Kenya’s Members of Parliament have endorsed the creation of the country’s pioneer online university, making it a new route to tertiary learning. Following the ratification of the charter for the institution, the National Assembly expects an initial intake of 7,100 admission seekers.
The school, named Open University of Kenya, will charge prospective students somewhere between Sh10,400 and Sh10, 900, depending on what the candidate wants to study. The OUK will be sited at the Konza Technopolis, a smart city set to accommodate Kenya’s next wave of tech innovations. It remains in development, though.
The Technical Committee on the Establishment of the Open University of Kenya revealed that it arrived at the above price range following extensive consultations with fellow open universities. Its report on the matter claimed that the committee also evaluated the concept of affordability before choosing that amount.
Programs like the Bachelor of Data Science, Bachelor of Economics and Statistics, Bachelor of Science in Business and Entrepreneurship, Bachelor of Technology Education, and Bachelor of Cyber Security and Digital Forensics would cost newly admitted candidates Sh10, 400 per module.
Those looking to bag a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences and Technology will pay Sh500 more per module. Full-time students are expected to register between four and six modules. Aside from regular Bachelor programs, the OUK will offer postgraduate courses. They are Diploma in Learning Design and Diploma in Leadership and Accountability. According to the technical committee, the above programs will cost Sh130,000 yearly.
Virtual learning is fast becoming a trend not just in the most technological advanced parts of the world, but also in developing regions like Africa. Online universities rely on information communication technology (ICT) and other tech-driven innovations, thereby making them a great choice for those seeking quality education coupled with in-demand skills.
However, they come with heavy operating costs thanks to the digital infrastructure they require to operate with. It’s no surprise that Kenya’s Presidential Working Group proposed an operating budget of Sh 1.8 billion for the OUK’s first years of existence. The money, which will be generated from Kenya’s taxpayers, will cover many early projects like the construction of physical facilities, ICT support infrastructure, procurement of instructional tools, learner support implements, and more.
Unlike the country’s government-owned institutions where 80% of their budgets go to settle staff salaries, just 30% of OUK’s budget would go to wages for employees. As such, a great percentage of the OUK staff will be offered any of the following kinds of employment: contract-based, part-time, and piece-work.
Online university and delivering quality education in Africa
Like other basic amenities like healthcare and roads, many Africans find it difficult to access decent education due to a plethora of reasons ranging from high costs to poor curriculum development. Those who can afford tuition fees for universities often have to deal with archaic instructional methods, ill-equipped science laboratories, overcrowded classrooms, and many more.
Nowadays, one doesn’t need to worry about the limited slots in public institutions or their notable infrastructure gap. The advent of online-based schools like Nexford University, a completely online university, and the African Virtual University brings modern-day technology for learning. It’s worth noting that these universities offer programs that, when studied, guarantee graduates a higher chance of employment. For instance, Nexford offers degrees in in-demand areas like Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence.
Although virtual universities can potentially grow future innovators on the continent, some barriers to online learning must not be ignored. Like fintech or telehealth services which aim to reach underserved communities, online universities also seek the same thing. However, the problem of low internet connectivity in some areas may negatively impact learners’ abilities to complete modules promptly.
Also worth noting is the issue of accreditation which has always plagued many private institutions. Before advertising its life-changing courses, virtual universities must ensure their courses are recognized by the country’s university commission. Affordability is another important topic. Admittedly, virtual learning comes with heavy costs, especially when the institution is starting fresh. However, an online university should consider the affordability factor before fixing tuition fees.
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