E-Learning is acceptably defined as the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. Typical online learning terms are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and mobile learning (m-learning).
East Africa has continually adopted the distance education model. As of now most educational institutions have refined their curricula and content to have one that can be accessed digitally. Leading institutions in East Africa such as the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development have continued to digitize content and avail it in online and digital platforms. Institutions of higher education such as Kenyatta University, The University of Nairobi, Makerere University, Kampala international university have already adopted and implemented the ICT policies.
Companies such as Manyam Franchise have independently ventured into the edtech business and have successfully set up businesses dealing solely on providing online learning and related services. The continued uptake of distance education progressed to create a loyal group of people who when access to resources is required, will opt for e-learning owing to the abundant advantages it offers. Local universities and colleges have also taken up with the trend (blended learning). There are a lot of universities which include Mt. Kenya University, Kenyatta University and Nairobi University in Kenya which have adopted e- learning and have tailored online courses to be accessible over the internet where people are able to learn and get actual skills and knowledge and accreditation by the institutions.
Local e-learning success stories
E-learning has created heroes in east Africa. Julius Yego, the renowned Kenyan javelin champion from Eldoret in Kenya has attributed his skills to e-learning. He has been nicknamed as ‘Mr. YouTube man’. “There were no coaches to guide me. I was just alone in the field, training. My father wanted me to give up javelin. Everybody here in Kenya is a runner. I took that as a challenge to find another way to succeed. I started watching videos… I could see that training like these people could improve me” he was quoted in a CNN interview in 2013.
This goes to show that the availability of online learning resources can improve the knowledge and even impart skills on an individual.
Walter Akolo is a prominent freelancer in Nairobi, Kenya. He engages mainly in content development and transcription owes his success to online learning. He is a professionally trained architect. After frustration in the workplace, Walter educated himself by accessing distance education material. Armed with that knowledge, he has created a business that not only meets his needs. He has risen to an employer in a field where all knowledge requisite was acquired outside of lecture halls.
Kelvin Omondi is another example of an effective e-learning. Having been brought up in the Mathare slums, his parents did not have the ability to take him to a good high school. Through a Nairobi-based organization, he got a chance to attend a national high school and pass well in his studies. However, he lacked the financial capacity to complete his degree in Bachelor of Commerce at Kenyatta University. However, the University had established an online learning program, which was cheaper. Kelvin opted for this option.
The university provided him with an iPhone, which he used to access his learning material. The study program provided him with an option to work and learn. He managed to raise his university fee and graduated with a second upper-class degree.
From this example, other Africans can learn that e-learning is an effective method of learning that the poor can use to access quality education. Most of the Africans have poor backgrounds; hence, lack the ability to access higher education. However, online learning is an effective method since it is cheaper as it only entails tuition-fee. Learners can raise the fee through part-time and full-time jobs.
E-learning as access way to higher ed
In East Africa, e-learning is a capable and realistic strategy to address the challenge of increasing access to, and thus increasing participation in, higher education. It is progressively being viewed as an educational delivery model that is cheap while the quality is not compromised. In East Africa, just like the rest of the continent where resources are scarce and education provision is poor, e-learning is viewed as a cheap and feasible means of increasing provision.
All East African countries have adopted ICT Policies. These policies aspire at ensuring the availability of affordable, reliable, efficient, and accessible ICT services. Therefore, the respective governments promote the use of ICT in all educational institutions to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The strategies are to support the development of e-learning resources; assist public-private partnerships to rally resources in order to sustain e-learning initiatives; promote the development of integrated e-learning curricula to support ICT in education; and promote distance education and virtual institutions, particularly in higher education and training, among others.
However, there are many East Africans who do not obtain places in the existing national universities. The necessity for an educated workforce and the chance to maximize the use of limited educational resources, call for new and innovative methods of learning, which can make university education available beyond lecture halls in Kenya, not limited to a particular time, pace, or space. Due to a result of a sudden rise in educational digitization projects, booming enrollment in online higher education and the rapid acceptance of self-paced e-learning, East Africa has become an active e-learning market.
Kenyan edtech challenges
While a world of unlimited possibilities exists in e-learning, in East Africa, the realization of these policies is hindered by a number of challenges. These include the following issues:
- Internet access:
While internet is available for most of the citizens living within urban centers, most rural areas are off grid and cannot explore the possibilities of e-learning. Kenya currently leads in Africa with the highest internet speeds.
- Availability of locally developed content:
East Africa has lagged behind in developing its own locally developed content. In Kenya the Kenya Institute for curriculum development has already began digitizing syllabus content for the Kenyan syllabus.
- Lack of implementation of e-learning policies by institutions of learning:
While it has been established that e-learning has numerous advantages, institutions have had lags in implementing them
- Lack of training and professional development:
E-learning is a break from the past in East Africa. Teachers are the primary source of information and deliver content on a face to face basis to the learners. The lack of technological resources and the technical aspects of their application present a challenge to the implementation of e-learning in Africa.
E-learning outlook for Kenya
East Africa is experiencing rapid infrastructural developments. Mobile phone network is available in most areas and mobile phones have reached an all time high penetration rate. E-learning is poised to leverage on these advantages.
Not all people may be able to physically attend institutions of learning. The convenience of e-learning provides for the prospect of acquisition of knowledge, skills and education in areas otherwise remote and inaccessible.
The E-Learning conference Africa is slated for September 2017, follow up to the previous conference. Inclination is towards a focus on the internal issues, localizing content and aligning e-learning content to labor needs and also a focus on emerging trends. East Africa is progressively seeking to achieve the full potential that e-learning can offer.
Access to higher education in East Africa is essential. Kenya is a good example for increased local e-learning efforts. Online courses for gaining skills and online graduation are the two major drivers for m-learning.
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