Saudi Electronic University

0 to 25,000 Students in 4 Years

In the summer of 2012, Saudi Electronic University (SEU) engaged Franklin to create two courses that would be central to the curriculum of its preparatory year: Computer Literacy and Basic Mathematics. Despite the lack of fully developed technological and academic infrastructure at SEU, Franklin successfully designed and deployed these two courses to the first class of about 3,000 SEU students that fall. The timely delivery and high-quality design of the courses allowed SEU to launch its academic offerings on schedule and with high student satisfaction. In early 2013, SEU again chose Franklin to help with its educational offerings, this time by creating six full academic programs.

As this ambitious multimillion-dollar project evolved, Franklin became the key driver behind the expansion of SEU, which now boasts a current student population of more than 25,000. SEU grew to offer online and supported courses through 11 regional study centers throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


In October 2011, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree to establish a new state institution of higher education known as Saudi Electronic University (SEU). SEU was established as the kingdom’s first official distance education university with English as its language of instruction and 60 percent of the student body reserved for women. SEU’s academic program consists of a preparatory year followed by four years of baccalaureate study, along with a limited number of master’s degree programs.

SEU’s four major goals are:

  1. To represent the nation and to compete with other international universities.
  2. To present a flexible and distinguished example of higher education and support self-learning skills, and to offer knowledge.
  3. To offer higher education based on the best applications and technologies of e-learning, and to transfer and localize knowledge.
  4. To support the mission and the concept of lifelong e-learning and distance education for all members of Saudi society.

To advance these goals, SEU established a framework involving three academic colleges, a hybrid instructional approach of 75 percent online and 25 percent face-to-face learning, and a system of branch campus locations to be established around the country to support enrollment all over Saudi Arabia. SEU did not have the capacity to design or develop the courses needed to implement the project by the timeline established by King Abdullah, so it sought out suitable international expertise for help in implementing the project.

Summary of Services Provided

Franklin provided four categories of educational and program development expertise that moved forward in parallel with SEU as it gained traction.

Program development, course design and learning management system configuration

After providing technical support and assistance for the general design of six major academic programs, Franklin designed and developed 186 individual courses to populate SEU’s curricular structures.

Faculty training, orientation and onboarding, as well as student orientation

Leveraging Franklin’s proprietary learning management system, BlueQuill, Franklin designed and developed a three-week instructor training course tailored to the needs of SEU’s academic programs.

Instructor staffing services and provision of remote teaching capacity

From the United States, Franklin’s pool of more than 800 fully vetted, highly credentialed, trained faculty members taught all necessary course sections for SEU online courses.

Development and offering of intensive ESL program

More than 400 SEU students enrolled and successfully completed the program, allowing them to enter the university the next fall.

Development, Design & Configuration

Program development, course design and learning management system configuration

Franklin helped SEU establish six academic programs:

  1. Business Administration
  2. Information Technology
  3. Accounting
  4. Healthcare Management
  5. Finance
  6. E-Commerce

Designed to an international quality standard, the course designs were a collaborative effort of subject matter lead faculty, instructional designers, content editors and project managers. Each course provides fully vetted and properly designed learning outcomes, as well as materials and methods to accomplish the outcomes. Assessment tools and artifacts measure student achievement and provide a feedback loop for continuous course improvement. Based on a highly scientific and rigorous design methodology, Franklin’s courses contain the following principal components:

  • Course syllabus
  • Assignments
  • Readings
  • 3- to 5-minute videos (12 per course/1 per week)
  • Instructional games (minimum of 2 per course)
  • Test banks
  • Tests (1 midterm and 1 final exam per course)
  • Quizzes
  • External resource content (25%)
  • Chapter PowerPoint presentations
  • Saudi National Commission for Academic Assessment and Accreditation (NCAAA)forms (national accreditation forms for the Ministry of Education)
  • Fully developed student and faculty manuals

Using Blackboard, Franklin University content editors built and configured SEU courses. Careful, elaborate quality control measures were employed at every stage of the design process, and regular interaction with SEU ensured full compliance with national accreditation standards and expectations.

