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Our discussion will focus on the use of tablets for learning by refugees and the assistance we provide through text messaging. The presentation will highlight the components of effective e-learning, the gaps we have observed to exist in communication, and the delivery of quality teaching and learning while using text messaging, tablets, and email. We shall emphasis on various components of online teaching and learning, show how text messaging facilitates learning, and what more is needed to complete the process.
World over e-learning has become an accepted part of educational delivery systems and coexists with the more traditional face-to-face delivery mode. The growth in distance education is linked to a variety of societal factors. Among the refugees the growth of distance learning can be associated with conflicts that lead to massive displacement of entire populations, many of whom end up living in host countries as refugees for many years and raise a new generation of homeless people.
Kenya has, over the years, played host to hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring war-torn countries like Somali, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. The Government of Kenya continues to pursue an encampment policy with regard to refugees. The Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps complexes are thus what the majority of refugees living in Kenya call home, and it is here that education, and other services, are provided. The encampment policy makes it difficult for refugees to acquire tertiary education through face-to-face mode. In the last 5 years, a Kenyan university’s refugee studies center has facilitated refugees in Dadaab to find a solution to their need for university education through distance learning mode of study.
Refugee students have enrolled in our university programs with scholarships from Danish Refugee Council, the University of Geneva and DFID through Borderless Higher Education for Refugee (BHER) Project.
Through the process of distance learning the students are expected to engage with the lecturers through the Moodle platform by having focus group discussion, chats, quizzes and video conferencing. The student is expected to do assignment and upload to the portal for the lecturer to mark online. Students are also expected to hold discussions with their peers online and post questions to the lecturer whose feedback is expected to fill the gap of knowledge for all students in the discussion.
Our observations through the last five years are that the students do not have enough interaction with the facilitator due to field challenges such as internet connectivity, lack of bundles, tablet operation failure due to overheating brought about by poor charging method and the high temperatures in North Eastern Kenya. Lack of electricity in their shelters and ill preparedness of computer technology are some of the factors the students have to battle with.
These factors derail their process of learning and a number get caught up by time and end up failing to succeed in their final exams. Others give up studies due to the challenges.
More often students have resolved to use emails to send assignments to lectures. Lecturers have also resolved to use emails and text messaging to deliver knowledge to students and that has helped to resolve crises situation. These methods enable the learner to interact with the lecturers and finally learn what would otherwise not work through the formal way. The learners can access the lecturer any time through text messaging and the lecturer can preserve time to respond to students even in informal time after working hours. This reduces the challenge of working online with students at planned timing which has proved not to work due to internet connectivity failure at times. The challenge to the use of text messaging and email by lecturers and students are that the process cannot be accessed by the University ICT administrators to audit and confirm that learning has taken place because these are not formalized tools of teaching and learning.
For success in the use of ICT technology students require an earlier preparation and understanding of what is required of them. This is necessary given that they are coming from a remote area and for the first time they are interacting with University education.
The discussion will highlight the gaps of preparedness for both students and lecturers and how text messaging, emailing, and other non-formal e-methods of teaching and learning can be formalized and enhanced to improve e- learning in protracted refugee environment.