With technology evolving at such a rapid rate, it is imperative that educational institutions equip students with technological skills that are essential for coping in the wider community. These skills are most effectively gained by learning with technology, rather than about technology (Albon et al., 2002). Education has been defined by the OECD (2019) as a medium of sociocultural, economic, environmental, and political advancement, largely attributed to the highly effective globalization and rate of technological advancements. These constant advancements in technology can have a profound effect on education (Brent, 2005). Similarly, education has been named by the the World Economic Forum, a key requirement in i) fully addressing 21st-century skills ii) prepare students for the evolving job market; iii) bridge the gaps that exist between the developed and developing world, iv) improve 21st-century skill performances based on countries’ respective outcomes (Anon, 2015).
Current Situation: Adoption of Online Learning Platforms in Kenyan Educational System
Since the 1900s, the government of Kenya committed to expanding its education system to enable greater participation. This is in response to combat ignorance, disease and poverty as outlined in the African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya (Republic of Kenya, 1965). Supporting documents such as the 2005 sessional paper on Education and Training for the 21st century (MoE, 2004), the Vision 2030 guidelines (MoE, 2012), the country’s blueprint for Economic, Social and Political Development reaffirms the government’s commitment.
Reflections on the education system in Kenya take on the nature of the wider system: policy and legislative reforms, curriculum reforms, education innovations, skill-based approaches, industry and classroom linkages, acquisition of employable skills, lifelong learning, and the provision of education for the 21st century learner. Currently, it is the demand for change that propels education systems to produce a country’s innovators, inventors, creators, problem solvers, entrepreneurs, global citizens, changemakers, and critical thinkers. Consequently, rapid technological advancements and globalization, have offered varied opportunities (e.g., distance/online learning and informational exchange) for human development in the face of an uncertain future, which we must well prepare for. Children who joined learning institutions in 2015 for instance, will be young adults in 2030, and the education systems in place must prepare to offer such learners the much needed relevant and quality skills to help navigate future labor force and technologies, to address future problems (Ngware et al., 2019; Ochieng & Ngware, 2021).
Therefore, it has always been the desire of successive governments in Kenya to bring about system reforms in line with national and continental aspirations. However, Kenya has developed a new curriculum for a new era. The National Policy on Curriculum Reforms is guided by the vision of “Nurturing every learners’ potential” and is championed at the highest political levels by the Kenyan Head of State, His Excellency William Ruto. In line with Kenya Vision 2030 and the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the overall aim of our case study – Fort school hinges on the global shift towards e-learning to encourage optimal human capital development. Education should be viewed in a holistic spectrum that includes schooling and the co-curriculum activities that nurture, mentor, and mold the child into productive citizens. There are a number of challenges that face the use of e-learning systems in Kenyan high schools. Apart from inefficient ICT-related infrastructure such as electricity, (Sife et al., 2007), the internet connectivity is inadequate, expensive and poorly managed (Mtebe et al., 2014). Therefore, the three pillars of the ICT revolution, that is, connectivity, capacity and content, are major challenges to the adoption of the platform.
Proposed solution: Why Fort School?
Fort school is a proposed solution to Kenyan e-learning challenges. It is an e-learning platform that provides access to educational learning material through various forms like interactive videos, virtual classes that can be used by students, teachers and institutions. These learning materials found on the e-learning platform covers different levels of study from Primary School to High School education. A review of e-learning literature indicates that growth in technological education is increasing on both a global and national level (Holmes & Gardner, 2006). Since the inception of Fort school in Kenya, the proposed action plan is the future direction of ICT in the Kenyan high school curriculum.
In essence, Fort School ensures a practical approach (hands-on approach) for both students and teachers. The exact curriculum with normal school can be achieved via Fort school at the comfort of your house with adequate learning, infrastructure of technology and professional development made available for students, which is an advantage. Learning has been made more fun at Fort School for all social groups to have access to the same study materials regardless if they can afford textbooks or not.
Learning indicators are a measure used to track progress towards objectives or to monitor the education outcomes for the country. In the field of education, Kenya typically collects average scores on a standardized reading assessment for each grade to monitor how well students are meeting basic benchmarks as they progress in reading. The selling point of Fort school is that it employs learning educators and the current curriculum of Kenyan high school to ensure that every student signed up on the platform gains the best learning experience suited to their needs. Made available on the platform are tips on how to pass the Kenyan National Exams for both Primary and Secondary school (KCSE & KCPE) students. Furthermore, everyone has access to past questions and marking schemes to aid their study process. If there are any problems encountered during study, students can ask questions at any time and it is guaranteed that they will receive a prompt response from the available examiners. To test how they have been able to assimilate the recorded lesson and educational material on the platform, students are encouraged to attempt quizzes which will be automatically graded.
Response of Kenyan Schools to Online Learning
It is important to use data to gauge how Kenyan students will respond to online learning platforms as an embraced form of learning in the form of education technologies (EdTech) (Government of Kenya, 2020). Evidence from the qualitative findings indicates that the online approach is perceived to be inherently devoid of disruptions and distractions associated with onsite or physical classroom teaching and learning. However, for children who are not attending high-end private schools, the above experience is impractical. This is considering the inherent limitations in their learning discourse insofar as learning through EdTech is concerned. Such limitations include unreliable electricity connectivity since most online platforms rely on electrical power to function, yet a huge proportion of learners hail from rural and remote areas that are largely marginalized and have no electricity and internet connection (Mccrocklin, 2019). Worse still, learners from marginalized areas may come from households that do not own or have access to any electrical or digital device that aids in virtual learning (Mccrocklin, 2019). In fact, such households fall in the bottom quintile in which <12% have no functional TV (Kenya National Bureau of Statistic, 2020a; Mccrocklin, 2019).
Effectivity of an online learning platform
Hill (2012) defined an OLP as “a framework of tools, online services and resources that work seamlessly together to deliver a learning experience by unifying educational theory and practice, technology and content”. The online platform should facilitate an authentic learning environment, supporting students in the development of their employability competences, including reflection. The use of tools, online services and resources does not need to be restricted to only formal institutional applications. Social media such as blogs and provide wikis can also be part of an OLP that fosters reflection (Dabbagh and Kitsantas, 2012). Many higher education institutions (HEIs) experiment with online tools, services and resources to enhance learning including reflection (Ebner et al., 2019; Reese, 2015). The use of technology in education varies from virtual courses to blended learning formats wherein online learning functions as a supplement to face-to-face interactions. Online learnings students with synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities in both an individual and a collaborative way (Francis and Shannon, 2013; Reese, 2015).
The role of technology in the education space is undisputed, as it is a key enhancer of education on many fronts, including facilitation, improved student engagement and collaboration, utilization across levels of learning, opportunities for practical hands-on learning, and enhancement of learners’ confidence levels (Costley, 2014). For this reason, it is imperative that Africa, and in particular, the sub-Saharan African (SSA) region, transforms its education system and embrace online platforms such as fort schools in education if it must convert its demographic dividend—young population—into knowledge capital that is equipped to offer a sustained quality, relevant, and inclusive education that meets international labor force standards.
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