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Friday, Nov 15th

Kenya’s middle class heads online to further education

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A burgeoning Kenyan middle class who are online and have a growing appetite for higher education are pushing local universities to offer virtual classes.

Kenyan universities have traditionally ranked poorly in global university indices. A 2012 global ranking by Cybermetrics Lab, the largest public research body in Spain, placed the University of Nairobi, the first highest placed University in Kenya, at a dismal 1367 globally and 17 in Africa.

This has largely been blamed on the institution's sluggish approach in inculcating modern technologies in learning, even as Kenya boasts of fast internet connections.

But the situation could be changing.

Already three leading universities, Strathmore, Inoorero and Methodist church based Kenya Methodist University (KEMU) have rolled out remote classes which they say are accessed from any location using tablets and mobile phones.

The model provides a win-win situation for both students and the universities as students get access to live or archived classes, and universities increase efficiency, and cut costs associated with setting up lecture halls and paying staff to maintain them.

“We want to see more smart classrooms, international student exchanges and incubation projects,” said Professor Gateru, the principal at KEMU’s Nairobi campus.

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

Last year, Kenya’s top ranked business school, Strathmore University, inked a deal with Samsung Electronics that would see its MBA students attend lectures using Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablets.

Under the arrangement Samsung Electronics would supply the students with a tablet loaded with e-books and lecture time schedules with the tablets these tablets allowing students access an online portal where they can access live videos of lectures.

The videos, in turn, are transmitted from an electronic board to the tablets through a Wi-Fi connection, creating virtual lecture halls that can be accessed from any corner of the world.

In a bid to further deepen the use of technology in the lectures, Strathmore has embarked on training its lecturers on use of Classroom Management (CRM) functionality that enables them to send what’s on the e-board to students’ tablets and its use.

“Our aim is to raise coursework delivery efficiencies for better use of learning time,” said Robert Ngeru, the Samsung Electronics East Africa business leader. Under the partnership any student who joins Strathmore Business School automatically owns a tablet and other digital learning materials at a discounted price.

The impressive uptake of the virtual classes largely been attributed to the country's fast connection with studies placing it among frontrunners in Africa.

A survey last year by global broadband statistics firm Net Index placed Kenya third in Africa having 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,” read part of the report.

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