How a former Data and economic scientist/consultant built a business of enabling colleges and universities to move online

The country and the world in general has a new disruptor, Covid-19, which is forcing everyone to a ‘new normal’ of social distancing.

Work places 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.

John Kimani says Finstock LMS is one of the most secure systems, as it is hosted on Google Cloud unlike others hosted on resident servers.

Those institutions that can support their employees to work from home have invested in enabling their employees to do so. Students have turned to online learning. However, very few institutions seem to be ready for online learning, despite this form of learning being highly recommended by the Government.

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This is the reason CPA John Kimani, an experienced economic and business consultant, decided to develop Finstock LMS, A cloud hosted system supported by google cloud that can host host thousands of students for online learning and which can enable learning institutions to migrate their classes online.

The set up and training costs for the cloud hosted solution is as low as Ksh 39,000 (USD 390). In addition, the monthly leasing fees for small institutions with up to 300 students is zero (free) and this package is available forever.

Institutions with 301-500 students pay an additional monthly leasing fee of Ksh50,000 (USD 500) which approximates to about Ksh100  (USD 1) per user per month, on top of the setup fees of Ksh39,000 (USD 390).

Higher packages with the upper limit of 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, and unlimited users exist. Institutions with financial capability that want to save further costs can avoid the monthly leasing and do a one-off purchase of Ksh6,000,000.

Finstock LMS captures user data from the point of enrollment, payments, performance, and progress, system use and certifications.

“The ability to lease a cost efficient cloud hosted 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 salaries costs for in house developers,” says 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.Its for this reason that majority of private colleges under the umbrella body of Kenya National Association of Private Colleges (KENAPCO) have opted for this LMS.

“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 says.

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Most of these universities open campuses which are way too expensive for them and for the students.

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, hence one of the best to monitor and implement 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 system set requirements and compensating them via Mpesa and Paypal . Plans are underway to introduced MTN, Tigo, Airtel, and other African mobile money transfers mechanisms,” he says in a blog post.
The system is also be able to 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 student or teachers data, hence enabling remote operations from anywhere.
“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 solution such as Finstock LMS. Such a decision will impact positively on their efficacy, delivery of their product and competitive advantage. The decision will not only enable them to strategically respond to the turbulence brought about by Covid -19 pandemic, but also given them a strategic pose for the post covid-19 era,” he concludes.

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 percent) between 2019 and 2020. Internet penetration in Kenya stood at 43% in January 2020. This sets one of the best environment 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).
Most of these universities open campuses which are way too much 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.
CPA John Kimani is an experienced economic and business consultant who has wide experience in economic, accounting, auditing and business management issues. 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 Finstock Evarsity College.

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