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VAS

CUE unveils quality checks for online varsity courses

EDUCATION
By Augustine Oduor | August 17th 2020

Universities are on the spot after it emerged that academic papers of graduates may be rejected for failing to meet standards for online teaching and examinations.

It is now emerging that most public and private universities may fall short of the newly released Commission for University Education (CUE) quality checks for offering online academic programmes.

The tool – format for preparing a self-assessment report for open distance and e-learning (ODeL) programmes and institutions in Kenya – is the new standard for approval of all curriculum content, staff, electronic and other facilities that support online teaching and learning.

This means the universities that had scheduled graduation for students after offering online lessons will have to review their academic process against the set criteria to meet new CUE standards.

University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama yesterday said online teaching is the way to go and cautioned institutions that have delayed to embrace it.

“We have aligned ourselves with CUE standards and anybody belittling online teaching is living in the past. No senate can graduate a student without meeting all the learning and examinations requirements,” said Prof Kiama.

Challenge

Muranga University Vice Chancellor Dickson Nyariki admitted that online teaching has been a challenge for some learners who have no access to internet.

“But we have tried our best to comply with CUE standards and have even scheduled examinations for final year students. Universities are doing their best to comply,” said Prof Nyariki.

Other VCs who spoke off the record said the checklist comes four months after universities mounted online lessons, administered examinations and scheduled graduations.

They argued that for continuing students, nearly 90 per cent of the syllabus had been covered and that the new CUE standards should apply for online programmes moving forward.

Most universities started offering online classes after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered closure of institutions of higher learning on March 15.

CUE Chief Executive Officer Mwenda Ntarangwi told The Standard yesterday that they are keen to ensure universities provide ODeL education that is credible and available to a wide group of students, who are off or on-campus.

Ntarangwi said universities will be required to generate a self-assessment report, based on the tool, that will be used to evaluate their suitability to offer online courses.

This means universities that will fall short of the requirements will not be allowed to launch online lessons while those already offering the courses will fine-tune their programmes.

Before rolling out online lessons, universities will be required to outline their curriculum design, development and review process for the ODeL programmes.

They will also be required to show guidelines put in place to meet requisite instructional hours for OdeL programmes.

This means all online classes must be taught within the appropriate lesson hours.

CUE also wants universities to outline their internal approval processes for ODeL programmes at the various levels, including how the process is linked to the Commission’s requirements.

CUE wants universities to demonstrate how they implement policies and guidelines to cater for learners with different abilities and how they package course units to promote inclusion and equity.

Universities will have to exhibit the policies and guidelines they have in place for online courses and how they are organised in the learning management system.

The obligations of the lecturers and learners in online teaching and learning must also be demonstrated and how the university promotes innovativeness in online course delivery.

Institutions are required to indicate how learners are facilitated to explore additional instructional materials outside what is prescribed for online programmes.

The university is to ensure the instructional materials provided for the academic programme(s) are accessible to the students, current, adequate, and relevant to the programme learning outcomes.

On technology and infrastructure, CUE wants institutions to explain the Information Technology that can ensure access to the internet, allow faculty-to-learner interaction and also learner-to-learner interaction.

Examination protocols

The infrastructure should also ensure access to learning/information materials, processing, storage and access to student information and also facilitate student and faculty support.

CUE also insists that the infrastructure should guarantee security of all online education information/transactions, including security of system for hosting, archiving, saving and exporting data.

On examinations, universities should describe how tests are administered for ODeL programmes and also outline the tools/ methods in use for student authentication during examinations.

CUE also wants institutions to demonstrate how they ensure students adhere to examination protocols, including invigilation and checking academic dishonesty.

Issues around security mechanisms in place for ODeL examinations during setting, handling, packaging, execution, and marking a documented procedure for quality assurance of ODeL examinations will also be required.

How assessments are conducted, how student assessment reports are generated, analysed, and archived are among areas that should be exhibited by universities.

They have to demonstrate how feedback on assessment is communicated to the students; and ?how they are integrated to review of the curriculum.

On IT and physical infrastructure, CUE requires a set up with software to detect academic dishonesty including deception, plagiarism, theft and fraud.

“There must be a system in place for archiving past examination questions and results for ease of retrieval,” reads the document.

CUE wants universities to have instructional systems design studios, multimedia production facilities, data centres/server rooms, offices, lecture rooms, laboratories, workshops, library and assistive facilities to support learners with special needs.

On equipment, universities need to have servers, computers, projectors, cameras, smart and interactive boards, scanners, printers and special equipment.

On human resource policies and procedures on ODeL, universities are required to describe how they provide for recruitment and/or deployment of staff dedicated to online teaching and orientation of staff on ODeL.

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