Kenya’s education system is facing the right kind of problem. One of the youngest and fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s experiencing a boom in demand for higher education and needs to modernize.
As it stands, there aren’t enough teaching resources to cope with large numbers of young university applicants. In a way, it’s a good problem, one that stems from encouraging socio-economic development and a diversifying economy. And it seems Kenya’s educators are taking the right approach to solving it. They are embracing new methods of teaching, new ways of improving teaching standards, and new ways of tailoring courses to the needs of the economy.
Video conferencing in higher education has become one of the key technologies for delivering those improvements, and it could help meet the demand for world-class education.
A Growing Demand for Learning
According to an October 2017 report from the World Bank, enrollment in Sub-Saharan higher education courses is growing at a rate near double that of the world average. The region is building on a relatively low base beginning in the 1970s, so the raw numbers aren’t nearly as large as North America or Europe, but the trend is clearly positive.
Educartis, an online education platform the operates across Africa, has said the spike in university demand over recent decades has been caused by globalization and a government focus on higher education as a driver of socio-economic growth. It has argued that investment in new technologies like online learning and personalized course structures is needed to meet the demand.
That’s a message reflected in the initiatives of Mount Kenya University, a private institution promoting the use of video conferencing and virtual classrooms. The school’s leaders have said virtual learning is the most viable method for meeting the nation’s educational and economic needs.
The Dynamic, Virtual Classroom
Dr. Benson Njoroge, Dean of Mount Kenya’s School of Education, believes technology is the defining aspect of 21st-century education, and that video-based, virtual learning environments are integral to improving Kenya’s educational standards.
“… Learning is no longer restricted to the four walls of a classroom (same space and same time). With virtual classrooms, learning can now take place anywhere, everywhere, anytime.” – Dr. Benson Njoroge, Mount Kenya University
It’s an approach VC Daily has seen implemented in schools across the U.S. Video conferencing is being used to take students on virtual field trips, to invite guest experts into the classroom, to foster direct conversation between students across state and international borders, and to flip the very nature of the classroom and place the emphasis on student-led learning.
At Mount Kenya University, where Dr. Njoroge is Dean of the School of Education, video conferencing is being used to aid both students and teachers. It’s a cost-effective way to bring people together, and a way to encourage discussion instead of traditional, structured lectures. Dr. Njoroge has led several initiatives to maximize the potential of video calling in a higher education environment.
Video Conferencing in Higher Education Maximizes Resources
Mount Kenya’s flagship education courses rely heavily on alternative teaching methods. Its Bachelor, Postgraduate Diploma, and Masters degree courses are delivered through one-third in-room lessons and two-thirds web-based learning. Students are encouraged to seek each other out online through chat rooms and discussion forums to continue the in-room debates among themselves after class time is over.
Then there are the virtual classrooms. In these digital forums, students are led through discussions over a video call, with a single teacher guiding the session. The University uses a specialized platform tailored to educational needs, and the online classroom functions much like a traditional in-room tutorial. The lessons can be customized to the needs of individual students or quickly updated to reflect the gaps and opportunities in the wider workforce.
“Virtual classrooms are also great options for impromptu meetings and group projects where members need to check-in on progress and bounce ideas off one another.” – Dr. Benson Njoroge, Mount Kenya University
Dr. Njoroge also encourages teachers to use online meetings to improve their connections with other professionals, and to upgrade their own skills over web-based career development programs.
The overriding potential of video conferencing in the classroom is to maximize teaching resources. One teacher operating remotely from a central location can oversee the lessons of dozens of students across different campuses and institutions. Much as it does in the medical field, video conferencing allows limited expert resources to go much further–without incurring any travel costs. It reduces the need for brick-and-mortar infrastructure and helps keep bright young professionals in their local areas.
In Kenya, video conferencing is beginning to form the backbone of a modern, expanded education system that takes advantage of the emerging talent within a country desperate to join the globalized workforce.