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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Tapping talent on the web

The new online education portal Creative Ummah was recently launched in Dubai and features some of the top creatives from the Muslim world.
From left, Irfan Khairi, Peter Gould and Ruh al-Alam. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
From left, Irfan Khairi, Peter Gould and Ruh al-Alam. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Interested in an online course on calligraphy by the celebrated Tunisian artist El Seed? How about learning creative writing from the award-winning American novelist G Willow Wilson?

These are just a few of the options available from the new e-learning website Creative Ummah.

Launched last week in Dubai as part of MOCAfest (an arts festival held each year alongside the World Islamic Economic Forum), Creative Ummah aims to connect knowledge seekers with some of the leading arts, culture and business personalities from the Muslim world through affordable online courses.

Connecting People

The idea for the project came from Creative Ummah’s co-founder and full-time ­designer Peter Gould who was ­inspired by his extensive business travels.

Since converting to Islam more than a decade ago, the Aussie has frequently visited the Arab world and worked with Muslim communities in the West. Through these interactions, he came to realise the vast untapped potential of creative Muslim talent.

“It really came about organically and it really took a journey around the world,” he says. “Wherever I went, I was observing these creative and energetic people doing artistic things with passion. The more I saw this, I realised how great it would be to connect us all ­together as opposed to us ­working in our own separate pockets.”

Last year, Gould began putting the idea into practice. Inspired by the growth of ­online-learning portals – ­particularly the success of the market leader, Udemy – he and his co-founders, the Australian journalist Reuben Brand and the Malaysian internet entrepreneur Irfan Khairi, began laying the foundations for Creative Ummah after a successful crowd-funding campaign.

How it works

The website is colourful and easy to use. Users have a choice of six languages to pick from, including Arabic, French, Bahasa Indonesia and Urdu. After clicking on the courses page, there’s a list of available subjects, the name and a photo of the teacher and the price in United States dollars.

After choosing the desired course, users are invited to watch a short trailer that describes its aims, and read a thorough course description. The course content is also listed, including the number of modules and the duration of related videos.

The course can then be purchased and paid for using a credit card or PayPal. After signing up, users are invited to a closed Facebook group, where fellow students can discuss the course and ask the instructor questions.

With a select few exceptions, most of the courses are at the beginner or intermediary level and cost about US$30 (Dh110). Gould says they are designed to be fun.

“Each of the modules is five minutes or less and there is the associated activities that come with them,” says Gould. “Everyone can do them at their own pace and it can be done relatively quickly.”

Choosing subjects

Creative Ummah launched with five courses already available and a further 36 on the way. There is a conversational Arabic course from the Australia-based Imran Lum for US$29. For the same price, you can take a personal-training course from the French athlete Daoud Coulibaly, where students can learn physical exercises to use at home. There is also a Famenco guitar course from the Indonesian virtuoso Mas Dhimas.

Coming soon are courses on video-game art by the Moroccan 3-D artist Ouafae Taame, and fashion consulting by the American blogger Iman Salam.

Creative Ummah wants you

With such an array of talent in the region, Gould is also calling on the country’s creatives to design and film their own courses for Creative Ummah.

“You don’t always need all these cameras, lighting and all that technical gear,” says Gould. “A lot of the courses are simply shot and presented. It doesn’t matter how it looks, as long as it is effective and you connect with the people ­enrolled.”

With the price of each course set by the instructor and the fee split equally with Creative Ummah, a popular course could turn into a real money-spinner.

“The cool thing about it is that once you make the content, then it will always be there for those to enrol,” says Gould. “Then all you have to do is continue interacting online and helping the students.

“Also, think about it – there are 244 million people in Indonesia alone. You don’t think a few thousand people will be interested in sharing your passion and learning from you in order for them to develop? It is a great opportunity.”

• For details on how to enrol or develop a course, visit www.creativeummah.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae

Updated: November 11, 2014 04:00 AM

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