Students who sat for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) last year have the option of taking their degree courses from home following the launch of the Open University of Kenya (OUK).
The Sh3 billion institution will ride on ICT to offer online courses complete with e-learning content, a double score for students and the State in cutting cost and adding flexibility to learning.
“Besides significantly cutting cost in the long run, ultimately higher education will be accessible to majority of Kenyans. Anyone seeking to advance in education can now do that from any part of the country,” Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said at the launch on Thursday.
The school to be based at the Multimedia University in Karen, Nairobi, is expected to be operational by September when universities admit new students.
The university will focus on courses in humanities, social sciences and education which require fewer practical sessions.
Learners will study courses leading to certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.
The government spends about Sh120,000 on every student admitted in public universities. The money goes towards utilities and education, an amount Dr Kipsang hopes will significantly drop with students opting for off-campus study programmes.
“The ministry is exploring options whether to set up a central administration unit at Multimedia or elsewhere to co-ordinate the operation of the open university,” said Dr Kipsang.
Open learning involves students being assigned individual web pages, which serve as virtual classrooms, where they find lessons, assignments and assessment tests alongside an e-library repository for references.
They can also follow tutorials on recommended webcasts and podcasts of tutors from other institutions through inter-university linkages.
When it opens Kenya will join African nations with public open universities including Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria and Namibia.
Open learning is also expected to present a fresh market for internet service providers, IT specialists and computer suppliers as more people turn to ICT for delivery of social programmes like education.
However, Education consultant Amos Kaburu said supporting facilities would determine the success of the teaching method.
“The concept of open distance learning is complicated, especially on a national scale when it comes to co-ordination and student evaluation,” said Mr Kaburu.
The online assessment of students is also manipulable, demanding a watertight access system.
The African Virtual University (AVU), funded by African Development Bank, was set up in Kenyatta University last year to serve students on the continent.
“We will establish linkages with AVU to leverage on their experience,” noted Dr Kipsang.