VIDEO: Online learning taking shape during COVID-19 pandemic

A screenshot of an online class.

The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted so many functions and operations across all sectors in all countries in the world.

Following the announcement of the first COVID-19 case in Kenya, the government directed all learning institutions to be shut down as one of the measures to stop the spread of the disease.

In response to the directive and to ensure that learning continuous, the University of Nairobi (UoN) embarked on a programme to train its staff and students to enable them conduct teaching and learning online.

The staff were trained on all available online teaching and learning tools and classes have already been rolled out.

Dr. Diana Marangu, a lecturer in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the School of Medicine has started teaching using these tools and says they are effective during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have been able to use these tools to share materials and interact with students through lectures and discussion sessions and chats. I have found classroom best for posting content before the lecture. This makes the students aware of what is going to be taught,” Dr. Marangu says.

She says the online teaching and learning tools are quite intuitive to use, and she keeps learning new functionalities every day. The reception by her students has been so good.

“The feedback from the students has been great! They are equally excited and very interactive during the sessions as they share presentations, generate discussions, ask questions in real time during the sessions, and also use the chat function,” the lecturer says.

Dr. Marangu’s sentiments were echoed by one of her students Bryan Mwendwa, who attended the lecture online.

“I am honestly impressed by the online lectures. Even without COVID-19 it has been more impactful that the physical classes. I think the comfort at home, no hustle of traffic and early morning rush makes all of us clear at mind and easier to digest and interact.

I felt like a postgraduate student again. This is an opportunity for the University to come up with a similar platform and encourage distant learning we can impact many more doctors in the counties,”Mwendwa said.

Dr. Marangu says these platforms are extremely useful during this Covid-19 pandemic when there is need to exercise physical distancing to help flatten the COVID-19 curve.

She looks forward to using both Zoom and the Google Classroom for teaching purposes even after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

“I think we can also leverage these online applications to conduct some practical sessions for instance by making or sharing videos to demonstrate and have the students demonstrate back the specific skill they have learned,” she says.

At the Department of Surgery, Prof. Nimrod Mwangómbe also held an online lecture to postgraduate students in neurosurgery. The lecture was attended by about 20 students. Also in attendance were Dr. Julius Kiboi, the Chair of the Department, Dr. Chris Musau and Dr. Vincent Wekesa.

Dr. Kiboi said lecturers in his department have found online teaching to be effective during this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

In a communication to teaching staff on 4th April, 2020, UoN Vice Chancellor Prof. Stephen Kiama said no one should be left behind and lectures should be recorded and shared with all students.

“For the sake of students who may have challenges to connect for some reasons, including timing of the lecture, it would be appropriate to record the sessions and share with them via email or WhatsApp,” the VC said.

He also urged them to hold tutorials and small group discussions with students. For post graduate students the VC asked lecturers to schedule seminar presentations and Journal clubs where the students may present and even lead in the discussions.