. How is the Muslim world taking it, especially with reference to IOU?
Alhumdulillah, Muslims are taking advantage of the Internet and participating in various educational activities that IOU offers. Word about the quality, authentic, and affordable education is spreading. The number of enrolled and graduate students is increasing with each semester. Alhumdulillah, the global IOU student body is comprised of 200,000+ registered students and 5000+ degree students from 228 different countries.
Q6. The university was founded with the vision “changing the nation through education” – do you now see this vision manifested?
The IOU students and graduates are probably our greatest assets and flag-bearers of changing the nation through education. Our students are involved in various activities that benefit their local or online communities.
Q7. What feedback have you received from IOU graduates? What are the major accomplishments of the university in terms of human capital?
Alhumdulillah, we have recently launched the M.A. in Islamic Studies programme, and most of our graduates have enrolled and continue their studies with us. Some of our students have started a second Bachelor’s programme at IOU. In addition, some students joined our administration team or faculty as tutorial assistants. This in itself shows that they are satisfied with IOU and the quality of education we offer, as they are continuing their journey with us. Moreover, we have received positive feedback from our students and alumni, who further recommend and present IOU to their local and online communities.
Q8. The university often arranges innovative programmes and workshops for youth, such as YL360 and Empowered Muslimah. What is their impact?
Our special workshops, such as the YL360 and Empowered Muslimah, have been a success primarily because these courses were aimed at helping the youth inculcate a sense of belonging, a sense of pride in our rich history, which is very much lacking in today’s generation. During one of the sessions of YL360 programme, students were taught to start a community project. Many sisters have even starting teaching the Empowered Muslimah course locally in their communities for the sisters, who do not have any Internet facility.
Q9. Your message for the Islamic world, especially Muslim families.
Acquisition of knowledge should be given a high priority. The only way to overcome the problem of Muslims getting radicalized is by educating the Muslim community about Islam. As Dr. Bilal Philips says: “Islam is not about kissing the Quran and keeping it on a shelf. It is about seeking knowledge by reading, understanding, and reflecting.”
Q10. What are the aspirations of the IOU team?
A new course packed with seven powerful sessions covering topics from improving one’s communication skills to acquiring the skills of working efficiently in a team called “The Seven Gems” will be introduced shortly. This new course is aimed at helping the youth out of the shackles that prevent them from achieving success, personally and professionally. With Allah’s (swt) help, more interesting and beneficial programmes will be coming soon.