Promoting the academic discipline of technical communication through international cooperation, leading to the development of a Master’s in Communication and Media at a Pwani University in Kenya, was the subject of the most recent IUNTC meeting on October 25th, 2022. The meeting was led by Professor Sissi Closs and Belinda Oechsler from the University of Applied Sciences, Karlsruhe (HKA), joined by colleagues from Pwani University (PU), Kenya – Edith Miano, Dr. Rukiya Swaleh, Dr Elizabeth Munyaya, Alex Muthanga, and Prof. Yakobo Mutiti – as well as Dr. Yvonne Cleary from the University of Limerick (UL), Ireland.
The project originated in 2014, when Prof. Closs initiated an exchange project between the HKA and PU named ADDI (ADaptive DIgital Learning System). The focus was on communication and media, live student exchanges between HKA and PU students, and the development of a digital platform to share content and collaborate (karlifi.org). When in-person exchanges became impossible in 2021 due to the pandemic, a new project was initiated to enable virtual exchanges: VIEL (Virtual Intercultural Exchange and Learning) and a third partner, the UL, was included.
Students at the three universities get to know one another in weekly meetings online, attend workshops, and complete small group assignments (like making podcasts and short videos). Students receive a certificate and get to meet at one of the participating universities if no travel restrictions are in place. To date, VIEL students and staff have met in Kenya (February 2022) and Ireland (July 2022). Both ADDI and VIEL were funded by BWSplus (the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM for University Students, a programme of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung).
A third project in this cycle and by far the most ambitious, MCM (Master’s in Communication and Media) is funded by the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst /German Academic Exchange Service). Its goal is to introduce a new study programme in the discipline of technical communication at PU. The project includes various stages: developing the curriculum, accrediting the program at PU, implementing a suitable IT environment and equipment, staff training, marketing the program in Kenya, and establishing a network to get support from local companies and to connect them with program staff, students, and graduates.
Following a live kick-off event at PU in September 2022, a pilot program is already underway with twelve students from PU taking special courses in communication and media. The pilot involves eleven external teachers, with most classes delivered virtually. It is a very important phase in the project as the feedback from students and teachers will shape the delivery of the Master’s in Communication and Media, due to start in autumn/winter 2023.
The various connected projects have been successful with the help of funding from BWSplus and DAAD, a stable project team, excellent leadership, a high level of commitment from the PU, and growing interest from students and lecturers.