MILESTONES ACHEVED TO ENSURE CONTINUITY OF UNIVERSITY BUSINESS WITHIN SET QUALITY STANDARDS AND GUIDELINES
The ongoing Corona Virus (COVID19) has forced the educational institutions and other sectors of the economy to close, leading to the abrupt halt of teaching and learning activities globally. The University of Nairobi has responded to the current crisis by finding alternative ways to adjust its existing open, distance and e-learning (ODeL) strategy. This was anchored on the institutional Learning Management System (LMS) through the student multimedia portal that hosts its digital content.
The University Senate at its first online meeting held on 27th March 2020, set up a committee to review the existing regulations on e-learning. A needs assessment was conducted and the recommendations from the committee facilitated the approval of various measures on how to conduct university operations online. The proposed changes included: holding various meetings online, remote teaching and learning, conducting e-examinations and supervision of postgraduate research/studies online.
- Steps to enable Continuity of Learning
Learning management systems and other methods used in availing content to learners
The university has activated its delivery of curriculum by:
Enhancing its existing LMS and e-learning platforms. The University is currently using various online platforms to communicate and deliver content to the students through the use of the multimedia portal, e-class portal, and SOMA mathematical tools. Besides, the institution is using various online tools including Google Classroom, Google Meet, Big Blue Button, Cisco WebEx, and Microsoft Team tools.
Emphasizing the use of University email and class WhatsApp groups for communication and information sharing between lecturers and students.
Improving the Student Management Information System (SMIS) to coordinate teaching and learning, online examinations, and research project supervision.
Capacity Building on the use of e-Learning Tools
The university organized a series of training sessions for faculty members on the use of e-learning tools to ensure students receive a high-quality education while staying safe. Furthermore, administrative and technical staff have been trained to enable them to provide essential support services to the faculty and students. The training focused on synchronous and asynchronous tools such as Google Meet, Google Classroom, Moodle LMS, Cisco WebEx, and Microsoft Teams to boost the interactions with learners for tutorial sessions and supervision of postgraduate students see appendix I on some training schedules.
Students were sensitized and trained on how to access and navigate the LMS and interact with the course instructors and content. The training focused on the use of Google Meet, Google Classroom and Moodle LMS tools. For students with poor network coverage, the university provides endless learner resources including the playback lecture videos and audios and courseware packages. Also, students with disabilities and other special needs are supported individually as cases arise see appendix II on some training schedules for learners.
Courseware Development and Production
The Open Distance and eLearning (ODeL) Campus in collaboration with the ICT department has continued to support the faculty to develop and upload course materials on the LMS. Also, the faculty members have been trained on the development of modules and pedagogical styles through a series of online meetings. Appendix III indicate some of the courses available in the LMS
Research Project/Dissertation/Thesis Supervision
The university uses the recently approved procedure for the supervision of research assessment online to allow for continuing candidates to complete their pending work in readiness for graduation. Student supervision is managed through online platforms such as email and video conferencing.
Remote Access to Learning Resources
The University multimedia portal enables the students to access learning materials in the LMS. Also, the faculty and students have been trained on how to register and access the library e-resources through remote access using VPN and Remotexs.
Students Assessment Criteria
The University Senate recently approved the use of online tools to administer exams and other assessments. The faculty and have been trained on the various online platform on how to set and administer examinations online. Also, training sessions have been conducted to familiarize the students on various mechanisms of how to perform online examinations. See appendix IV on schedules for training staff and students on online examinations.
Likewise, the University continues to remind faculties and staff on various existing policies and procedures on how to conduct examinations and other forms of assessments. For instance, on May 26, 2020 the University conducted an e-exam using Google Classroom for more than 20 Masters students at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). The invigilators used Google Meet to monitor the process (see appendix V for exam schedule sample).
Conducting Online Surveys on User Experience
The University continues to conduct customer satisfaction surveys to gauge the readiness and perception facing the users of e-learning tools. The feedback from reports has enabled the University to take necessary measures to mitigate the challenges facing online learning.
Quality Assurance Mechanisms
The University has put in place various quality assurance measures to ensure the continuous delivery of quality education to its learners. These measures include:
- Promation of various sub-committees to review the regulatory frameworks on online teaching and learning and other services of the university.
- Review of academic processes and procedures in the QMS to address online teaching and learning see appendix VI on processes under review
- Review of relevant university statutes to entrench electronic solutions in the conduct of university business.
- Adherence to statutory and regulatory bodies regulations which regulate curricula such as the Center for Legal Education (CLE).
- Conducting regular needs assessment surveys to devise mechanisms to mitigate quality pitfalls see appendix VII on sample survey results.
- Holding frequent consultative meetings with different service delivery units to address any challenges in service delivery.
- Enhancing the quality of service delivery by reviewing the monitoring and evaluation tools for teaching and learning and assessment.
- Constant communication with faculty and students.
- Development and deployment of quality assurance tools to assist academic units in self-assessment of service delivery see appendix VIII on sample self-assessment tool.
The University has put in place measures to ensure students including learners with disability and special cases access the learning materials. The following are the key measures:
Tutorial and Learner Support for Learners
The faculty, administrative and technical staff are working in collaborations to provide tutorial and learner support services to the students. Besides, the ODeL learning centres across the country have continued to support the students with access to e-learning materials, library resources and research project supervision. See appendix IX on number on students trained on use of online learning.
Provision of subsidized Data Bundles
Bridging the digital gap by partnering with the network provider Telkom Kenya to provide subsidized data bundles known as “Soma na Telkom Data Bundles” to enable faculty and students to access e-learning from home. See appendix X on sample of students and staff benefitting from the subsidized data bundles.
Enhancement of Online Interactions
The ongoing face-to-face lectures were substituted with e-learning through various tutor-learner and learner-learner interaction platforms. These have facilitated effective sharing of information, video/audio records, presentations, live online class discussions, and feedback from students. Also, the university is using the multimedia platform to provide access to learning materials for students See appendix III on available courses in LMS.
Provision of Technical Support
The University also provides technical support to the individual students with disabilities and other special needs especially on how to navigate the e-learning platforms and other related technological issues. There are dedicated learner support contact emails and telephone lines through the Customer Experience and Information Centre.
Provision of Guidance and Counseling Services
The institutional guidance and counseling department is offering online services to students with psychological challenges. Also, the academic units have established help desks to address students’ inquiries and clarifications.