Leveraging informal learning practices for broadening participation in university education: A Kenyan case study


  • Roxanne Hawi Massey University
  • Eva Heinrich Massey University
  • Sunil Lal Massey University




learning technologies, smartphone-based learning, blended learning in developing countries, mLearning Africa, higher education Kenya


Kenyan public universities primarily provide classroom-based courses. However, socioeconomic realities limit many rural-based learners from regularly attending classes. Interestingly, because of the willingness of Kenyans to further their education, informal education is picking up fast. Individuals are forming informal learning circles and have proactively found ways to use smartphones to access online educational resources. This paper explores ways to leverage the strengths of these informal learning practices to enhance participation in formal higher education for Kenyans. One way this can be achieved is through blended learning. With blended learning, students will experience the convenience of online learning without losing the social on-campus interactions they are accustomed to. Currently, the use of blended learning in Kenyan public universities is not at the desired level. Lack of conventional computing resources (laptops/desktop PCs) due to economical constraints is a contributing factor. Given their widespread adoption, we suggest smartphones could serve as a viable platform for blended learning in Kenya. To explore this idea, a survey was conducted with 114 students in Tom Mboya University College (TMUC), a rural-based public university in Kenya. The survey examined students’ attitudes towards using smartphones in education. Results indicate smartphones are already an integral part of the students’ informal education and the students have a strong desire to integrate smartphones into their formal education. We envisage that our research will contribute knowledge towards the adoption of blended learning in resource-constrained university environments.

Author Biographies

Roxanne Hawi, Massey University

Roxanne Hawi is a tutorial fellow in the School of Computing and Informatics at Maseno University. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Information Technology at Massey University with interests in mobile learning.

Eva Heinrich, Massey University

Eva Heinrich is an associate professor in the School of Fundamental Sciences at Massey University. Her interests lie in applied research, using advanced technologies to bring benefits to institutions, teachers, and learners. She is the executive editor of Advancing Scholarship and Research in Higher Education (ASRHE).

Sunil Lal, Massey University

Dr. Sunil Lal is a senior lecturer in computer science at Massey University. His research interest is machine learning with applications in the field of bioinformatics, robotics, and the brain–computer interface.