By Frederick Obura
It’s more than two decades since the Internet began penetrating Kenya.
Many activities — from trading to even medical consultancy — are being carried out online. Now, higher learning has gone highly digital.
Inoorero University is harnessing the growing popularity of the Internet in Kenya by offering courses online.
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The university, whose anchor themes are enterprise development and ICT, has been offering distance and E-learning courses over the past decade and this Wednesday (January 25) it will take a major step by officially launching its Virtual Campus, an e-learning platform that will see students take classes from the comfort of their homes and workplaces.
"ICT has revolutionised the world, and education is no exception," says Inoorero University’s Vice-Chancellor Prof Henry Thairu.
"This has necessitated the continued increase in use of e-learning as an alternative to the traditional face to face teaching."
As ICT creates the foundation for e-learning, distance education is taking a new dimension and opening a new world for knowledge transfer.
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E-learning supports the dissemination of knowledge and skills to learners in various locations with total classroom experience.
Distance learning via the Internet has picked up in developed markets like the US and Europe but it is just beginning to pick in Africa. A good number of students in Kenya study online in overseas universities for lack of credible local institutions of higher learning. IU through its Virtual campus is moving to fill this gap.
"IU’s e-learning uses different electronic forms to create effective communication just as face to face students interact with one another and the tutors," says IU’s Distance and E-learning manager Nina Ichung’wah (pictured), who is also spearheading the Virtual campus.
"The learners, for example, may get their assignments from the learning portal and submit their work back to the tutor using the Internet. They can also hold classroom discussions and tutorials on the Internet. If it is required, contact classes may be arranged at suitable times."
E-learning is expected to replicate the classroom environment at IU by providing online video lectures, lecture notes and handouts.
"E-learning is the best way to make education accessible to a large number of people and thus achieve Millennium Development Goals," says Ms Ichung’wah.
As pioneers of this model, Inoorero University has placed Kenya on the global stage of competitive technology, academia and innovations. The e-learning programme seeks to open education to those looking for flexibility, convenience and affordable education, says Prof Thairu.
"E-learning is also for individuals who are in remote areas, parents who need to be home early, professionals, businessmen and women who are too busy to attend the physical classroom, as well as the young who are technologically savvy," he says, adding that tuition fee for the E-learning programme is highly discounted.
Students on this programme meet online with faculty and fellow students without leaving their homes or office to attend class physically.
The Virtual Campus is targeted at people who may not create time to attend classes. Course content has been developed as per the curriculum for the various courses and this has been uploaded on the virtual campus.
Upon registration, students are given access to the content and start off their studies immediately.
The students are able to access themselves and their progress and take different types of tests available on the IU Virtual campus, including self-assessment tests at the end of a topic and continuous assessment tests.