Friday, February 16, 2024

The University of Nairobi, Maseno University, and Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, in collaboration with experts from Leibniz University Hannover (Germany) and Kibabii University, spearheaded a groundbreaking workshop aimed at internationalizing the curriculum from February14th-16th 2024. This event, titled “The Role of Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) and Virtual Exchanges in promoting Internationalization at Home in Higher Academic Institutions in Kenya,” marked a significant milestone as the first of its kind in the East Africa region. Bringing together 17 universities from Kenya and beyond, the workshop underscored the importance of prioritizing COIL and virtual exchanges in academia.

Dr. Ezekiel Onyonka Mecha, a distinguished COIL expert and senior lecturer at the Department of Chemistry, led the workshop. Dr. Mecha emphasized the pivotal role of internationalization in higher education, advocating for collaboration over isolated learning environments. He highlighted the necessity of breaking down silos and fostering partnerships to enhance educational experiences.

The workshop highlighted successful collaborations, such as the partnership between the University of Nairobi and Thomas More University of Applied Sciences in Belgium. Through online platforms, this collaboration has connected over 150 students across continents, facilitating shared learning experiences and cultural exchange.

The participation of over 17 universities globally and esteemed experts like Prof. Marcus Hope and Prof. Julius Maiyo further enriched the workshop. Their insights provided valuable guidance on navigating international collaboration, emphasizing the importance of global connections in higher education.

Under the DIES programme's National Multiplication Trainings, the workshop equipped participants with practical tools and knowledge. Through focused sessions on COIL, e-learning, and virtual technology, attendees gained expertise to leverage online platforms for international collaborations, enhancing the quality of education and fostering global connections within their institutions.

Prof. Kiama, the Vice-Chancellor represented by the Ag. DVC Academic Affairs Prof. Kerubo echoed the transformative potential of educational exchange, citing J. William Fulbright's words. Participants left the workshop not only with new skills but also with a commitment to advocate for internationalization within their institutions.

The workshop signaled a significant shift for the University of Nairobi towards embracing innovative approaches like COIL and virtual exchanges. By providing opportunities for students and staff to engage globally, the university aims to develop global competencies and cultivate responsible global citizens, contributing to a more connected and vibrant academic community.

Presentations and panel discussions during the three-day workshop addressed key concerns raised by stakeholders. Mr. John Orindi, Director of Corporate Affairs and Head of the International Office at UON, provided valuable insights during the workshop, shedding light on the university's dedication to fostering internationalization. He acknowledged both the supportive governmental policies for internationalization efforts and the challenges posed by certain policies. Despite aspirations for internationalization, resource allocation and prioritization remain significant challenges. The University of Nairobi (UoN) is dedicated to internationalization, aiming to create a diverse and inclusive academic environment. With 1,500 international students, 95 staff members, and over 1,000 partnerships, UoN focuses on promoting diversity, attracting global talent, increasing visibility in scientific publications, and creating local and international impact through strategic partnerships and research. Key initiatives include internationalizing curriculum and pedagogy, enriching students' experiences through cultural activities, special orientation, safe accommodations, scholarships, exchange programs, and international internships. Collaborations with renowned institutions further expand UoN's internationalization efforts.

The workshop also delved into the application of COIL, illustrating how virtual exchanges can facilitate collaboration among geographically distant participants. It emphasized the importance of effective partnerships with international collaborators, particularly in the post-COVID reality, where physical mobility is limited.

As universities strive for global visibility and impact, internationalization emerges as a crucial strategy. Over the past three years, the University of Nairobi has engaged in numerous collaborations with institutions worldwide, supported by grants like Erasmus, enabling staff and student mobility and fostering sustainable internationalization efforts.