EDUCATION

Makerere College of Education launches research to evaluate blended learning

The Principal Investigator, Dr. Arthur Mugisha

The College of Education and External Studies (CEES) has launched research to evaluate the processes and outcomes of blended learning at Makerere University. Blended learning is a teaching approach that combines physical classes with online learning.

Blended learning uptake at Makerere University has since become a necessity following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the closer of all learning institutions.

Speaking during the launch, Dr. Arthur Mugisha, the Principal Investigator of the project said his team will evaluate the learners’ satisfaction and the different modes of delivery.

“We shall document the learners’ challenges, establish solutions to the challenges and document proposed ideal blended learning approaches which take care of the learners needs and expectations,” Dr. Mugisha said.

It was noted however, that although blended learning became popular during the pandemic, the pedagogy had started in 1991 with student of Bachelors of Education External of B. Commerce External, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academics Affairs, Prof. Kakumba Umar revealed.

Professor Kakumba noted that the Open Distance e-learning system (MUELE) is something that should have been embraced and taken seriously when it was first introduced in the University in 1991.

Prof. Kakumba said after the senate approval of the e-learning module in 2014, the office of academic affairs saw it fit to institutionalize e-learning hence the creation of the Institute of Online and Distance E-learning (IODEL) which was approved in 2015. The DVC noted that before the pandemic, 30% of the University colleges were enrolled on the Makerere University E-Learning Environment, but this has changed, seeing 100 % enrollment by colleges.

With the growth of blended learning update, the university has engaged in various activities to ease the uptake of e-learning at Makerere. Some of the things the university is doing, according to Prof. Kakumba include;

IODeL benchmarking on online course design.
Staff capacity building in online utilisation of emergency ODeL courses development.
Student capacity building for emergency ODeL awareness and practicability.
Needs assessment for staff and students in the use of ODeL for teaching and learning.
NCHE Approval of emergency ODeL

As revealed by Dr. Mugisha, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic forced the university to implement blended learning across all programmes in the university. “For sustainability and to ensure the full potential of blended learning is achieved, the project proposes to comprehensively evaluate the adoption and utilization of blended learning with focus on students’ participation, expectations and benefits accruing from the mode of teaching,” Dr. Mugisha said.

In order to ensure proper findings and evaluation for the blended learning pedagogy, Dr Mugisha said the project intends to use primary data collected from 380 respondents in 10 colleges of the University and this will be from a cross-sectional survey design employing a mixed research approach. Focus group discussions shall be held with system administrators while face-to-face discussions will be held with key informants.

This kind of survey will enable them develop long lasting strategies to ease the use of blended learning at the University as it is the new normal in the academic sphere.

The occasion was graced by the Executive Director of National Council for Higher Education, Prof. Mary J. N. Okwakol, who said it is high time the country started an open and e-learning university.

“At some point I thought we were almost there; I don’t know what happened. Countries like Tanzania, Malaysia and the University of Nigeria that have open learning, have a student enrollment of over 70,000 students,” she noted.

Most of the things to be put into consideration for a successful blended learning as pointed out by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs) of Uganda Christian University (UCU), Rev. Dr. J. Kitayimbwa, included the attitude both from students and lecturers, skilled personnel, internet accessibility, possession of tools or gadgets to use, efficiency among others.

Makerere University Guild President-elect Shamim Nambassa speaking on behalf of the student community called upon the stakeholders to lobby the Ministry of ICT to scrap off the 3% tax on internet bundles to enable students easily access their classes because “the bundles are already expensive.”

The project team include Dr. Arthur Mugisha as the principal investigator, Dr. Harriet Najjemba co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Paul Birevu Muyinda, Dr. Jessica N, Aguti, Mr. Joshua Bateeze, Dr. Aine Robert.

Web-based correspondence or distance education was pioneered in South Africa by the University of South Africa in 1946 a thing that shows that blended learning has been in existence for many years but its uptake has been slow until the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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