Kenya’s Universities Turn to E-Learning in a Bid to Improve Services

Computing

Kenyan Universities are increasingly turning to e-learning as a tool to facilitate improved education.

They also want to rope in more students through better access to facilities, hoping to reach a wider base in a cost-effective way.

The efficiency accruing from e-learning is among the advantages gained by local universities that have adopted the use of technology.

Using different platforms, students are able follow lectures online, interact with lecturers, submit assignments and check on their grades.

Lecturers are also able to upload course materials, post assignments and generate discussions online using blogs.

However, these institutions have to train both students and lecturers on how to use the platforms.

At Strathmore University, United States International University (USIU) and University of Nairobi (UoN), all students are enrolled in e-learning courses when they first join.

Strathmore University has adopted the use of e-learning in many of its courses via the Moodle platform.

The university uses this as a way of facilitating lectures. Mr Patrick Shabana, the Director of Strategy and Performance Improvement said that the university applies a blend of direct lectures and e-learning techniques in many courses as technology gains acceptability among lecturers and students.

"One area in which the university has utilized e-learning is by the use of video conferencing for visiting professors, this is done especially in partnership with other business schools." Strathmore has a tie-up with the IESE Business School which is under the University of Navarra in Barcelona Spain.

Prof John Odhiambo, the Vice Chancellor of the university said the platform is already in use, but it takes time for lecturers and students to be fully comfortable with the approach.

He said that the Moodle program allows university professors to give lectures remotely, on top of enabling access to more students.

Regina Mutuku, the Director of IT at USIU said e-learning is just another way of delivering services which works together with face-to-face teaching.

"It gives you the ability to manage work more effectively ... It is not replacing the contact hours but it is being more responsive to the modern student", she added.

Dr Regina Mutuku said that USIU had recently adopted a new platform, Blackboard 9.1 which will go into use in the coming semester.

She added that formerly the University has been using Webcity which had over 400 courses and half of the faculty using it in interacting with students.

Daystar University has also adopted a blended version of e-learning.

Deputy Vice-chancellor Jon Masso, said that this enables a fully electronic relationship between lecturers and students.

"In distance-learning, students work and do assignments online. We been working in that direction and probably next year we will have a whole degree taught on that kind of platform" he added.

However, he said that there are various challenges being faced, "The technical infrastructure relies completely on local networks and the internet which may be may be slow.

Public universities such as Moi, Maseno, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Kenyatta all have e-learning portals where students can log in and perform various tasks while interacting with lecturers.

Dr Elijah Omwenga, the Director of ICT at UoN said the institution uses technology to enhance distant learning education and has the necessary facilities to do this in all its campuses.

"Lecturers have flexible access and student hostels have a wireless network. There is curriculum training for staff on how to facilitate content online and the student's information systems network has been integrated into the e-learning system to enhance and allow fast uptake of e-learning. There is also an awareness campaign using brochures, flyers and open days to increase interest among students and staff."

Kenyatta University has an institute of Open Distance and e-learning using the Moodle platform.

According to its website, over 100 courses are fully offered using the platform.

In the US and Britain, e-learning has been in use for a long time.

Universities like the University of Phoenix, University of Illinois and Ashford University offer on campus and online degrees.

On the other hand, Institutions like The London School of Business and Kaplan University offer degrees and professional certifications like the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) online.