|Name of Innovation:||
The closure of learning institutions due to COVID-19 halted learning and training of more than 400,000 students in Kenya’s TVET sector. Moreover, the country experiences uneven distribution and quality of telecommunication services, which, together with the related costs, have rendered it unfeasible for most students to access education through typical e-learning services. What is more, though private institutions and universities (public and private) are increasingly adopting e-learning solutions, the public technical institutes, particularly Vocational Training Centres (VTCs), have been left out, mainly because they have been devolved to the county governments, hence uneven and low funding on such issues. Additionally, most institutions deploying e-learning platforms are doing so in their individual capacity, thereby suppressing the power of connectivity, especially regarding data and data analytics. Thus, these and other problems create space for an innovative, scalable, and flexible Learning Management System (LMS) that not only solves COVID-19 challenges but also launches a new teaching and learning paradigm.
|Description of Innovation:||
The innovation is a Learning Management System (LMS) that goes beyond solving COVID-19 challenges but also connecting schools and automating learning/teaching/assessment of students in the TVET sector while considering constraints such as cost, quality, and availability of telecommunication services (e.g. Internet).
Notably, the innovation is unique in various ways. Firstly, unlike the standard e-learning solutions that target individual institutions, this LMS uses a multi-tenant architecture (multi-college approach), where unlimited training/educational centres (institutions) can be registered on the platform and allowed to create unlimited courses and enrol users (students, instructors, and facilitators) – while maintaining their individualities. The result is a network of connected schools, which translates to the generation of useful and rich data, insights, and analytics. Secondly, through its mobile-application version, the innovation leverages the high penetration rate of smartphones in Kenya to allow students to download course contents while on the Internet – thereby enabling them to interact with the platform without Internet connectivity – and synchronize/upload their offline activities when they are back online, hence supporting uninterrupted learning even in remote areas and for students who rely on school Wi-Fi – Internet connectivity is among the major issues hindering the adoption of such innovations. Thirdly, in the realization that a good proportion of courses in the TVET sector are practical in nature, the innovation includes learning activities and resources that support visual-online demonstrations and presentations, such as online classes (with collaborative tools such as whiteboard, webcam, screen sharing, break out rooms, etc.), workshops, media collection, etc. Thus, the innovation not only addresses COVID-19 challenges but also launches a new sustainable teaching/learning paradigm.
The innovation can be scaled sustainably through various steps. Firstly, using the same multitenancy architecture, the LMS can be advanced to enhance system abstraction and ensure that institutional platforms/portals are customized and seemingly ‘independent’ while still remaining connected. Secondly, by paying subscription fees, institutions will be granted access to the e-learning platform, where they can enrol their users (students, instructors, etc.) and use the many learning activities and resources. On this note, private donors and governments can partner to cater for the subscriptions, hence allowing the organization to offer free access to the platform to all (or target) TVET institutions. Collaborations with the public and private sectors will be sought to promote the innovation as an enabler or starting point of either a hybrid (physical plus online) or fully online learning/teaching paradigm – in the place of the current physical in-class learning.
Though the innovation is still young, it is already making a wide-reaching positive impact. The current implementation of the innovation (http://bestlms.org/) involves a non-governmental agency called CAP Youth Empowerment Institute (YEI) Kenya. CAP YEI has 32 educational centres across the country, and it mentors about 145 government Vocational Training Centres (VTCs), all of which were affected by the government-closure of schools in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the adoption of this Learning Management System, these training centres (about 177) have already resumed learning through either a hybrid system that includes online learning and physical in-class learning or a full e-learning paradigm, all supported by this innovation.
Currently, about 4,966 users (students, instructors, etc.) have been registered on the platform and enrolled/mapped to respective courses and training centres. Furthermore, on top of the 32 CAP YEI educational centres, about 130 VTCs across more than 26 counties in Kenya have been registered on the system. What is more, at least 500 technical and life skills courses have been created, with some of them already recording completion rates. Regarding the mobile version (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.apps.capyeilms), the application has been downloaded over 500 times on Google's Play Store, and the current version (1.0.3) is rated 4.8 out of 5.0. Thus, although the innovation has been in the market for only a few months, it is already showing tangible results that can be leveraged to scale up the platform even further.
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