Every course designed by Franklin for SEU was delivered on time and to specification. Course construction was divided into five phases, providing a full curriculum as each new class of SEU entered the university with deliveries as outlined here.

Onboarding Faculty & Students

Because hybrid and online learning approaches were relatively new and unknown in Saudi Arabia, one of the major challenges faced by SEU was the ability to recruit and train suitable faculty to teach its courses. To meet the need, Franklin designed and developed a three-week instructor training course, tailored to the needs of SEU’s academic programs. Leveraging Franklin’s proprietary learning management system, BlueQuill, Franklin instructors taught the program several times in the Saudi Arabian cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and online through Blackboard. This certificate-bearing program (“Strategies for Teaching in a Blended Learning Environment”), became -- and remains -- the key training course for SEU faculty. In total, more than 350 SEU instructors have completed this training, and it remains the basic qualifying course for SEU faculty. In addition, Franklin developed a 3-week student orientation course geared to prepare students for a blended learning environment.

Instructor Staffing Services

Credentialed faculty teach SEU online courses from the U.S.

Although SEU’s faculty recruitment efforts bore great success, it was not possible for SEU to attract enough qualified instructors in key subject areas to teach the courses required by student demand. Once again, SEU turned to Franklin for help. With Franklin’s pool of more than 800 fully vetted, highly credentialed, trained faculty members, Franklin staffed SEU online courses, teaching them remotely from the United States.

The process to ensure the quality of instruction includes capturing and evaluating faculty credentials and experience in accordance with the requirements of Franklin’s regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, and other state, local, and global accrediting bodies. These qualification requirements ensure that students have access to faculty members who are subject matter experts, and who can communicate knowledge in that subject area. Franklin’s review process also proves faculty members’ content expertise, along with the ability to help position students for success in the classroom, in their academic program and in their future career. This table provides an overview by discipline of the vast pool of highly qualified Franklin faculty who are currently available.

Drawing on best practices and more than 20 years of experience in technology-enhanced education, Franklin leveraged the expertise and faculty development model pioneered by its International Institute for Innovative Instruction to provide the right training just in time. Instructors were selected by Franklin based upon SEU-provided requirements, and completed the full Franklin faculty training course. Each semester, SEU provides Franklin with a list of required courses for instructors. Franklin staffs the courses, ensures compliance with SEU expectations, and provides comprehensive documentation as required by Saudi accreditation bodies. Since fall 2014, Franklin has staffed a total of 119 SEU course sections with a total student enrollment of about 3,000.

Built-in reporting and analytics coupled with online classroom observation give SEU quality assessments, which demonstrate that all instructors meet stringent teaching effectiveness standards and classroom discipline. Also, thanks to Franklin’s payroll and employee management services, SEU avoids any administrative burden associated with having Franklin faculty teach its course offerings.

ESL Program

Creating an Intensive ESL Program

In the spring of 2014, SEU recognized that a significant number of its students were not performing to the necessary TOEFL test standard -- even after completing their preparatory year. SEU engaged Franklin to create a fully online ESL primer and TOEFL test prep course using Franklin’s BlueHorizon ESL program and BlueQuill learning management system. By summer 2015, more than 400 SEU students completed the program, ready to enter the university in the fall.

SEU Success

Inaugural ceremony recognizes 450 male, 400 female graduates

SEU held its first graduation ceremony in May 2016, formally recognizing some 450 male and 400 female graduates. Sponsored by His Excellency the Prince of Riyadh, Franklin University’s president was invited to address the graduating students and their families at the ceremony in recognition of Franklin’s key role in establishing and operating SEU. Franklin’s president was the only foreigner invited to participate in the ceremonies, which marked the first graduation milestone of the project initiated by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz in 2011. Franklin’s contribution as an academic partner to an institution that began with no students and grew into a successful university of more than 25,000 students in just a few short years is one of the university’s most memorable achievements.