The eLearning Fundi

Random reflections about eLearning in Africa

eLearning in Kenya Universities

Killing my curiosity this Sunday, I decided to go through the websites of the Higher Educations institutions in Kenya to check about the level and status of use of eLearning. This is where all the dons are on strike asking their respective employers to add some dimes on their plates. Whether they are justified or not to go on strike is a topic for another discussion. Now to my topic.

Elearning is my pet project, what I breath, talk, dream, see and live. I share the content, vision and proposals of the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty First Century (WDHE). In WDHE’s preamble it is noted that there is an increased demand for and great diversification in higher education. Higher education is presented with promising opportunities relating to technologies. However, these opportunities have been a challenge in using them to improving the information processes within the Higher Educational Institutions. Article 12 of the declaration enumerates the potential and challenges of technology that are posed to higher education. It also states that: “…higher education should lead in drawing on the advantages and potential of new information and communication technologies, ensuring quality and maintaining high standards for education practices and outcomes in a spirit of openness, equity and international co-operation. [This can be done through the adoption of a number of approaches among them]…creating new learning environments, ranging from distance education facilities to complete virtual higher education institutions and systems, capable of bridging distances and developing high-quality systems of education… [and] … taking the new possibilities created by the use of ICTs into account” (pg 8). It is this in mind that I set to audit what the situation in the Kenyan landscape.

I started off by going to the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) website (http://che.or.ke) just to look for the accredited universities. The site was so helpful in offering me the listing of the universities. However, it would have been more helpful if there was more information like the act(s) of parliament that define the universities, give the CHE its mandate among other documentation. I will not comment about the website either because it was not part of my scope when I started to look around. Also there is a disclaimer that the “Website is undergoing total reconstruction [and]..[U]sers are requested to bear with the Commission during the period when this process is being undertaken”. All in all, a company has shamelessly signed the pages as the one that designed it.

According to CHE, there are 4 categories of Universities which fall within the two broad groups, private or public (http://che.or.ke). There are seven public universities in Kenya (despite the fact that the latest news have been showing six), and on the private section six private universities with charters, six registered universities and five universities “operating with Letters of Interim Authority”.

Starting with the public universities, there is the University of Nairobi (UoN), where am an alumnus (http://www.uonbi.ac.ke). The university in its home page has a link to an “Elearning Platform”. Clicking the link takes me to a page “On-Going Projects in the e-Learning Section of MIS”. Some of the urls are inaccessible because addresses given are within the local internet domain (only accessible within the UoN network). The page has some interesting projects on eLearning going on, with a link with some 48 odd courses that are available on CD for distribution to students “owing to complaints of unstable access to the University Intranet from some campuses as well as students’ limited access to computer labs”. I can attest to the fact of the unstable access of the internet because it took me more than 5 minutes to get a page load from one of the listed urls on the eLearning page. Since I did not see an eLearning strategy on the eLearning page, had to go back and check if I will get the university’s strategy document. There was not intuitive link on the home page, so I did my favourite, Google it. I do not manage to get anything on the university’s strategy, thought there are departmental strategic plans which I only manage to download after a number of time-outs. I do not know whether this is a clear indication that the UoN does not have an eLearning strategy, or may it is just somewhere that I cannot get, for whatever reason.

Next in line in the CHE Website is the Moi University (MU). Moi University in its website does not have a link to eLearning. In the whole site, searches give only one entrance of the word eLearning. In the occurrence, there is a statement the University is working with partners on a project MU-VLIR-UOS through which the ICT center ” plans to develop among others; Student Information Systems, Human Resource Information Systems, Financial Information Management Systems besides the development of a comprehensive content platform to foster e-learning at Moi University”. Like the case in the UoN, a search does not return a strategy document for the university. However there are the Foreword and Acknowledgement of the document – though it was not somewhere I could easily access it on the web. Elearning seems to be a new word for MU.

The next stop is Kenyatta University (KU). It has for a long time been associated with the Africa Virtual University (AVU) which delivers its courses through eLearning. Through this association I expected to find a more developed eLearning initiative at the University than in MU and UoN. However, that was not the case. First, for 30 minutes, the site was not accessible, giving me a time-out error. Secondly, even though the site listed some programmes being offered through eLearning, there was is no cohesion between what is being offered on eLearning and what is being taught at the university. Thirdly, there was no eLearning strategy, though KU is a step ahead of the rest in that it has an eLearning site that provides some information albeit minimal for what I was looking for.

Egerton University (EU) is listed fourth in the CHE website. Although am determined to finish the review, the sites from Kenya are annoyingly slow. On troubleshooting, I find that there is a link problem between tenet (my provider) and Jumbonet and keenest. I have some reason to try once more and find that EU’s site (http://www.egerton.ac.ke) does not have a link to eLearning. The only place that seems to have some activity on eLearning is its Nakuru Town Campus, whose site I cannot access for now. An excerpt of the University’s strategic plan posted on the web (www.egerton.ac.ke/download/performance/Strategies.pdf) fall short of mentioning eLearning both at the ICT’s strategic and the Access to Education objectives. If there are other documentations accessible on the net, they are not apparent.

