KENET support for research and education during COVID-19
Concerted efforts to utilize technology in support of remote learning and teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic are emerging and evolving rapidly. The extraordinary disruption caused by the pandemic in member educational institutions has called for KENET to offer support and guidance on adopting innovative ways in ensuring continuity of learning in member institutions.
KENET's mandate is to transform research and learning using ICT and currently has a list of educational platforms, resources and services that are deliberately designed to benefit member institutions navigate smoothly towards remote learning and teaching.
1. Discounted APNOff-Campus or Home Internet Service
KENET partnered with both Telkom and Safaricom PLC (local mobile operators) to provide internet services through what is called APN services that leverage on the 3G/4G GSM networks. In this arrangement, KENET provides IP bandwidth capacity that facilitates access to the global Internet, Research and Education Services while the mobile operator provides last mile access to eligible users using special 3G/4G SIM cards.
The APN service eliminates the requirement of whitelisting both mobile numbers and websites. Mobile subscribers using the APN service access Internet services seamlessly as if they were on their respective campuses. The APN service works best when used on Mi-Fi devices or 3G/4G routers. However, user authentication is required for this APN service. Authentication on the platform leverages either on existing authentication databases hosted by member institutions or through credentials provided by KENET. Authentication enforces the requirement that only eligible members from the KENET Academic community can access online resources using the APN service.
Available APN Data Bundle Prices
Safaricom Private APN
Safaricom - 10GB/month data bundle at KES 500
Telkom Kenya Private APN
Telkom – 10GB/month data bundle at KES 350
Telkom – 15GB/month data bundle at KES 500
Telkom – 30GB/month data bundle at KES 800
Institutional (Sponsored) APN SIM Card Registration and Distribution
The APN service is a sponsored service through KENET. Member institutions shall order SIM cards through KENET using service order forms or LPOs. This service is offered on a reimbursable basis to member institutions. Once the service order forms are signed or an LPO is issued to KENET, institutions shall request the sponsored faculty, staff, researchers or students to register for the SIM cards online at https://registration.kenet.or.ke/apn-registrations. Registration is a Communications Authority of Kenya mandatory requirement for all SIM card holders under the Know Your Customer guidelines. Note that registrants shall be eligible for only one SIM card as specified by the sponsoring institution.
KENET shall sponsor the first 1,000 registrants of institutions that shall order the Safaricom APN service for the first two months (they must be faculty, researchers, or ICT technical staff). Beneficiaries of this sponsorship MUST be residing outside areas covered by home fiber providers.
The Telkom APN service was launched in July 2020. The service is exclusively for faculty, researchers and staff of member institutions. As of March 2021, there were 2,400 active sponsored SIM cards in use by faculty and researchers of 91 member institutions. The KENET sponsorship arrangement for TKL APN SIM cards shall end in June 2021.
The SIM cards of the APN Service for successful applicants shall be distributed through their respective institutional ICT departments. Please visit your institution to collect the APN SIM card.
Self-sponsored APN service
KENET is currently working with mobile operators on self-sponsored APN service, mainly because of taxation matters.
2. Discounted Data Bundles
KENET in partnership with mobile network providers (Safaricom PLC, Airtel Network and Telkom Kenya) have come up with eLearning Discounted Bundles for the member educational institutions. The eLearning Discounted Bundles facilitate remote learning and teaching. However, the discounted bundles are restricted to accessing educational resources from sources that are whitelisted by the mobile network service providers. The institutions can provide a list of websites to be included in the subsidized bundle by visiting https://registration.kenet.or.ke/url_whitelist and uploading the required information. Currently, 57 institutions have whitelisted resources that include institutional LMSes, Google Meet, zoom, KENET or institutional BigBlueButton, and Google or Yahoo e-mail.
Below are the negotiated pre- paid bundle plans for the KENET Community: -
Safaricom - 10GB/month data bundle at KES 500
Telkom discounted bundles for faculty
All students, faculty, and staff of member educational institutions (i.e., Universities, University Colleges, TVETs, medical colleges etc) are eligible to sign up and purchase the discounted bundles once the subscriber has been whitelisted/activated.
