ONLINE LEARNING

More Kenyan schools embrace Google Classroom

Several schools, which remain closed physically, have already moved their learning online

In Summary

•Oscar Limoke, the business development lead at PawaIT, a cloud solutions provider based in Nairobi, says Google Classroom enables users (teachers) to create an online classroom in which they can manage all the documents that their students need.

•In Italy, the system is supporting more than 28,000 public schools that were closed in February.

Kenya has moved to embrace e-learning.
Kenya has moved to embrace e-learning.
Image: File

Online learning may not replace traditional classrooms, but it holds the key to the future of education. 

And Kenyan schools are not being left behind.

According to Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has already prepared guidelines for e-learning. 

 
 
 

What remains for many parents and learners is the infrastructure, which may simply mean having a mobile phone or computer, and internet connection.

Several schools, which remain closed physically, have already moved their learning online. 

Google Classroom is currently the preferred method for such schools including elite institutions such as Rusinga and Makini schools. 

Early last month, the Italian government also moved its public education system online under Google Classroom, after the schools were closed following Covid-19 outbreak. 

According to Oscar Limoke, the business development lead at PawaIT, a cloud solutions provider based in Nairobi, Google Classroom enables users (teachers) to create an online classroom area in which they can manage all the documents that their students need.

Teachers can quickly see who has or has not completed homework, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in the classroom.

"Like other Google apps, it is available for free to schools," Limoke says. 

One of the best features of the Google Classroom is it is integrated with other Google services like Gmail, Google Docs, Driver, Sheets, and so on"
Oscar Limoke

Users need to download the app of Play Store or App Store, and log in. First, the teacher creates a unique class for every lesson that they teach.

"You that then can add students to your class manually, or they can join your class on their own through their own Google account, using a given class code," Limoke says.

The app, which has 100 million users worldwide, gives the teacher power to determine if the students are allowed to comment on the questions, announcements, and assignments that the teacher creates or if they can only post. 

"One of the best features of the Google Classroom is it is integrated with other Google services like Gmail, Google Docs, Driver, Sheets, and so on," he adds. 

It also allows the teacher to make announcements, to which his/her students can respond and the teacher can respond back, creating a thread. 

"The system has no ads, and never uses student or teacher content for advertising purposes," says Limoke. 

PawaIT is also a certified Google Cloud partner in Kenya. 

In Italy, the system is supporting more than 28,000 public schools that were closed in February.

Javier Soltero, a VP at Google in charge of G Suite, which houses Google Classroom, said he got an email in March from his team in Europe with an inquiry from Italy’s Minister of Education asking if Google’s platform was capable of moving the entire country’s school system online immediately.

“Several sleepless days and nights later, the service was up and running for millions of children in Italy," he told Bloomberg News.

By end of March, the app had more than 50 million downloads on the Play Store and was the number one education app on Android.

Education CS George Magoha
CHALLENGE: Education CS George Magoha
Image: JACK OWUOR

According to CS Magoha, 'most' Kenya secondary school students have access to smartphones and can take part in e-learning.

He spoke before the National Assembly Education Committee on May 7.

“If you go to any secondary school, you will be shocked. It is only that we do not allow them. If we allowed them to carry phones to school, you will realise that all the secondary school students have smartphones," Magoha said.

However, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, many of them lack the internet at home.

Unesco estimates that around 56 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, live in areas that are not served by mobile networks.

"Efforts to provide connectivity to all must be multiplied," says Teacher Task Force, an international alliance coordinated by Unesco, using data from the UN agency’s Institute for Statistics and the International Telecommunication Union.