Mobile phone platform set to enhance university access

Prospective students with smartphones will soon be able to access and undertake degree programmes from anywhere in the world under an innovative new distance learning initiative offered by a Kenyan private university and a United States company.

Daystar University, one of Kenya’s most popular private universities, is partnering with Silicon Valley-based education and social venture firm One University Network Inc or OneUni to offer what the Daystar website claims is the “world’s first smartphone-based degree programme”.

Known as Daystar Mobile, the mobile learning platform will kick off with a bachelor of education degree commencing on 5 September. The degree targets teachers employed in primary and secondary schools who hold diplomas and certificates.

“As the platform is scalable we are targeting thousands of students with the Daystar partnership,” OneUni marketing director Christine Mwaura told University World News.

“With the BEd programme we are targeting primary school teachers with P1 certification looking to gain a degree, as well as potential teachers. The postgraduate diploma in education is targeting teachers who already have a degree and are currently employed as untrained graduate teachers,” she said.

The programme

Individuals who attained university entry marks (C+ and above) but never secured a placement due to limited seat capacity at universities or for other reasons that led to a delay in acquiring a degree, are also targeted.

Students register by providing the required documents via email to a contact centre or they can self-register by visiting the university website. They will then receive an email confirming their eligibility for the degree as well as further information on fee payment and the commencement of classes.

On registration they receive a link to download the application from Google Play Store to access learning material. Some course content can be downloaded on other android devices such as a tablet or laptop.

A pilot of the programme was conducted between April and July in Kenya ahead of the launch in September.

Courses will be globally accessible to registered students with smartphones. Students have the benefit of studying at their own convenience. The system is also supported by a toll-free number through which learners can identify the courses they are interested in pursuing.

An all-inclusive fee covering data, examinations, library access and other costs traditionally charged by universities will apply although these fees can be paid in monthly instalments.

“We are also offering students the opportunity to pay their semester fees in four monthly instalments, making Daystar Mobile affordable and accessible,” said Mwaura.

The app will contain all class materials including videos, readings and interactive exercises. Students can also interact with the Daystar faculty who oversee their work. After successful completion of classwork, learners will be required to sit invigilated final exams in secured testing centres, she said.

‘Huge potential’

Emphasising the benefits of the new platform, Daystar University Vice-chancellor Timothy Wachira said: “Every day we see qualified and deserving students who are not able to access higher education and Daystar Mobile will help us address this issue."

According to OneUni Chief Executive Officer Gene Wade, the partners in Daystar Mobile are confident that the distance learning project has huge potential to increase access to university education in Kenya and throughout Africa.

“Kenya has been a leader in the adoption of different mobile phone apps and we are confident that through Daystar Mobile, the country will become the leader in mobile higher education,” said Wade.

The partnership also hopes to take advantage of Kenya’s mobile phone culture, which sees millions of people using mobile phones for money transfers and other business-related activities.

According to news reports earlier this year, Nairobi-based Strathmore University also signed a deal with OneUni, which will see the institution develop smartphone-based degree and certificate programmes which were due to be offered later this year.