Secondary Teacher Education Diploma in Dadaab


The UBC Faculty of Education collaborated with Kenya’s Moi University and the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya to develop and implement a teacher education program for secondary school teachers in the Dadaab settlement. In 2013, ETS began its involvement with the project with an extensive review on hardware and learning technologies that are compatible with the students’ learning styles, the infrastructure in Dadaab, and the Kenyan environment. Since then, ETS has provided ongoing support for the creation and maintenance of various course material.



We aimed to create and deliver course material in a format that is most accessible. This included embracing the oral learning tradition by delivering a bulk of the course content in video format, and also making an MP3 version of the video available so students could download the files on their personal cell phones and listen to the lectures while they are commuting or at home. Furthermore, all the videos were captioned to increase listening comprehension.

The course content was hosted on a public UBC blog instead of a learning management system, so students were able to access the content without a username and did not have to navigate through complicated menus. The video and audio files were also distributed via the LAN so students could watch the video without internet connection.


The decision to host the content on a blog platform instead of inside a LMS was to increase accessibility, and also to make maintenance more sustainable. The platform’s user-friendly interface meant instructors were able to maintain their own course page after some training from the ETS staff.


Course content was hosted on the UBC blog.

  1. EDUC 172: Language and the Curriculum – 22 instructional videos with captioning.
  2. EDUC 176: Teaching Math – Course outline
  3. EDUC 177: Teaching Methods for General Sciences – Syllabus and lesson materials
  4. EDUC 270: Communication Skills – 1 instructional videos with captioning.
  5. EDUC 272: Methods in Secondary Chemistry – Course outline and course materials
  6. EDUC 275: Global Education – Course outline and course materials
  7. EDUC 276: Teaching Mathematics
  8. EDUC 278: Teaching Biology
  9. EDUC 490: Special Topics in Teaching Science – Course outline and weekly readings
  10. EPSE 171: Adolescent Years – 12 instructional videos with captioning.
  11. EPSE 271: Teaching Adolescents with Special Needs – Training for instructor to use the WordPress platform.

In the news

Read our interview with Dr. Tom Sork about the project.

Lessons Learned

One of the main lessons we have learned in this project is to expect the unexpected. There were a number of variables that were beyond our control, such as sporadic access to the learning centre, unconfirmed available infrastructure, fluctuating attendance, and unpredictable face-to-face instructional hours due to security concerns.

We avoided print-based content delivery due to difficulties for students to carry heavy binders on their long commute and also the restrictions for instructors to carry large quantities of print material on the plane to Dadaab. Instead, we focused on providing multiple electronic delivery methods. Early on in the program, we learned a traditional LMS was not a suitable delivery platform because there were administrative difficulties with setting up user names and students had problems with user authentication. The multi-layer navigation and complicated user interface was time consuming and difficult for the students to use. As a result, all the course content was posted on an open blog that has a straight-forward navigation and is more mobile friendly.

We also avoided relying on internet delivery as the only method in case of restricted internet connection. In addition to posting course material on the open UBC blog, we transferred the material to USB thumb drives and DVDs, so content can be displayed using a single laptop or a DVD player. The content was forwarded to the on-site technician via Dropbox, so the material can be put on the LAN in the Dadaab learning centres. In collaboration with Commonwealth of Learning, ETS piloted Aptus, which is a wifi-enabled, wireless, portable device that provides access to files and applications in environments without grid power or internet. ETS had intended to use Aptus as a secondary backup system, in the event of failed internet and LAN connection in the learning centre. However, Aptus was not implemented during the program due to the limited number of wifi-enabled devices.

Over a year after the first course was offered in this project, we observed students were typing out assignments directly on their mobile phones and submitted the their work via the comments section on the course blog. In addition, an instructor who did not travel to Dadaab began communicating with the students using the messaging app WhatsApp. As the students and instructors continued to shape the program, we explored additional ways to utilize the proliferation of mobile phones and integrated ad hoc modes of communication to make the program accessible.


No matter how vulnerable the situation is, students’ determination, commitment, and enthusiasm were part of this amazing experience. However, there continues to be a need to attract more female students to enrol into the program.

– Hezron Onditi, EPSE 171 Teaching Assistant

Despite the challenges noted, the BHER project through the university programs has:

  • Equipped us with the skills necessary for professional delivery of content to the students in our schools.
  • Through the courses taught, we have improved our lesson presentation skills in the classrooms and are now role models to other teachers in the school.
  • The performance of students in our subjects has improved and we hope to make it even better.
  • The project has increased the population of trained teachers in both primary and secondary schools in the Refugee and host community schools.

 – A student in the program

Project Team

The Dadaab project, Developing a Knowledge Creation and Research Mobilization Partnership for Studying Teacher Learning within a Refugee Camp, was awarded the UBC Hampton Partnership Development Grant of $10,000. The proposal was submitted by Dr. Rita Irwin, Dr. Karen Meyer, Dr. Samson Nashon and Dr. Cynthia Nicol (Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy).

Project Management for Course Development

Natasha Boskic, Senior Manager, Learning Design, ETS

Course Authorship & Instruction

16 UBC instructors

Instructional Design & Media Development

Sharon Hu, Instructional Designer, ETS

Aptus Content Development

Bill Pickard, Senior Digital Media Developer, ETS

Ian Linkletter, Learning Technology Specialist, ETS

Video Caption

Austin Lee, Tech Rover, ETS

Eleanor Hoskins, Tech Rover, ETS

Partner Universities

Moi University

Kenyatta University

York University

The BHER project is supported by the World University Service of Canada and the Windle Trust, a Kenyan NGO focused on education. Additional partners are listed here:

UBC Faculty of Education instructors and administrators are devoted to increasing access to education in the refugee camp in Dadaab. Currently, the work is supported by several funding agencies and includes several related research and development endeavors, including SSHRC, DFATD (formerly CIDA, now Global Affairs Canada), and the Hampton Research Grant (UBC). Collectively, it involves multiple project layers – some only at UBC, some international, and all in support of refugee education. Living, Learning, & Teaching in Dadaab (LLTD) Research Project is a SHRRC funded research. We are working together with a group of World University Service of Canada (WUSC) sponsored students here at UBC as our co-researchers to better understand notions of living, learning, and teaching in this refugee camp setting.