The world has a new disruptor – Covid-19 – which is forcing everyone to a ‘new normal’ of social distancing.
Workplaces and learning institutions have been ghosted, and homes are now functioning as the new learning institutions and work stations, even as people plan to keep life going, amid the invasion of Covid-19, which has infected over 3 million people globally and claimed over 240,000 lives.
How long it will take to control the pandemic remains a mystery, but one thing is sure: no one was prepared for this.
Those institutions are supporting their employees to work from home. Students have turned to online learning. But very few institutions seem to be ready for online learning, despite being highly recommended by the government.
This is the reason CPA John Kimani, an economic and business consultant, decided to develop Finstock LMS, cloud-hosted system supported by Google cloud that can host thousands of students for online learning and which can enable learning institutions to migrate their classes online.
The setup and training costs for the cloud-hosted solution is as low as Ksh39,000 ($390). In addition, small institutions with up to 300 students get free hosting and this package. Institutions with 301-500 students pay an additional monthly leasing fee of Ksh50,000 ($500) which approximates to about Ksh100 ($1) per user per month.
There are also higher packages with the upper limit of 1,000, 1,500, 2,000, 2,500, and unlimited users. Institutions with financial capability that want to save further costs can avoid the monthly leasing with a one-off purchase of Ksh6,000,000.
“The ability to lease a cost-efficient cloud-based LMS such as Finstock LMS, implies that institutions can avoid the costly purchase of servers, and also avoid the costly maintenance and customization costs that become necessary with open source LMS. Furthermore, there is no need to incur costs for in house developers,” says Mr Kimani.
Kimani says that the project is one of the most secure, as it is hosted on Google Cloud unlike others hosted on resident servers, which are prone to hacking and hard to customize. “It is for this reason that the majority of private colleges under the umbrella body of Kenya National Association of Private Colleges (KENAPCO) have opted for this LMS,” he says.
“Regular updates to an LMS are easy to make when an LMS is hosted in the cloud as opposed to when it is hosted in resident servers. Again, the current trend is to go for shared infrastructure and avoid redundancies by investing in inhouse servers,” he adds.
Kimani says that Finstock LMS is like an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that captures user data from the point of enrollment, payments, performance, and progress, system use, certifications, making it effective in monitoring and implementing online learning in Kenya, a country recording rapid technological internet penetration.
“Of special mention is the Finstock LMS ability to manage faculty members/teachers, by assessing their performance in line with the system set requirements and compensating them via M-Pesa and PayPal. Plans are underway to introduce MTN, Tigo, Airtel, and other African mobile money transfers mechanisms,” he says.
The system can also incorporate third-party applications such as Zoom, Chat, Video, Audio applications, as well as social media functions.
Finstock LMS can also be integrated with school systems used to capture and store students’ or teachers’ data, hence enabling remote operations.
“Schools, colleges and universities need to prepare for the online revolution and to do this, they need to invest in cost-efficient, cloud-hosted, scalable, ERP and data management enabled, versatile learning management solutions. This will not only enable them to strategically respond to the turbulence brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic but also give them a strategic pose for the post-Covid-19 era,” he says.
According to Datareportal, there were 22.86 million internet users in Kenya in January 2020. The number of internet users in Kenya increased by 3.2 million (16%) between 2019 and 2020. Internet penetration in Kenya stood at 43% in January 2020. This sets one of the best environments for online learning.
Online learning is being fronted as the next phase of the education system in Kenya, where institutions of higher learning will halt the development of new campuses and instead open avenues for online learning. Currently, there are 22 public universities, 14 chartered private universities and 13 universities with Letter of Interim Authority (LIA).
Schools, colleges and universities need to prepare for the online revolution and to do this, they need to invest in cost-efficient systems.
Most of these universities open campuses which are way too expensive for them and for the students, for courses that can be taught online with minimal physical interaction.
The use of resources such as the Finstock LMS could save the institutions a lot of money, that can be used in other forms of educational development. “Data Management through an ERP enabled LMS is a must-have for all institutions that want to gain a competitive edge through information insights contained in big data,” says Kimani.
John Kimani Profile
CPA John Kimani is an experienced economic and business consultant who has wide experience in economics, accounting, auditing and business management. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in Economics (UON), and a PhD candidate in Finance (OUT). He has a Master of Arts in Economics (UON), a Bachelors Degree of Commerce (Finance Option-UON), a CPA (K) and a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). He is currently the CEO of FinstockEvarsity College.