The proposal is to improve the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) infrastructure and to provide capacity training for a cadre of ICT professionals to sustain and enhance programs within the College of Health Sciences at the University of Zimbabwe (UZCHS) and the Biomedical Research & Training Institute (BRTI).  The program is a collaboration between the Stanford University Medical Center, the UZCHS and the BRTI.

To improve capacity in health-training related ICT methods to enable the implementation, evaluation and sustainability of new technologies for on-line e-learning. This will be achieved through:

  • In-house training for personnel of the Audio–Visual Training Unit (AVTU), the Research Support Centre (RSC), Institute for Continuing Health Education (ICHE),the Department of Health Professions Education (DHPE) and Biomedical Research & Training Institute (BRTI). The proposed program will provide for development of and access to on-line e-learning, survey and assessment tools for medical and allied health sciences faculty, graduate and post graduate student education and research programs.
  • Developing career paths for ICT professionals through support for relevant on-line postgraduate education for 3 ICT staff at UZCHS and BRTI. Staff would be expected to continue to contribute to development of e-learning resources while receiving training from on-line university courses.
  • Providing internships for ICT students so they can gain practical in-service experience in networking and network administration, programming for android tablets, and support the implementation of learning management systems under the supervision of ICT staff. A period of attachment is an integral part of the coursework program in ICT at universities and colleges in Zimbabwe, and we propose attachment to UZCHS and BRTI.
  • Providing workshops and training in new ICT solutions for data capture (such as through the use of hand-held data capture instruments), data storage (using both land-based and “cloud” technologies), and bioinformatics tools for management of complex measurements and records.

Dear partners…

HPE faculty – Dr. Idah Nkosana, Dr. Walter Mangezi and Simbini Tungamirai  (Comm Med)

Implementing Technical staff: Leckson Mukhavi and Simon Chigeza

Partners: Nucleos Camilla Vega and Noah Freedman

BRTI: David Katzenstein and Reggie Mutetwa

Problem: How can ICT, and specifically the use of the Portable Cloud support students on rural attachments ?

 “The Portable Cloud (PC) goes on Rural Attachment”  Rural Attachment Students = RAS

Needs assessment:

  1. What are the communication, education, reference materials and web access which medical students  want to access on rural attachments ?
  2. Audio-visual conferencing between students on Rural Attachment and their supervisor(s).
  3. Would daily/weekly audio/visual contact between supervisors and students, using PC make the rural attachments a better experience for students and faculty (and save the costs and time of travel for the supervisor ?).
  4. Assignments are currently given to RAS including narratives, profiles and clinical audits.
  5. Tasks during the rural attachments include community studies of Pharmacovigilance, assessments of water, nutrition, sanitation and access to prevention, Mental Health needs and ART access ?
  6. Each of these has a format that may be suitable for sending updated or completed assignments from the RAS to the supervisor/Comm Med or specialist physician/scientist.
  7. Students could (in the evening) update their patient experiences, present a patient/clinical case report or carry out community assessment survey or “research study”?

 Reference needs of students on attachment.

Pooled resources on the PC

  1. do students individually have PDF copies of important clinical manuals, handbooks, or textbooks which can be added uploaded to the PC. This could be a “sharing economy” to counter the costs of accessing texts.
  2. Could the PC serve as a reference collection using Mendely, Reference Manager, Endnote, or other referencing programs that would store and label/tag PDFs ?
  3. Are there reading lists/assigned articles that could be uploaded and then a “journal club” discussion can take place at the RAS ?

Would students value “old MCQs” which could help them study for their exams ?

Student collections of notes from courses ? On the PC Now Khan academy video’s , content, Moodle MOOC curation of downloadable lectures MOOCs,  Slide Share.




