Experts from higher institutions of learning are past discussing the continuity of online assessment and now focusing on improving it for continued use when schools fully reopen next year.
Higher institutions of learning adopted the alternative assessment method to cope with the lockdowns triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the economy including universities will reopen fully in January 2022 as declared by the government, institutions like Uganda Christian University, Islamic University in Uganda, Ndejje University, and Kampala International University among others have resolved to maintain online assessment.
Some institutions like Uganda Christian University- UCU, which was the first to adopt online assessment during the lockdown will no longer administer physical examinations for post-graduate students, according to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academics, Rev Dr. John Mutayimbwa. One of the major concerns about online assessment has been malpractice by students.
The same concern came up during an online engagement attended by staff from different universities. Dr. Julianne Sansa, a lecturer at Makerere University from the College of Computing and Information Science gave a recap of her experience with online assessment during the engagement.
Sansa explained that as online assessment is adopted by higher institutions of learning, there is a need for thorough training for lecturers on supervision and setting online assessments for reliable results from learners.
She noted that venturing into online assessment during the lockdown was circumstantial, adding that more time should be given to address the loopholes when the institutions finally reopen fully. Dr. Godfrey Mayende, the Director for the Institute of Open Distance and eLearning at Makerere equally admitted that due to poor preparation for online assessment during the lockdown, some lecturers are still not conversant with setting up course unit material including continuous assessments on the university platform.
Mayende says that the training given to lecturers will continue until all are conversant with the new mode of assessment. Keren Busingye, a lecturer from Kyambogo University in the Department of Education also pointed out the need to focus on training students too who shun online lectures demonstrated by the low attendance.
Dr. Drake Mirembe, a lecturer and researcher in IT at Makerere University explained that while Institutions have agreed that online assessment is feasible and possible for the times, the new advancement can not work in isolation without supportive policies. Some of these include focusing on the assessments, which would require more application than theory among others.
Kitayimbwa, who used the account of UCU as a case study for online examinations, intimated that all concerns arising can be dealt with like some of the institutions have already done. For instance, according to him, the e-learning platform at UCU has been developed in a manner that students can not cheat.
Besides the platform having a camera mechanism within it to capture photos of a student at a sitting every 30 seconds, once one is logged into the platform he or she can not activate any other sites that could aid cheating.
He further noted that as a way of improving the functionality of the platform, more features are yet to be developed such as being able to block a student that has made multiple attempts to cheat. The online assessment according to the experts will seek to build skills, add knowledge and work on attitudes within the learning environment.
On attitude impact, the experts noted that a learning environment should be transformative, which therefore makes it inevitable for them to get learners and lecturers to adapt to digitalization. In April last year, UCU online examinations were halted by the government on various grounds such as its capacity to hold the assessment without malpractice and exclusion of students that could not afford gadgets among other factors.
The university was able to defend the initiative before authorities after which it was authorized to go ahead, in the long run, all others have come on board.