The timing may have been ideal for the launch of Loomni, a local internet start-up that aims to connect instructors with students seeking less expensive professional development courses. This month, as part the country's focus on improving the quality of education, the Abu Dhabi Education Council announced it would pump Dh4.9 billion (US$1.33bn) into research and development by 2018.
The plan seeks to correct the mismatch between education and the labour market's needs. Courses at Loomni, which was launched last week, will cost about Dh200 a student for a 90-minute session. The website's founder, the former Google employee Nagi Salloum, said Loomni sought to fill a large gap in education. "Why does an education have to cost like Dh5,000?" Mr Salloum asked."Why can't it cost a few hundred dirhams?
"How can we get university students, teachers and small businesses to learn more? And why not make it flexible so classes don't have to take all day?" With Loomni, users can buy courses on subjects such as how to negotiate a job offer and how to hold a media sales meeting. The course is scheduled and a classroom is booked. Instructors can take between 40 and 60 per cent of the course fees, depending on how they are rated by the students, and Mr Salloum takes the rest.
He has negotiated an agreement with Tecom Investments for access to unused space that will be used for classrooms. The more than 4,000 companies in the Dubai free zone area will have access to Loomni courses. Courses in finance and business development will start soon, while a form is provided to request courses not yet available. "If you do a good job, some of your students may become your future customers because they see you as the expert," Mr Salloum said.
"That's how we can reduce the price of the courses. They're marketing themselves through teaching." Since Loomni's launch, more than 100 people have signed up and five companies have pledged to sign up employees. firstname.lastname@example.org