Assessment of the Status of E-learning as Course Delivery Method in Public Universities in Kenya
Murage, Michael Njagi
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e-Learning is the acquisition and use of knowledge distributed and facilitated primarily by electronic means through the multi-media , telelearning , the flexible learning and the intelligent flexible learning models. This form of learning currently depends on networks and computers but would likely evolve into systems consisting of a variety of channels like wireless, satellite and technologies like cellular phones as they are developed and adopted. e-Learning may incorporate asynchronous or synchronous access and may be distributed geographically with varied limits of time. The central problem in this study was that despite the fact that e-Learning as a mode of course delivery in institutions of higher learning in Kenya has several positive attributes which include: high degree of interactivity between users, capacity to cater for high enrolment against the background of insufficient physical facilities, promoting education for the working population at low opportunity costs, and reducing administrative loads by making routine information and resources available online among others, the paradox was that the emerging body of literature globally and nationally indicate that e-Learning as a mode of course delivery is not being practically implemented effectively and efficiently. As a consequence, full benefits could be realized by expanding the implementation of e-Learning to meet the high social demand for education and training in Kenya public universities and this could eventually enhance the capacity of educational planners and university management in broadening the market of university courses. To this end, this study was designed to determine the status of e-Learning as course delivery method and assess the range of barriers faced by public universities in implementing e-Learning. The specific objectives were six fold: assess the e-Learning components applied and status of e-Learning infrastructure in public universities in Kenya ;identify the features that are associated with the current e-Learning in public universities in Kenya; establish costs involved in development and production of e-Learning courses, maintenance of e-Learning courses in presentation, storage and delivery including transmission of e-Learning courses and materials in public universities in Kenya; determine the benefits of e-learning course modules from both the demand and supply sides; identify the constraints faced by the public universities in implementing e-Learning; and propose possible strategies and interventions that can be applied to improve dissemination of course modules via e-Learning in Kenyan public universities. The study adopted an exploratory descriptive survey design. The units of sampling were the seven public universities in Kenya. From each sampling unit the researcher collected data from all ICT managers/e- Learning directors and university e-Learning technicians and purposively sampled members of the academic staff on the criterion of their specialized role in e-Learning course delivery. The study utilized questionnaires, interview schedules, direct observation and observation schedules for data collection. The instruments were piloted to determine the reliability using split half method. Validity was determined using experts opinion. Data analysis was done using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The following conclusions have been drawn on the basis of results obtained from this study; universities make use of a variety of hardware in production, storage and distribution of the e- Learning courses. Universities endeavour to acquire the state of art hardware so as to be in line with changing technological trends; In reference to the software applied, it was concluded that universities make use of a variety of software. The use of assortment of software facilitates in performance and execution of the many e-Learning activities; The features of the hardware and software are custom made and support e-Learning activities; It was also found that different categories of staff are involved in development and transmission of e-Learning course modules; It was also concluded that, there are no students who undertake their courses purely via e-Learning rather what is applied is blended learning where both e-Learning and face to face sessions are utilized. In terms of the overall costs involved in production, development, storage, maintenance and transmission of the e-Learning course modules, it was found that the variation was not significant. The following recommendations were arrived at in the light of the study findings. e-Learning coordination to be restructured to be under ICT departments. It is also recommended that the server should be re-located to KENET offices. Students and staff should be encouraged and motivated to use the e-Learning systems through sensitization on matters related to e- Learning and its importance through seminars and training workshops. All lecturers should be trained and exposed to writing e-Learning materials and content development tools. Lecturers should be sponsored to e-Learning conferences and establish a directorate to specifically handle e-Learning issues.