Our goal is to admit distance learning students. We shall take education to their doorsteps, reaching them online from their geographical locations. Learning in UoEm has no boundary barriers and no time limitations. Learn anytime, anywhere. All you need is an electronic gadget (smartphone, laptop, desktop computer etc) connected to the internet. Learning for our distance learners (both local and international) will have flexibility. At UoEM ODeL you achieve your academic goals as you build your career. The University is guided by an elaborate ODeL Policy.
Since March 2020, the University of Embu (UoEm) has achieved milestones in online and blended learning:
Since March 2020 to-date, the University has:
1. Successfully completed the work for Semester 2, 2019/2020 through blended learning.
2. Successfully completed the work for Trimester 2019/2020 through blended learning.
3. Successfully completed the work for Semester 1, 2020/2021 through blended learning.
4. Successfully completed the work for Semester 2, 2020/2021 through blended learning.
5. Successfully completed the work for Trimester 2020/2021 through blended learning.
This successful teaching and learning through blended learning has been realized as a result of the University putting the following into place:
1. Installation of two e-Learning Platforms for teaching and learning:
a. Moodle Learning Management System
The University has installed the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS), which is an e-Learning Platform that has many functionalities, is user friendly and flexible. There are over 500 plug-ins that can be integrated into this LMS to enhance online teaching and learning.
b. Web Conferencing e-Learning Platform
The University realized the importance of teacher-student contact in real time. This has led the University to install two web conferencing e-Platforms namely: the UoEm Web conferencing e-Platform and the Kenya Educational networks (KENET) Web Conferencing e-Platform.
2. The University strengthened the ICT infrastructure by increasing internet bandwidth and buying new Servers to support online/blended learning.
3. The University trained all academic staff in LMS and online facilitation. This has been achieved 100%. Training sessions are continuous.
4. Trained students in online learning. Training for students is continuous.
5. Departmental Subject Experts are continually developing course content for online learning and uploading them on the LMS. The course content developed is well researched to ascertain quality.
6. All Academic staff are using the e-Platforms to engage students in a variety of online class activities either synchronously, asynchronously or both.
7. Academic staff are using Web Conferencing platforms with ease to give lectures and interact with students in real-time (synchronous).
8. Uploaded on the LMS are the interactive modules, course outlines, course descriptions, and supplementary materials in various formats (audio, video, MS word, pdf, pictorial, illustrations etc.)
9. Students are accessing the online course content, participating in discussion forums, chats, wikis, quizzes, e-Projects, e-Case studies, assignments, continuous assessment tests online through the LMS.
10. Students are accessing thousands of e-Journals and e-Books online through the University e-Library.
11. The University appointed Online Teaching and Learning (OTL) Champions for the various teaching departments.
12. Developed an ODEL and Blended Learning Policy.
13. Developed an ODeL Strategic plan.
15. The University has a website with information about online learning/blended learning. (http://www.embuni.ac.ke/odel).
16. Developed a Moodle Module for staff to navigate through the LMS.
A short guide on online teaching was developed. The guide contains the following:
- A simplified step-by-step guide on navigation starting from how to log in all the way to evaluation of the system.
- A PowerPoint presentation concerning tools lecturers can utilize when teaching using Web Conferencing e-Platform.
- Videos on the same which were uploaded in the E-Learning platform and Facilitators are encouraged to use them in their navigation of the Moodle platform.
UNIVERSITY OF EMBU HAS OVERCOME CHALLENGES THAT COME WITH BLENDED LEARNING
1. Adaptability Difficulties and Attitude Change
The Covid-19 Pandemic brought sudden changes to educational institutions with majority substituting the traditional face-face classroom with online learning. This face-to face classroom disruption disoriented many students and staff as they had to switch abruptly to a new mode of teaching and learning, the online learning.
The University held several meetings with heads of departments, schools and sections to discuss online/blended learning. Several training sessions for staff and students were held which have to a large extent demystified online learning.
Currently staff and students in the University have a positive attitude change and have wholly accepted the new blended learning with an open mind and heart. Understanding the benefits of e-Learning and even discussing them with their peers help to change an institution’s mindset and better prepare students for online classes.
2. Technological Issues
Globally, working with technology has never been easy and staff and students experienced technological issues. The University of Embu has overcome this challenge by conducting several training sessions at individual and/or organized groups. The staff and students have adjusted to online learning and are quite happy with the new mode of teaching and learning.
3. Internet Connectivity
The University provides free internet 24/7 to staff and students. When students are not on Campus, they continue enjoying internet access from the comfort of their homes because the University has negotiated with Internet service providers for provision of subsidized internet bundles. In addition, students are encouraged to periodically visit cybercafé’s in the urban centers and digital villages nearest to their homes where internet connection is available.
4. Computer Literacy
Computer literacy skills are offered to all new students self-training computer literacy tutorials as well as hands-on so that they are able to comfortably study online. Acquiring these literacy skills has made it extremely easy for students to participate in online classes without interruptions and hindrances.
5. Time Management
Students at University of Embu are sensitized to manage their time properly by logging on the e-Learning Platforms in good time before the classes commence. The Facilitator should find them already online. Thus, students are encouraged to log on Moodle e-Platform or the Web conferencing e-Platform for synchronous online classes fifteen or more minutes before the commencement of the online classes. This has led to students not missing classes. They are managing time appropriately.
Positive attitude give students self-motivation and help them overcome the challenges that come with e-Learning. The University has been sensitizing students on the importance of studying online. After more than one year of studying online, majority are comfortable with the online environment. They are self-motivated learning, doing engaging in online activities, doing and uploading their assignments on the LMS in time for marking and grading by facilitators.