Varsity upgrades ICT infrastructure to boost e-Learning

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The lockdowns and shutdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic made it essential for educational institutions in Kenya to switch from traditional learning to eLearning with some universities now hosting over 100,000 online learners.

Following the increased demand for academic programs offered in higher learning institutions, various varsities had to upgrade their ICT Infrastructure to make learning accessible and sustainable.

According to MKU’s Principal of the Directorate of Open Distance and Electronic Learning (ODEL) Dr Merceline Kamande, online learners have increased from 5,292 in 2018 to over 50,000 in 2022 and more are being brought on board.

She said that the institution had to upgrade its ICT infrastructure due to the high demand of the online courses and are now able to host more than 100,000 online learners at any time for different learning activities.

“The university had to heavily invest in secure stable power sources and backup systems to ensure an uninterrupted e-learning environment during power blackouts,” said Kamande.

Students in all MKU campuses as well as the Diaspora centers in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Hargesia (Somaliland) are now able to learn without any disruption thanks to the investments in e-learning.

“When face-to-face teaching and learning was suspended due to Covid-19 pandemic in line with WHO’s recommendations, most higher learning institutions in the country had to remain afloat by integrating their students to the online platform,” she said.

The university has also invested in the development of an in-house examination proctoring software. According to university’s ICT director Vincent Karuru, with the proctoring software the students are able to take the examinations at the comfort of their houses.

“Initially, our students used to travel to the nearest examination center which could be miles and miles away, with physical examinations it was also difficult to manage the time differences. In some cases, this was as between 2-7 hours,” Karuru told KNA.

The examination proctoring software requires a student to book and sit for exams online.

“During the assessment, the examination is timed, questions are randomized and relayed one by one with no option of going back,” Karuru explained.

“The software is able to identify candidates and detect voices before the exam begins. After that the invigilators preview auto analyses, flag and classify images of each student and it helps them to detect exam malpractices,” he said.

According to Karen Namunyak, a fourth year Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration student at MKU, she was doubtful of finishing her degree program within four years.

She used to commute from her home in the outskirts of Kitengela to MKU’s campus in Thika to attend classes and sit for exams. At times she deferred classes or some were called off due to Covid-19 restrictions and the challenges that came with it. She was unable to sit for her exams on time for two semesters.

“Due to availability of eLearning, I am now able do my exams at home through the examination proctoring software hence saving time and resources,” she said.

By Grace Naishoo

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