Universities adopt the Internet to compete in global arena

Students of Kenya Methodist University (KeMU) outside the KeMU Hub in Nairobi. The university will be offering remote classes via the Internet across its five campuses from next year. Photo/DIANA NGILA
Students of Kenya Methodist University (KeMU) outside the KeMU Hub in Nairobi. The university will be offering remote classes via the Internet across its five campuses from next year. Photo/DIANA NGILA  Nation Media Group

The number of learning institutions turning to the Internet to offer courses remotely is growing with the Kenya Methodist University  (KeMU) being the latest entrant.

Robert Gateru, the principal at KeMU’s Nairobi campus, said the university has been renovating its classrooms — making them smart classrooms — and it will be offering remote lessons from these to the rest of its five campuses from next year.

The university joins institutions like Strathmore and Inoorero universities, which have this year announced that they will be offering classes remotely. These will be accessed from other locations through tablets and mobile phones.

Besides improving efficiency, the new model of teaching cuts costs for the universities.

Smart classrooms

“We want to see more smart classrooms, international student exchanges and incubation projects,” said Prof Gateru.

Institutions of learning in Kenya have picked up on the use of technology as they expand, a move that is helping them compete locally and internationally.
Through the Internet, learners can access live or archived classes.

Prof Gateru said KeMU gets its connection through the Kenya Education Network (Kenet) which promotes the use of information communication and technology (ICT) in teaching, learning and research in higher education institutions in the country.

The national research and education network aims to interconnect all the universities, tertiary and research institutions in the country by setting up a cost effective and sustainable private network, with high speed access to the Internet.

“We want to see technology continue to be a big part of what KeMU does. If we tap into ICT we will be able to reach a lot more students, continue to improve on quality as well as reduce on costs because, as a private institution, we do not get government funding and we must give our students value for money,” said Prof Gateru.

In June this year, Strathmore University announced it had signed a deal with Samsung Electronics to enable its executive MBA students attend lectures using Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablets.

Samsung Electronics would supply every executive MBA student with a tablet loaded with e-books and lecture time schedules and these tablets would also give students access to an online portal where they can access live videos of lectures.

Research released by Net Index in May this year ranked Kenya third among the African countries with fast Internet connection.  The organisation checked speeds of 20 Internet Service Providers and Kenet.

“From the 62,877 unique IPs (Internet Protocols) that have been taken in Kenya, the country made it into the 84th position on the global list, with download speeds of 4.46 Mbps. Speeds in Nairobi clocked in at 4.79 Mbps, and Mombasa 2.81 Mbps,” said the report by Net Index.

It noted that a total of 20 ISP’s were tested for download speeds. Kenet came in first with speeds of 18.39 Mbps and Swift Global Kenya Limited scored 12.33 Mbps. The lowest download speeds were recorded at 0.46 Mbps by Tangerine.

In July this year, Starehe Boys Centre announced it had developed a system that allows virtual access to its lessons. The system would be made available to other schools country wide via Safaricom cloud and smart screens.

Inoorero University has rolled out its first digital centres at Othaya Teachers’ Training College in Nyeri, and these are expected to serve the larger Central Kenya region. Under the digital teaching programme being offered by Inoorero University, teachers will be trained in using ICT as a teaching tool.

All this comes as the government builds capacity for both primary and secondary teachers to deliver the digitised curriculum developed by the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE).

Early in the year, Inoorero also launched an  ICT-based Teaching and Information Management (IBTM) professional course that has seen a  number of teachers being been trained at its main campus in Nairobi.

Transforming education

The university  will open satellite centres across the country to reach more teachers, says Inoorero University vice chancellor Henry Thairu.

“This programme is an example of how ICT can transform education,” Prof Thairu said.

Under the Vision 2030, the government aspires to make a technology-savvy workforce the foundation to build a knowledge economy. The Ministry of Education says it is facilitating the use of ICT as a universal tool for education and training, as proposed by the National ICT Strategy for Education and Training.

There are about 15,000 computers in 2,000 schools in the country, according to ministry statistics. The government has allocated Sh1.4 billion as part of the ICT in Education stimulus programme to bridge the digital divide in schools.

With about 300,000 teachers in the country, slightly more than 10,000 teachers have been trained in use of ICT while a National ICT Innovation and Integration Centre has been set up.