E-learning is an advent that dawned on the need to enhance access to quality education to all in an equitable and inclusive manner that would offer enduring learning opportunities.
A section of university students have wholeheartedly embraced it as a million shillings cheating business venture.
They do compulsory online course work for their colleagues at a fee of at least Sh1, 000 each or up to Sh1,500.
In one academic year, more than 4,000 students are expected to do the course and we established that there are very few of them leaning on their own with the rest contracting out to those who are now ‘gurus’ in the undertaking.
The e-learning course, is centered on determinants, prevention management learning opportunities primarily an outcome of an effort by the Government of Kenya, through Universities, to incorporate HIV & AIDS learning as a mandatory unit.
Ureport has established that 43 students from the University were last semester listed to appear before the institution's disciplinary committee to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for having cheated in the compulsory online course.
All university students in the country have a course on enhancing their HIV/AIDS consciousness.
The learners are trained on the use of online learning tools through an elaborate month long orientation to e-leaning program after which they start the main discourse on public health education as we established.
The students depending on their colleagues pay varying fees for the work to be done for them depending on the volume of work and grades their clients intend to obtain.
“Most of us have negative attitudes towards coursework involving everyone and it is hard to take time doing the assignments. It is because most of us do not think the work can be marked with keenness. You can do your best but still fail,” said one of the students.
He pleaded not to be identified.
The students could be harvesting close to millions in each academic year given the readily available market provided by the unwilling tendency towards handling the coursework as expected, teething troubles for technology use in the education sector.
"Those doing the work advertise for the services on their social platforms and potential clients part with the small fee and send their credentials to have every online task done on their behalf as they probably take their free time watching a movie or having fun on a day out at the lakeside city with their working friends," our source said.
One Whatsapp group seen by our investigation team is managed by those offering these services and has up to more than 150 clients who get updates of progress of their work.
We are told this is just one of the groups
"Topic two is ongoing and we are almost through, notes will be posted here soon," posted one of the course gurus on March 31, 2017.
Those dissatisfied by the assistance they get online through these WhatsApp groups are asked to visit the service provider's identified hostels which are now taking over the e-campus offices as they offer their colleagues personal moving aid in their studies as they even do online assessment tests.
"We have stopped our services to those with any amount outstanding. Those who do not have a Sh0.00 arrears will cry in the toilet, be it one bob, blame us later," read another post on April 7, 2017 from one of the brains behind the cheating tricks.
Further to this post a worried female student who had counted on the team to do the job expressed frustration as she had not received any notifications of work in progress and could not reach the team.
"Apparently you have not started my work since I have not received any notification or messages even for the orientation and I do not know what is bound to happen for my case as I could not find you in your rooms when I visited," she said on the group.
The admin responds to her concerns on the next day early in the morning Identifying her as Grace Wanjiku, urging her not to worry as her work is in progress at the third topic insisting that she ensures her balances are cleared.
Online assessment tests
It is at this point that many more of her clients delve into inquests into how they have performed in their CATs but they are vehemently shut and discouraged from wasting their time as the team cites a no way of helping those owing them any money.
They ask them to keep away excuses given they had been devoted to help many of them but could not show appreciation by paying the fee.
The same is repeated as the next topic is open for learners who are concentrated virtually on few computers under the control of 'gurus' running the cheat business.
Culprits and plagiarism
The e-learning support team on Sunday April, 16 released a list of 43 students who they termed as cheating culprits despite having issued them with many warnings demanding that they show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them lest their names and evidences are sent to the institution's disciplinary committee.
According to a confidential source facilitating the course, the 43 were found to have copied and pasted other students' posts on discussion forums which the source said contributes greatly to final CAT marks for the course.
This implies that due the large number of online clients these 'gurus' handle, chances are high they duplicate what the post to the forums for many of them.
It is hard to catch them and verify
The source confirms that they are aware of some students paying people to undertake the course work on their behalf but says it has been difficult to catch up with such individuals and once they find those involved with necessary evidence there will be no hesitation to act
"The discussion forums have marks that form part of the topical CAT scores and as such lifting content from other learners' posts amounts to cheating," said our source.
"I am also aware of some students who pay for the work to be done on their behalf and we only need the evidence before we include them in the list of those supposed to face disciplinary action over this irregularities and this menace must come to an end." concludes the facilitator.
Given the large clientele handled by those in the cheating business, chances are high that some of those identified as culprits may not have had even a reserved glare at the e-campus.