Leckson Mukavhi, Noah Freedman, Prof. David Katzestein, Dr. Farai Madzimbauto, Simon Chigeza, Nhope Mukoko and Shale Kasambira




University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences (UZCHS) has a curriculum that engages its students in community based education, in which the students do field attachment in remote district and provincial hospitals.  At a given instant about two hundred and fifty mostly 2ndand 4th students and around twenty faculty members would be on the schedule for the rural and community attachments.

The learners include medical students who have extended attachments to district, provincial and mission hospitals serving large scale commercial farming and rural communities. Rehabilitation and physiotherapy students are attached to rural clinics and hospitals in rural and large commercial farming areas and to communities in industrial and municipal areas. This gives them exposure to knowledge, skills and practical experience that are relevant to our context.

The students are deployed in groups per district or province and deployment stations. During this community based education period. Lecturers make periodic visits to the various deployment areas for the purposes of student mentoring and supervision. Students on field attachment lack enough mentoring and supervision due to this gap in information sharing between themselves and their lecturers. The rural attachments consume resources, faculty time and effort. However, visits would also consume huge sums of money from the college budget. It may be possible to enhance the educational outcomes and cost-effectiveness through a less expensive virtual mentoring and supervision program afforded by the interoperability of the Portablecloud and mHero platforms to deliver elearning, case-based learning and mentoring to students on attachment.

The Portablecloud devices provide localized virtual internet connectivity with minimal physical infrastructure and are configured with capabilities of syncing the massive and rich educational e-resources and course content on the learning management system (LMS). The latest version of the portablecloud can provide functionalities such as Massive Open Online Course similar to OpenEDX, linked to access the World Health Organisation standard protocols and guidelines, and for conducting surveys using Open Data kit. The system has a potential to be able to access knowledge bases such as Up-to-date, which the students on attachment can use as supportive knowledge and skills base.

The mHero platform is a free mobile based two way communication system that affords real-time, targeted communication in the form of text messages (SMS), interactive voice response and direct calls. The system has been successfully used in Liberia for Ebola intervention.

Therefore, the deployment of the portablecloud and mHero working interoperably would provide a cost-effective way of delivering focused heuristic material, courses, lectures and cases for faculty mentoring and supervising of the students in a seamless resource rich environment enhanced by accessibility to online educational materials and real-time communication or intervention by the lecturers while on campus.



The integration of the Portablecloud device and the mHero platform through programming and cloud computing techniques would enhance the much needed virtual student mentoring and supervision through real-time two way communication from mHero and syncing of data from a learning management system to the portablecloud and vice versa. This can be achieved by linking the mHero to the portablecloud which in turn would be also connected to the learning management system. This can be achieved using two options that include adding the portablecloud to the LMS as a plugin and coding that can enable the LMS on MYSQL and the portablecloud on Javascript to be able to communicate either on one way or two way modes. The diagram below shows the concept scheme.


The project is based on the principle of cloud computing. Cloud computing can provide e-resources as a utility in a similar manner as electricity as compared to having to build and maintain computing infrastructures in-house.  This approach will be convenient for low income countries where the cost of establishing physical internet infrastructure are not affordable and the geographical set up may be deterrent to such infrastructure. Huge sums of money can be served through this cost-cutting and technology-based students’ supervision and mentoring. The challenges of migrating to e-learning such as low bandwidth will be ameliorated. The problems of power outages and high traffic on the existing physical internet infrastructure where the online resources are hosted will also be reduced. If all the learning institutions in Zimbabwe adapt the use of the portablecloud devices, the quality of education will immensely improve as ubiquitous access to the learning materials will be possible with a wide variety of tools such as smartphones, ipads, laptops, personal computers, interactive touch boards and white boards in the schools and homes. Again a wide variety of interventions and mitigations such as required in disasters (floods, fire and drought) and disease outbreaks through the mHero and portablecloud interoperability. Subsequently, the mHero-Portablecloud infrastructure once setup apart from education and research it will also be quite useful to the Ministry of Health and Childcare, Civil Protection Unit, Emergency Rescue Institutions, Fire Brigade and the Environmental Management Authority.