Varsity opts e-learning to substitute face-to-face lectures in the face of COVID-19 pandemic
For Mount Kenya University students, learning did not stop after the suspension of face-to-face teaching nationwide by the government as a measure against Covid-19. Elaborate technology has kept them in ‘class’.
MKU student interacts with the lecturer during an e-learning session
That’s because immediately after the government directed that learning institutions be closed, MKU responded by enabling all the regular students to access e-learning resources.
Future of Education
The principal of MKU Open and Distance Learning (ODEL) Directorate, Prof. Pamela Ochieng, says online education cannot be overlooked these days. “The future of education lies in embracing online learning to complement traditional classroom learning.”
The university, she asserts, is prepared to enhance the e-learning mode of delivery to not only overcome the current challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also for future delivery of learning through technology.
Prof. Ochieng says the university is supporting students so as to complete the delivery of the course material for the current semester. “We also have e-content and e-library accessible to students off campus to support effective learning,” explains the ODEL principal. “Coursework, including Continuous Assessment Tests (CATs) and assignments, are administered using the ODEL platform.”
Both faculty and students have access to the university e-learning library, digital resources and journals to enhance research and study. Faculty provides support through flexible teaching, learning and online support services.
Collaboration with Tech Giants
MKU has been running a digital varsity since July 2010, has teamed up with technology giants to automate learning as well as administrative functions.
Thanks to a collaboration with telecommunication firm Telkom, the MKU ODEL Directorate has issued more than 5,000 4G Telkom SIM cards to all students (both those on the online and the distance and institutional based learning – DIBeL modes). The SIM cards are loaded with monthly 1GB data to allow students access to learning resources for free.
The university commends the government for approving the use of loon balloons, which will ease internet connectivity even in remote areas, thereby facilitating e-learning everywhere.
MKU has also partnered with the global tech giant Microsoft Corporation as part of an education transformation agreement to promote online education. Hence, most of the university’s functions supporting education are automated, including customer care services. They enable students to access the university services online.
The teaching staff use both Google virtual classrooms and Microsoft real-time Zoom tools to conduct real-time teaching and assessment of students.
To supplement the e-learning, learners have access to audio-visual lectures and content through a partnership between MKU and TV 47. Lectures for units are recorded and uploaded online for students to access through an exclusive link in the online teaching platform.
Students and lecturers interact through the university virtual learning management system, which is integrated with an anti-plagiarism software and provides statistics on online class attendance. Hence, lecturers use the data to support and follow up on students.
Students access learning schedules, course outlines, digital lessons, announcements, audio-visual lectures and learning resources online, Online CATS and feedback, before they sit for final examinations.
The MKU Edge
Prof. Ochieng says MKU’s online teaching and learning is supported by modern ICT infrastructure. This makes online courses and education affordable, accessible and available anywhere and anytime to all.
The elaborate ICT infrastructure comprises integrated students and learning management systems, strong administrative, academic and technical support systems and ultra-modern learning infrastructure that matches global standards. It also includes the university’s multi-media library, research, and postgraduate section, and faculty that supports teaching and learning.
MKU’s e-learning platforms are effective in delivering quality education. Students evaluate lecturers online to enhance quality control in line with the university’s quality management policy based on ISO 9001:2015 standard. Both student and lecturer class attendance are also monitored in real-time. The results are shared with faculty through deans to enhance quality teaching and evaluation.
MKU students have appreciated the e-learning platforms and have observed that the system saves time and money. With online learning, they can access content anywhere and anytime. The approach also leads to better retention since it is consistent, scalable and personalised.
Prospective or new students can make inquiries online. They then apply for courses and receive feedback and admission letters online. They pay the fees and access statements online, access print and audio-visual resources through the students portal and digital learning tutorials online. They register for the approved units online, access the university faculty, technical and administrative support and learn online through the e-learning management systems.
Annual intakes for e-learning are in January, May and September. Enrolment for Distance, Institution-based and e-Learning (DIBeL) are in April, August and December.