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Mak’s Distance Education to benefit from new ICTs

Makerere University staff and students now have access to new state of the art ICT teaching and learning facilities. The equipment was handed over by Prof. Andreas Prinze from the University of Agder during the Distance Education Leapfrogging Project (DELP) Annual Research workshop held on 15th June 2015 at the CEDAT Conference Hall.

This is part of the project’s activities aimed at increasing the infrastructural capacity for providing 4th and 5th generation distance education. The equipment included two Internet servers which were handed over to DICTS. The CEES received 58 desktop computers, a multipurpose photocopier, four interactive smart boards, four projectors, a document camera, two video cameras, seven internet modems, six laptops, and two iPads for the project coordinators.

The aim of the workshop was to disseminate results of the DELP and share experiences and knowledge in the area of Open, Distance and eLearning (ODeL). Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the Vice Chancellor Makerere University, Prof. Ddumba Ssentamu observed that the project had produced commendable research outputs. “I am happy to note that a number of papers were co-authored between Makerere University and University of Agder and with multiple authors. Research is not complete if research findings are not published or disseminated. I commend the Distance Education Leapfrogging Project for having embedded annual research workshops in their project activities,” he said.

The Chairperson of the NORHED Institution Development Committee, (NIDIC), Prof. Hannington Oryem-Origa was happy with the progress made by the DELP. He urged the project team to produce quality work commensurate with project that won the grant and to ensure proper accountability of funds. “It is the desire of NIDIC and NORAD to receive feedback of all research grants. Ensure that you publish your findings in International journals. This will be a yardstick for the quality of your work, “he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Principal CEES, Dr Fred Masagazi, the Deputy Principal Dr Anthony Mugagga said  through the DELP, Makerere University will for the very first time in its history launch two online/blended learning programmes – one at Bachelor’s and the other at Master’s level. “Besides offering different knowledge areas to a wide clientele, these two online programmes will provide test beds and centres of excellence from which other colleges and institutions wishing to adopt online education will learn,” he said.

Dr Mugagga pointed out some of the challenges facing ODeL at Makerere University such as lack of a comprehensive distance and e-learning policy, limited awareness of the operations of ODeL among University Management and staff resulting into limited funding and human resource inadequacies. He called upon the Vice Chancellor together with the University Management to find lasting solutions to these problems.

The workshop’s keynote presentation titled, “Sink or Swim” was made by Prof Andreas Prinz. He noted the shortcomings of the classical model of higher education studies (the sink-or swim model) where students without good study strategies are not be able to keep up with the teaching in higher education and ultimately fail (they sink). Prof. Prinz highlighted how students can be enabled to swim in the context of online higher education with a focus on teaching good study habits which mean sharing responsibility between student and teacher. He pointed out the good study strategies as; responsibility, motivation, information acquisition, searching meaning, exhibiting what you know, reflecting on learning, efficiency and activity.

The DELP Coordinator at University of Agder, Dr Ghislain Maurice Isabwe said working with Makerere brings about invaluable experiences and strengthens the capacity of both institutions to offer high quality blended learning courses. “We have seen through this project, the increase in research and publication capacity in the area of technology enhanced learning” he said.

The DELP Coordinator at Makerere University and Dean School of Distance and Lifelong Learning, Dr Paul Muyinda said the DELP was on course in the journey of solving a number of challenges facing Distance Education. “The School now boasts of over five staff with PhDs in ODeL pedagogy, three staff undertaking PhD and actively researching in the ODeL pedagogy, 10 staff members have been trained in e-teaching and e-courseware development, over 40 staff from Makerere University have been trained in developing ODeL study materials and using a learning management system to tutor,” he said.

He added that curricula for the first ever test bed online learning programmes at Makerere University had been developed and their content ‘onlinised’. Staff have carried out action research alongside the project, presented at international conferences and published journal articles and book chapters. He established that Nsubuga block the home to the Department of Open and Distance Learning and the CEES Lira Centre would be remodelled to host various ICTs courtesy of the project.

DELP is one of the nine projects at Makerere University under the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (NORHED). DELP is aimed at increasing access to flexible quality education in Makerere University by increasing capacity to integrate ICTs into pedagogical processes through leapfrogging the current 1st generation distance education provision into 4th and 5th generation distance education provisions.

It is planned that three of such workshops are held in the DELP’s lifespan, namely in the academic years 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17. An international conference is planned at Makerere University in 2017/18 which will subsequently result into the Africa Journal of Open, Distance and eLearning.

Workshop papers presented

  1. Leapfrogging 1st Generation Distance Education into 4th and 5th Generation Distance Education at Makerere University: A Study Materials Writers’ Experiences
  2. Essentials for a Professional Youth Workers Course: Needs Assessment Survey for A BYDW Degree Course of Makerere University, a Reference
  3. Getting on Board: Educational Technology for Youths in Technical Institutes is the Missing Link
  4. Attitudes and Coping Practices of Using Mobile Phones Among Secondary Schools Stakeholders – Uganda
  5. Let’s stay serious – but motivated! Gamification in Education
  6. Mobile Learning for Enhancing Livelihoods in Developing Regions
  7. Effectively supporting online learning groups
  8. Unlocking the potential of Public Libraries in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Open and Distance Learning in Makerere University
  9. Mediating Interactive Learning Using Emerging Technologies: A Case of History Education at Makerere University
  10. Learning Groups for MOOCs

See Workshop booklet for abstracts and more information on the project.