Monday, October 30, 2006

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 all 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

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mwalimu this is great. Lakini you're so critical of Kenyan Univsersities!

May be true that there isn't an e-Learning strategy in UoN because I know there's no Policy on e-Learning.

On the issue of links being only visible internally, true our downlink goes down very often meaning all systems hosted here aren't externally visible.

We can't yet avail the e-courses on CD courseware because we first got to resolve the big issue of content ownership. Lecturers seem to believe only in selling their courses and feel that they are not being paid for putting their course lectures in public domain.

Anonymous said...

I like your analysis of e-learning at Kenyon universities, and you are right...not much is going on! As one who was recently and intimately involved in administration at one of the universities you mentioned...let me say that the reason for such non involvement is that are not aware of the benefits and have not explored the pros and cons. Maybe some type of workshop/seminar or other such exposure would be a good start.

James Kariuki said...

@Anon2
I do not fully agree with you the the intrinsic problem of the non-use of eLearning is non-awareness. I worked at the University of Nairobi for the period 2003-2004 and I can say more than half the academics in Nairobi have an idea what eLearning is - and can go through its benefits. A good start would therefore not be seminars/workshops (although people would like them to be out of the office - and maybe get some daily allowances). The first step is to start using eLearning.

Anonymous said...

Yes its true that there is very little that goes on application of e-Learning in Kenyan universities, the possible reasons for this are:
1. Lack of e-Learning strategies and plans
2. Lack of motivation for lecturers to develop e-Learning courses
3. Lack of knowledge on e-Learning instructional design
4. Insufficient infrastructure to effectively support e-Learning, like low bandwidth
5. Conservatism and low rate of adopting change and new technology e.g. for your information a good no. of lecturers ( Profs, Dr's, e.t.c don't have the basic computer application skills. They only believe in teaching a visible audience.
6. Lack of institutional budgetary allocation on e-Learning
7. Lack of full implementation of e-Learning, e-Learning in Kenyan universities has always been like piloting
8. Lack of capacity (e-Learning skills)
9. Have more reasons if i were not going for a meeting

Anonymous said...

e-Learning can be implemented pretty easily. The bandwidth issue could pose some issues. However, there is readily available off-the-shelf content that could be deployed to prime the pump. You speak of university professors that lack the understanding of how powerful e-learning can be? This content could help open doors. Why not start by offering web-based HTML, Java, and other courses. Let's start this project ourselves. I have worked in the e-Learning business for many years now in the states, I have the contacts to get this kind of project going. I just need partners in Nairobi that can make things happen from an infrastructure standpoint. If that is a problem, why not host the content here. Let's work this out.

Anonymous said...

I am currently case studying e-learning dropout at the Hilton Nairobi.The team there accesses hiltonuniversity.com
Anyone aware of any corporate in Kenya that is offering e-learning?

hrchannel@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Before we move to higher education, how is the basic education segment fairing in the elearning initiative in Kenya? Does society demand for an elearning initiative or do they hope it will happen by default? Is there a supply demand factor in the current status?

Anonymous said...

hi kariuki, I am a librarian, and my concern with e learning in public universities is access to information resources in those institutions for the students. during your search did you find any information on the preparedness of library services to support the advantage of e institutions
get back to me on this. otherwise your exploration is quite an insight on what is in public domain and the actual. Help our situation by marketing the e-learning process. Focus on the end user accessibility to enabling resources to reap the benefits of the process

Mary said...

hi kariuki, I am a librarian, and my concern with e learning in public universities is access to information resources in those institutions for the students. during your search did you find any information on the preparedness of library services to support the advantage of e institutions
get back to me on this. otherwise your exploration is quite an insight on what is in public domain and the actual. Help our situation by marketing the e-learning process. Focus on the end user accessibility to enabling resources to reap the benefits of the process

James Kariuki said...

As far as am concerned, a number of libraries have subscribed to online journals. There are some consortia among some libraries also to share there digital resources.
This shows some level of preparedness. However, if there are actual facilities for students to use in the libraries, thats another question.
There is some research on Library and ICT usage in Africa. You can email me directly for a follow up.

david kagutha said...

your comments are okey but i wish you could offer some expert advice on what we ought to do. however, we are on the right track. could you please send me materials on e learning. am doing research on its application in secondary schools in kenya.

