Opinion: UoN embraces covid-19 pandemic new online initiatives

Dr. Joseph Kimani Wanjeri, Dept of Surgery Lecturer and Web Champion.

The covid-19 pandemic which has ravaged the world in 2020 will be remembered for having caused many unfortunate deaths around the world. In days to come, it will also be remembered for other bad things as well as some good effects in social life and in industries such as education.

In April 2020 the world saw the necessity of starting to develop a new modus operandi. 

Schools, colleges and universities in Kenya had been closed since March 2020 but learning could not stay in abeyance indefinitely. Professor George Magoha the Cabinet Secretary for Education and member of the University of Nairobi (UoN) community directed that teaching be shifted to online. Naysayers gave reasons as to why this mode of teaching was not practicable. The government nevertheless went ahead to set guidelines for distance learning and directed the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to facilitate the process.

As a leading institution in the industry UoN adhered to the government directive and mandated the Open Distance and E-Learning (ODEL) campus to champion the initiative. The UoN Department of Surgery of the College of Health Sciences (CHS) located on UoN’s Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) campus quickly embraced the new teaching guidelines ordered by senate. Post-graduate lectures and presentations were the first to start and shortly thereafter online under-graduate teaching also commenced.

There was suddenly more teaching utilizing a modality which for some was novel and exciting. In some instances, the students appeared to learn the ropes faster that their lecturers and they happily and enthusiastically assisted in setting up Google Meet online classes. The lecturers soon became convinced that e-learning was the way forward and by the end of April 2020, both undergraduate and post-graduate online teaching was fully underway. Departmental meetings as well as School Board meetings are now also routinely virtual.

It is now quite evident that there will be a new norm going forward during and after covid-19 pandemic 2020. There have however been some shortcomings with the new e-learning at CHS. Foremost has been the challenge of conducting online clinical teachings. Deliberations are ongoing but in the end clinical teachings might have to be done post covid-19 pandemic or when the university re-opens. Another challenge has been the inability of some students to access the online classes due to lack of money to purchase internet data bundles. To tackle this challenge, UoN has collaborated with Telkom so that the students can have mobile phone lines and internet bundles.

ODEL campus and ICT teams continue to be very instrumental in the implementation of these changes training sessions for students and staff are ongoing. Online teaching is likely to continue even after covid-19 pandemic and it will complement the clinical teachings at CHS. The new teaching methods are aligned to UoN’s vision of being a world class university committed to scholarly excellence.

Written by DrJoseph Kimani Wanjeri,Dept of Surgery Lecturer and Web Champion