Among the various DE degree programmes currently being implemented by most of the Kenyan public universities, this is among the few courses that was designed and implemented to meet the needs of distance learning. The course, which is under the auspices of the College of Adult and Distance Education, Faculty of External Degree Studies, was launched in the mid-1980s with financial support from the British Council. As expected the development, production and dissemination of distance learning materials requires adequate resources (money, skilled personnel and technical equipment and materials) if the full potential of the various media used is to be realized. The preparation of good quality, self-instructional materials for distance learners can be difficult and at times, time consuming, if they have to be pedagogically sound i.e. adapted to the situation of the distance learner, for use by large numbers of students.
Financial support from the British Council made it possible for the development of course programmes and simplified students’ handbooks. As a start, it was decided to begin with a B.Ed. degree programme based on the course units followed by then Kenyatta University College, which was a constituent college of the University of Nairobi. The bulk of the academic staff was therefore drawn from that college to train in distance learning techniques and to prepare course handbooks for students. The courses decided upon were in line with college’s B.Ed. degree programme. They included Educational Foundations, Educational Psychology, Educational Communications and Technology, Curriculum Development and Educational Administration, Planning and some key subjects taught at the secondary school level in Kenya which covered, Geography, History, Economics and Business Education, Secretarial Studies, Arts and Crafts, Home Science, Religious Studies, English and Kiswahili.
The course programmes and students materials seem to have been so successful that the college of Adult and Distance Education has had to reprint them for use in a number of DE programmes in the Eastern and Southern African region.
The B.Ed. Distance degree programme was designed to last 6 years and was open to the then ‘A’ levels candidates with particular preference to teachers and teacher trainers who held a teaching diploma and the SI teaching certificate holders. At the beginning the programme admitted around 600 students of whom close to 450 students were able to graduate, which considerably was quite successful considering the high attrition rate in some distance learning programmes.
The programme is divided into three levels with each level having two semesters of six months. Printed material (study units) each covering unit content equivalent to forty-five one-hour lectures. A minimum of 70 hours is needed by the candidate/student to study each unit.
Support services include face-to-face teaching, audiocassettes; library services other teaching/learning materials, which include identified key textbooks in each unit. Face to face teaching and learning include residential sessions for orientation, tutoring and counseling at the study centres. The college of Adult and Distance Education decided to use its provincial extra-mural centres as study centres. They currently provide facilities for learning and for individual and group tutoring and academic guidance and counseling. They also serve the basic function for information provision.
The examination mode includes continuous assessment tests in the form of written assignments, semester tests, demonstration, projects and a written examination for the end of each semester. To graduate a student requires passing 48 units.
(b) The School of Continuing Education – KenyattaUniversity
The School of Continuing Education at Kenyatta University runs mainly education programmes for the B.Ed. in Primary, Secondary and M.Ed. for Primary Teacher Education (PTE). The programmes were started in August 1998 for two main reasons:
To upgrade both primary and secondary school teachers in the country and
To generate income for the university in the light of sharply declining funding by the government.
As the programme was launched in a more or less ad hoc manner, Kenyatta University did not articulate specific objectives for the programmes, save for the course objectives for the various course units, which are a duplication of the various B.Ed. regular programmes that the university has been offering for many years. Consequently, save for the concept of ‘Continuing Education’ which according to one of the directors implies ‘life long learning’ namely to provide opportunities for people serving in various aspects of society to continue with academic and professional development, the programmes lack the basic elements of distance education.
The regulations for admission in the School of Continuing Education are generally silent on the specific clientele, that the programme targets except for the mention that candidates must fulfill the minimum entrance. The main motivation for launching these programmes and a similar one, which preceded them, intended to offer a graduate education diploma for institution based employees with either a B.Sc. or B.A. General was to generate extra funds for the university. Consequently, there was little thought put in the course designs and modes of delivery to ensure quality for participants to fully benefit from the large sums of money they pay in terms of fees. The full-time-institution-base mode of delivery candidates ends up receiving a very raw deal from the university. Their lectures are normally given during April, August and December vacations. Their courses are a replica of the regular B.Ed. degree courses and are expected to be covered in a much shorter time than for the regular students, a handful of topics are usually selected for teaching by the departments, and are generally no more than a third of what is taught to students in full-time normal university programmes. Furthermore examination questions are based on the same lectured topics. The end result is that students graduating from the School of Continuing Education have far less content than do students in the regular university degree programmes. There is therefore a very urgent need to review programmes offered by the School of Continuing Education for improvement or scrap them altogether since they are far below the quality of basic programmes offered by Kenyatta University to the regular students.