James Kariuki said...

David,
Contact me on j k a r i u k i (at) g m a i l (dot) c o m

Anonymous said...

James are a great man. I am a graphic Designer who has converted through daily online readership to become a e-learning Content Developer/Instructional Designer in Kenya.
Please visit my site and post me a mail . I will be happy to read from you.

www.enetpublishers.com

E-mail: design@enetpublishers.com

C.Ogendo

James said...

Hi,my name is james kariuki, my biggest challenge lately has been to find a school offering online Education.I tell you it is fruitless.I am to join Egerton as a regular student but that was not my choice degree.I therefore look forward to chase my dream career but what I thought to be easy as elearning is hard to come about.any suggestions kariukij@rocketmail.com

Anonymous said...

Kariuki,
You have been right all through.
I am sad that your expectation may take a little longer to be met.
Take another tour through the websites of the Publishing houses.The challenge is mostly technophobia,most decision makers are above the 35 years of age,and most computer work is with the secretary.We need researchers,LMS developers, trained Instructional designers,multimedia publishers and User Interface designers who have experienced e-learning itself not imposed Bosses, the we are there.

James Kariuki said...

Thanks @anon. We cannot however say we will wait until we have all the required resources to start even the smallest of things. There is a famous quote I like "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." from the book The Natural Advantage of Nations edited by Edited by Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves and Michael H. Smith (quote attributed to Murray and von Goethe). Be the judge.

Matara said...

I will not reiterate what has been said. Citing Somekh, Bridget(2007).Pedagogy and Learning with ICT:researching the art of innovation.pp 89 indicates that "The exploration of the process of innovation now continues....Part III is concerned with the role of policy in introducing ICT to change the education system as a whole. Policy always has a difficult line to tread, between setting a vision which may be over-ambitious, or one
which is over-cautious and reduces possible achievements to a low-level common
denominator."

The same is emphasised in the sessional paper number 1 of 2005 by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology.pp 70 - 73. The Govt has been able to do what it can, yet treading the line of policy at institutional level is still wanting.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that the development of eLearning in Kenya is not structured. There is too much red tape and those charged with leading the process are "Mr & Miss Know it all"

Some may say I am equally as critical as James, however I do agree we must not burry our heads in the sand and wish the "problem"away. It is important that instead of duplicating conferences and seminars, stakeholders must come together to address:

i. The design of eLearning in meeting our vision 2030 objectives and beyond.

ii. The relevance of content we seek to design in COMPARISON to the global economic, social and political dispensation.

iii. How to regulate the eLearning sector and protect our nation from unscrupulous brief case carriers.

I totally agree with James and wish to add that when you critically look at what our local universities call eLearning, it is on an odd day "laughable". But again, I must also ask...WHO WILL BELL THE CAT? Who will take it upon themselves to champion this cause?

I say laughable because according to universities in Kenya, expansion and reach is about bricks and mortar. The very existence of any eLearning program will lead you right into the debate about which platform would work...open source or closed....and at this point I must borrow from Bill Clinton and say...ITS THE CONTENT "STUPID".

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I agree we still have a long way to go before we go full e learning. I am currently undertaking a masters research project on e learning in Kenyan Universities. do you have some comparative links to other universities which can provide some material. my contact is tmuema@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

The article is interesting. I am about to embark on a research project in the same area and would like to ask you a few questions on the subject. Kindly email me on bt_am2001@yahoo.com. I will appreciate.

fiddie said...

all said and done can someone suggest good universities offering elearning courses with legal ang recognised results

fiddie said...

please help find a good university offering elearning with recognized certificates

Miss Jones said...

Thanks James for your work, I am just at the point of searching for an e-learning in Kenya, my problem is am not in the continent. Interested in Health and child care fields, is there any University you can propose me to join.
eagerly waiting to read from you, be blessed with a lovely year

Tonny Njoroge said...

hi intrestingly am not alone in quest for e learning. I hope to embark on a phd project in kenya. i am not sure the best line but i know the gaps. what do u suggest?
njorogead@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

You should not have left out Strathmore University from your research.I think it is the most advanced university in the country (am an alumni) in terms of E-learning and generally the use of ICT. Please visit their website and give us your verdict.