Mount Kenya University (MKU) is upgrading its ICT infrastructure to accommodate over 100,000 online learners at any given time for different learning activities due to demand.
The university’s director for the Directorate of Open Distance and Electronic Learning (ODEL), Dr Merceline Kamande, says online learners have grown from 5,292 in 2018 to 15,874 in 2021.
“The numbers are expected to continue to rise with more people open to alternative approaches to education compared to a few years ago,” Dr Kamande said.
She spoke at the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kesha) ongoing annual conference for head teachers in Mombasa.
“The university embraced e-learning in 2010 when the e-learning platform was first developed to host just two programs. The current student population accessing education through Open Electronic Distance Learning (ODEL) exceeds 15,000 in 65-degree programs,” Dr. Kamande said.
Students are spread across all MKU campuses as well as Diaspora centers in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Hargesia (Somaliland).
Additionally, the management of ODEL serves students from other parts of the world, including South Sudan, Tanzania, Qatar, Canada, and the United States, among others.
“Students have a choice to study between the blended study mode and a virtual study mode depending on their locality and convenience,” she added.
The University of Mount Kenya ODEL Directorate is the technology hub responsible for open university distance education and e-learning. It coordinates virtual classes for on-campus and off-campus students and connects the university and its campuses, helping the university achieve its vision and mission.
According to Dr. Kamande, the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the education sector, like every other sector in the world. However, when face-to-face teaching and learning was suspended by the government in line with WHO recommendations, MKU was among the few universities in the country that stayed afloat by integrating their students into the online platform. .
“In this way, the university has continued to offer uninterrupted online teaching and learning services. This allowed students who were due to graduate to do so without delay,” she said.
Going forward, Dr Kamande is advocating with the Kenyan government to institute policies to actualize the one laptop per learner programme.
She said a corresponding intervention to reduce internet costs would also play a major role in improving online learning. “E-learning is very dependent on the internet, electricity and the availability of ICT infrastructure. Students are expected to have access to a computer, the cost of which may be prohibitive.
Meanwhile, the university has adopted SAKAJ e-learning solutions for learning and assessment. Adopting virtual labs for practice-based programs will also help improve the knowledge base and employable skills of online learners, especially in health and science courses.
Dr. Kamande says that a student who successfully completes the requirements for a degree while studying online signals a highly competent and skilled worker who has the potential to perform well in the job market.