In central Kenya there is the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). Whenever I think of it, I remember Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), but this is not the topic today. The JKUAT site (http://www.jkuat.ac.ke) seems to be faster than the once I have accessed so far. A search for eLearning takes me to its eLearning site (http://kewl.jkuat.ac.ke). One sad thing though, the administrator of the site copied a story I had put for the eLearning site of the University of the Western Cape(http://elearn.uwc.ac.za) about students login with their student numbers without even editing it to remove the reference to UWC. It is just funny. Like all the other universities above, it does not have a publicly accessible strategy document, or at least I could not easily locate it. Time to go to Western Kenya.

In Nyanza, I get to Maseno University (http://www.maseno.ac.ke). Maseno’s site has an image place holder to a link to “Open & Distance E-learning Programme” which is not hyperlinked. I tried al l the possible combinations and searches to no avail. Searches like ICT and eLearning returned not a single hit. I can conclude that for Maseno, eLearning is just but a pipeline dream.

Finally, for the public Universities, there is the Western University College of Science and Technology (WUST). It is listed in the CHE site without a link to its website (http://www.wust.ac.ke), and also Moi University mentions it as one of its campuses. That’s not the concern for this article though. My searches return nothing for eLearning and a few hits for ICT not related to teaching and learning. Nothing for eLearning, maybe having borrowed leave from its mother college.

On the private universities side, I start with the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton (UEAB). Its site (http://www.ueab.ac.ke) does not have a thing about eLearning or ICT. It has nice pictures though, I liked the one of the cows.

From Baraton, I head back to Nairobi’s Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA). It is the only university in Kenya with a unique domain name (http://www.cuea.edu). It took about 6 minutes to load the home page. A search for eLearning and ICT brought no results. I checked on the links, and tried on the facilities link but got a 404 error (Page not found) on its links.

Daystar University’s (DU) site was relatively fast to load. The first page of the site (http://www.daystar.ac.ke) has a nice picture of a lady wearing beaded ornaments. At DU, eLearning is still a foreign idea waiting for “the day dawn and the day star to arise”.

Surprisingly, I did not expect the Scott Theological College (STC) to be listed as a chartered university. Its homepage (http://www.scott.ac.ke) has a picture of a computer lesson in progress. A search for the use of eLearning was in futility. I humbly conclude that for now, it cannot use ICT or eLearning to reach to its clientele.

The United States International University (USIU) Nairobi’s site is pretty slow just like the site of the other universities in Kenya (despite the name). In its homepage (http://www.usiu.ac.ke) there is a link to eLearning site (http://elearn.usiu.ac.ke). Most of the eLearning links in the site are available in its intranet maybe suggesting that they current focus is students within campus. There is an externally accessible link to WebCT though. Seems eLearning is taking place at USIU. The welcome quote on the webpage??? “Welcome to The United States International University – a unique and remarkable institution of higher learning. Our concept, experienced by thousands of successful alumni around the globe, is simple: gather students from diverse cultures at a university located in beautiful surroundings and challenge them to learn”. I have seen it somewhere…. is it paraphrased from one of those adverts/slogans by the Spur Restaurants?

The Africa Nazarene University (ANU) is the last stop in the Private Chartered Universities. Although ANU has taken “a different way to Higher Education” (http://www.anu.ac.ke), it has not taken the eLearning way. Although it claims to have necessary facilities to that can support eLearning in my opinion, nothing has been posted on the site as proof that it is moving in that direction.

For the remaining universities as listed in the CHE website, I would look at them when I have time. They are:

Registered Universities
The East Africa School of Theology
The Kenya Highlands Bible College
The Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology
The Nairobi International School of Theology
The Pan Africa Christian College
St Paul’s United Theological College

Universities operating under Letters of Interim Authority
The Kenya Methodist University
Kabarak University
Kiriri Women’s University of Science and Technology
Agha Khan University
Strathmore University

From the brief summary above, if the websites analysis is something to go by, it is justifiable to conclude that in Kenya, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are a distance away from reaping the benefits of eLearning. My main questions for now are: Are these HEIs aware of eLearning, its potential, promises and benefits? Is there anything that is being done that has not been reflected on their respective websites? Is there anything in the pipeline in the arena of eLearning? Are there collaborative projects going on among the HEIs institutions themselves, and among HEIs and the corporate world toward eLearning use in the HEIs? What of the government? What is the government of Kenya doing to ensure and improve access to education through the use of technology?

The whole WHDE report is available from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001419/141952e.pdf

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