To register for the data bundles and check if your phone number has been whitelisted to purchase the discounted bundles visit https://registration.kenet.or.ke/. Over 150,000 mobile numbers had been whitelisted for Safaricom discounted bundles as of March 2021.
Educational institutions can also sponsor discounted bundles by sending the mobile numbers to be bundled to KENET at email@example.com. The member institutions are then billed on a reimbursable basis.
3. eduVPN Service
Apart from the Mobile Internet solutions, KENET offers eduVPN service for secure home Internet access and public WiFi access (only for those with valid eduroam credentials for secure WiFi access).
eduVPN is a VPN service provided for the international research and education community. It aims to offer both secure access to campus and off-campus networks. It is essential while accessing the internet where eduroam is not available and provide safe access to the internet. eduVPN is a federated service that is only available through National Research and Education Networks (NRENs). The KENET eduVPN implementation leverages on existing eduroam infrastructure to authenticate users and allow them to securely access on-campus and online resources.
4. Training and support on the use of free KENET Web Conference Platform
KENET has a web conference solution running on BigBlueButton (BBB) which is open to all its member institutions. https://conference.ke/
The platform can be used to organize virtual remote classes and meetings. In general, the web conferencing facility can be used for training events, lectures, or presentations from a web-connected device such as computer, smart phone and tablet to other web-connected devices made possible by internet technologies.
KENET has continuously conducted trainings on the use of the platform to its member institution to provide essential skills to participants for ease of use. There are two sets of training: training the trainer and faculty user training.
KENET offers technical and user support regarding Web Conferencing to all its members.
5. Virtual Classroom setup and Hosting on BigBlueButton
KENET has the capacity to support member institutions setup their own instance of open source BigBlueButton (BBB) and recommends it as a virtual classroom solution. The customized KENET web conferencing solution for any institution will require varying server specifications depending on the number of concurrent classes, participants per concurrent session and what media users are sharing in a session. The customized setup has the added advantage of being able to seamlessly integrate with learning management system (LMS) such as Moodle.
The integration allows one to create multiple activity links to online sessions within any course and attach open/close dates for the session. Hosts can also access and manage recordings easily within a course, create custom welcome messages and manage users by limiting students from joining a session until an instructor (moderator) allows them in.
7. LMS and Digital Repository Setup and Hosting
A learning management system (LMS) is a software application or web-based technology used to plan, implement and assess a specific learning process. The learning processes can be blended learning, online learning and remote learning. An LMS helps provide optimal support for all forms of training, learning and knowledge sharing. Therefore, an LMS forms a key part in utilizing eLearning platforms. An institution can incorporate all courses and training material in one place for easy administration. At KENET, we setup and customize Moodle LMS and host upon request the VPS to KENET Data centre to guarantee both high uptime and ease of scaling up the services.
KENET also hosts digital repositories for its member institutions, allowing them to provide reliable online access to their scholarly and pedagogical output. A digital repository is an archive for collecting, preserving, and disseminating online resources including dissertations, thesis, published and unpublished journals, relevant documents, audio files, images and datasets. Having digital repositories help to provide easy access to institutional research output. There are countless benefits of hosting with KENET. KENET has the technical capacity to setup and host the LMS and digital repositories for the learning institutions. KENET can offer leased infrastructure for this service or colocation of the institution server infrastructure at its data centres.
KENET has also developed an e-learning guide for developing learning management systems and is available [here] for download.
8. Cyber Security Training
As institutions move online, the faculty who do not have access to institution-issued devices will have to use personal devices. This presents a security concern for the Institution as the faculty will be required to download critical student data onto their personal devices. Security training for the faculty is essential to mitigate against various forms of cyber-attacks. KENET has developed an online cyber security training that the Faculty, Staff and Students can undertake as part of their security awareness training. Registration is ongoing and can be accessed here: https://www.kenet.or.ke/content/cyber-security .