KAMPALA — Officials from the Makerere University Institute of Open, Distance and e-Learning (ODEL) have allayed students fears over the costs of internet connectivity as the university adopts blended learning amidst the coronavirus Pandemic.
While introducing first years students from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences ( CAES) to the ODEL based method of teaching and learning Dr. Samuel Siminyu told freshers that they will be able to access the Makerere University e-learning Environment (MUELE) and other learning platforms at Zero rate.
On 24th February 2021, over 500 first year students from the CAES converged at the Conference hall in the school of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio engineering for training on the theory and demonstration of what technologies they will use to help them during the teaching and learning.
The training of freshers follows the strategy that government has adopted of staggering so that students are on campus for short periods and in this particular semester for one month and they will be out working remotely for the rest of the two months.
Dr. Siminyu said, because of the adoption of blended learning which is a mix of the traditional face to face and online learning, the university is migrating from what was familiar to the unfamiliar territory by beginning with fresher’s introduction to this type of learning.
“ They may have come from schools where they are familiar with face to face learning and expected to continue with face to face but now that they have to do a mix, they needed to be introduced to online learning, then we will have practical sessions while they are here, they will simply go online, register themselves, access their courses , discuss challenges they are facing so that when they are away, they can work on their own independently and more effectively and we are doing it in all the colleges and programmes”, Dr. Siminyu explained
He said, Makerere used the opportunity when the university was closed to train academic staff to develop materials and host them online and now going through the process of training students to access those materials and use them for learning.
Dr. Siminyu appreciated the CAES students for turning up in big numbers noting that this was a sign of good mobilization.
“It is the first time we are meeting them as freshers and we are overwhelmed by the number. We did not know how many have turned up because they had not undergone the registration process.
The room was full up and others were outside waiting and they stood through all the session. So that was impressive and I think they were well mobilized and they were enthusiastic to get going. I hope we will deliver what they are asking for”, The don said.
While responding to students concerns over poor internet connectivity and the cost of data for online learning, Dr Siminyu informed students that the university management had cracked a deal with the telecom service provider where they will access MUELE and other learning platforms at zero rate.
“The Vice Chancellors took the initiative to contact the telecom service providers to negotiate for zero rating for our Learning Management System (LMS) and other systems that the university uses for student registration, payment and so on otherwise, the cost would be prohibitive and fortunately the telecom companies did waive the costs on internet bundles when accessing our LMS and other system.
Although in practice you may not have seen equal access across phone companies, possibly we need to follow up to see those who committed themselves and their system is not working in that direction to help clear the process so that our students have access to the learning platforms”, Dr. Siminyu said.
Currently MUELE and other learning platforms can be accessed freely on MTN. Students were urged to invest some little resources to procure the MTN lines as the university negotiates with other phone companies.
In his key message Dr. Siminyu urged learners and instructors to learn what they need to learn, shift very quickly and to bank on technology to achieve learning goals or else remain behind.
He noted that the whole year the university has been left behind while others have been moving on with technology.
“The world is moving on. Technology is the fuel. Trade is moving on technology. Communication is on technology. We are attending international conferences on technology. Education which is really an essential to everybody elsewhere is running on technology. So we cannot afford to be left behind”, He asserted.