MKU opens new chapter with tamper-proof system

MKU ICT Director Vincent Karuru guides Stella Mwangi a fourth-year student through the process of sitting for her online exam. [Fidelis Kabunyi, Standard]

When Grace Kioi joined Mt Kenya University (MKU) in 2019 at the height Covid-19 pandemic, she was not sure of finishing her degree programme within four years.

She used to commute from her home in Murang'a to MKU's campus in Thika to attend classes and sit exams.

At times, she would defer classes or some were called off due to Covid-19 restrictions and associated challenges.

She was unable to sit her exams on time for two semesters.

And just like Grace, George Sambu, a Fourth Year Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration student, also found it difficult to get affordable accommodation in Thika town during Covid-19 period.

Sambu deferred classes three times because of lack of accommodation.

However, all this tribulation among MKU students is a thing of the past as the Thika-based private university has addressed such concerns.

Both Grace and Sambu are due to graduate, thanks to MKU which has invested in the development of an in-house examination proctoring software.

The software is integrated with an e-learning management system and student management information system to assist in the overall management of examinations for online classes.

Following the increasing demand for its academic programmes, the university has invested heavily in secure stable power source and backup system that ensures an uninterrupted e-learning environment during power blackouts.

According to university's ICT director Vincent Karuru, with the proctoring software, students are able to sit examinations from the comfort of their houses.

"Initially, our students used to travel to the nearest examinations centre, which could be miles away. With physical examinations, it was also difficult to manage time differences," said Karuru.

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

Karuru said the system is secure from external attacks as all question banks in online exams are encrypted.

"During the assessment, the examination is timed, questions are randomised and relayed one by one with no option of going back," Karuru said.

To avoid incidents of impostors sitting exams, Karuru said the system uses image-based proctoring, screen recording, videos and audio recordings.

"The software is able to identify candidates and detect voices before the exam begins. After that, invigilators preview, auto analyse, flag and classify images of each student to detect any exam malpractice," he said.

He said the software had helped the university to cut costs on both lecturers and students travelling to the nearest examinations centres and in the process accommodations for students has been eliminated.

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

MKU has been able to save millions of shillings it used to spend courier services to transport exams and booklets.