Monday, May 6, 2013

Latest Internet and mobile apps designed to help learners

By WILSON MANYUIRA wilsonmanyuira@yahoo.com

Internet and education are no strange bed fellows. From websites for online registration, portals for internal communication and software’s for virtual learning, we now even have a website for reporting corrupt lecturers (Kenya.notinmycountry.org).

In the past few months, websites, software’s and mobile apps aimed at Kenya’s education sector have been created. We examine some of the latest inventions in this sector.

Uni-soft

One of the mobile apps is Uni-soft. It was created by John Mang’uru and Muriithi Wachira. The two are computer engineering students at Kenyatta University.

“Uni-soft is a one-stop mobile application that provides academic information about universities, colleges and polytechnics that are approved in Kenya,” Mang’uru volunteers. “You do not have to run up and down collecting pamphlets and enquiring about institutions that you are willing to join. Uni-soft does that for you.”

So how does the app function? It starts with one downloading the app from Ovistore and Getjar free of charge, followed by creation of an account. “By use of a search dialogue box, Uni-soft displays the cut-off points for enrolling in degree programmes in different universities, and offers other details,” Wachira explains.

He and Mang’uru have co-founded AppFrame Developers, an ICT company through which they wish to foster their techpreneurial skills.

Critics dismiss Uni-soft as a good innovation with no tangible benefits. Wachira laughs it off and says: “Anything that saves you time, money and energy by making work easier is definitely a relief.”

The two expect to get revenue through commercial adverts that can be incorporated on the application.

Shakili.com

The most recent creation is Shakili.com. It went live on April 13. It is owned by a company called socialProClubs.

The website name is derived from the words “share” and “akili” the latter being Kiswahili for knowledge. Shakili, therefore, stands for, “share Knowledge”. It is the brain child of Muthuri Kinyamu, a Bachelor of Commerce graduate of the University of Nairobi, a blogger, social media strategist and the CEO or SocialProClubs.

He explains what it is about: “Shakili.com is a hybrid learning platform that connects educators to students by enabling users to set up e-schools to share knowledge and content.”

He continues: “Through shakily, lecturers and teachers can create, upload and share digital educational content in various formats with students, thus making learning more fun and enjoyable.”

The idea developed after the Information PS, Dr Bitange Ndemo, gave a keynote speech during the launching of socialProClubs at the University of Nairobi and hinted at potential business areas in education.

A bulb lit in Mr Muthuri head and he approached a designer and a software engineer to put together his ideas into action. Nick Stewart a graphic designer and art director, and Zack Kiuna, a computer engineer and a PHP developer at Squad solution, were instrumental in actualising his dreams.

The three of them worked for close to six months before unveiling their work in mid April.

How does one use the website? “To use shakili.com, one creates an account and then logs on to create schools and join others that have been created by other users,” explains Muthuri. A school in this context is an equivalent of a faculty, college, or department in a university.

“After creating or joining schools, one can search to see if his/her course has been added by someone else or not. If not, you add and then begin uploading educational materials that are relevant to the course,” Mr Muthuri adds.

“Our focus now is not to make money but to build a platform that delivers local educational content in a social and organised way for downloading and viewing anywhere, anytime,” he concludes.

Kenyaschoolreport.com

This site combines most of the features in the other two innovations. It was founded by Abraham Tumuti, the CEO of Greda Studio Ltd-Kenya.

Apart from ranking schools of all levels, Kenyaschoolreport.com also provides detailed information about the schools, colleges, and universities in the country.

This helps to educate students and parents when making a selection.

Mr Tumuti holds a BSc in management information systems.

The information is classified into different strata, according to their perceived relevance to specific users.

For example, educators will get information about professional development, special needs students, technology for teaching and educational resources, among others.

A student will get information about careers, scholarships, learning tools, and so on.

Administrators of learning institutions can access information on school safety, administration, school management tools, special reports and news and events about education.

The learning institutions are ranked on diverse factors, including class size, teacher training and continuing professional development, school programmes, amenities, use of technology, and, academic excellence.

The institutions can be searched on the basis of the grade level (primary, Secondary, tertiary, university), type of school (private or public) and the constituency it is located in.

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