UMU Management addresses the press on e-Learning

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Uganda Martyrs University Management has today Friday 18th September 2020 addressed the media on the infrastructural developments and trainings that have been carried out to enable students and staff have a smooth shift from the traditional face to face mode of teaching and learning to a remote learning mode. The press briefing was held at UMU Lubaga campus.

This was done in regards to the permission that was given to Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) in August this year by the National Council for Higher Education, to roll-out the Emergency Open, Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) for all the approved programs.

The University Management team was led by the Vice Chancellor Rev. Prof. John C. Maviiri which was joined by Owek. Eng. J.B. Walusimbi (UMU Founder member) and Mr. Edward Ssebukyu, the Vice Chairperson UMU Governing Council who is also the Assistant Commissioner Private Schools and Institutions in the Ministry of Education and Sports.

Below are the excerpts of the Press statement that was delivered in today’s address by the Vice Chancellor:

In March 2020, Uganda Martyrs University, like all other institutions of learning in our country adhered to the government closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its possible effects on learners, teachers and the entire education system. Now about six months down the road in an effort to continue to provide its services and as a way of moving forward, Uganda Martyrs University has embarked on the following; Retooling of its staff from all campuses for online teaching and learning; and Designing and migrating all its programmes for and to online teaching and learning.

Accreditation for Emergency Open, Distance and e-Learning during the COVID-19 Lockdown

Having satisfactorily fulfilled all the requirements set by the National Council for Higher Education for Open, Distance and E-learning (ODeL), I am pleased to inform the general public that all Uganda Martyrs University academic programmes have been accredited by National Council for Higher Education for e-learning. UMU has over 100 accredited academic programmes at Postgraduate and Undergraduate levels and all these are being migrated to the university online Learning Management System.

All academic staff have been retooled to deliver courses online and ready to train both the continuing and new students on the use and operation of e-learning platforms. We are blessed that the University was already implementing two projects namely: Transforming Employability for Social Change in East Africa (TESCEA) and Pedagogical Leadership in Africa (PEDAL). The lecturers who received training on online teaching had already embraced teaching online before the Corona virus Pandemic.  As we talk, all our full-time academic and administrative staff have been trained to deliver their courses online.

Practice-based, Lab-based and Work-based Learning and Assessment during COVID-19 Period

Practice-based learning, Lab-based learning and Work-based learning (including internship placements and apprenticeships) constitute an integral part of students’ learning in many academic and professional programmes. However, the Government of Uganda’s measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have had significant implications on these learning activities. For instance, there are challenges of restricted movement and entry to many workplaces during this period that limit learners’ access to facilities for practical learning.

Based on the above reality, Uganda Martyrs University developed a framework for Faculties to adapt unique approaches to practice-based, lab-based and work-based teaching, supervision and assessment while observing academic and professional standards during the COVID-19 period.  The guidelines apply to the different laboratory based activities (such as science experiments, computer programming, studio works) and work-based activities (such as internships, industrial placement, action research and school practice) undertaken by students of Uganda Martyrs University as part of their course and programme requirements.

Willingness of Students and Staff Capacity to participate in the ODeL System

A survey on the willingness of students and capacity of staff to engage in ODeL system was conducted during the month of July 2020. This survey followed a baseline survey carried out in May 2020 to determine the level of engagement of staff and students in the remote teaching and learning activities of UMU. The baseline survey revealed that 70% of the staff /students were participating in the remote learning activities. Following this study, it was deemed necessary to conduct another survey to establish the current status of readiness by students and capacity of staff to continue with e-learning.

The survey of July 2020 revealed that 68.3% of the students were comfortable to continue studying remotely through the traditional distance education mode and e-learning modes. While 63.9% of the staff were comfortable with e-learning, 68.7% of staff require training support in facilitating e-learning. Since then, UMU has continued the training of staff to enable them deliver online teaching.  Staff who have gone through the retooling exercise to-date may have now exceeded 95%.

Based on the findings of the survey, it is established that students and staff of Uganda Martyrs University are willing to and have the requisite capacity to continue engaging in remote education through ODeL system. The decline in percentage of readiness to engage in online teaching and learning from 70% to 68.3% can be explained by the growing economic hardships of parents and sponsors to support students. With the easing of the lockdown restrictions, more people are getting back to their sources of income. Moreover, the planned capacity building activities once implemented will enhance a more robust engagement of students and staff in ODeL.

This is also one of the reasons why the University had to train all the staff and students. As part of the continuous training, today at 2:00 pm, Uganda Martyrs University through the TESCEA project will be having an Open webinar intended to initiate senior 6 leavers, parents and benefactors on the way learning and teaching will be conducted.

E-Learning Policy to Support ODeL System

The shift from the traditional face-to-face mode of teaching and learning to remote learning mode requires a policy framework to guide the staff and students to navigate through this journey successfully. Cognizant of this need, UMU developed a comprehensive ICT policy and strategy in which the e-learning policy is enshrined. The UMU E-Learning Policy was developed to facilitate and support e-learning through the use of ICT.

The policy applies to all e-Learning and blended learning courses and degree/certificate programs offered by Uganda Martyrs University.  The policy outlines the minimum requirements that the University/ expects should be met by Schools/Faculties when delivering e-Learning. The requirements of the policy are in addition to the normal expectations on Faculties, Schools and Institutes.

Currently, Uganda Martyrs University has E-Learning Equipment and Software in place to support the ODeL System. UMU is also using Google Apps for Education and thus have access to and are using Google Classroom and Google Meet. The University has accounts with Zoom that are used for virtual meetings and classroom sessions.

We are also lucky that on 03rd September 2020, the University received a donation from Huawei Technologies to boost our internet infrastructure.  These included 3 Routers and 5 switches totaling to about USD 20,000.

All these confirm that we are ready to serve our students in the maximum way possible. I therefore call upon those who had picked application forms to return them for admission; those who have not picked application forms to hurry and pick them for UMU is ready to provide them with quality education that makes a difference. All continuing students should prepare for their studies beginning from a date to be announced during the month of September 2020. Half Tuition Bursaries are also available for SOME Full time Undergraduate Programmes at all UMU Campuses while all Students admitted on our Science programmes are eligible to apply for the Government loan Scheme.

With or without COVID-19, we must move forward with the education of the future leaders of our society. Uganda Martyrs University wishes to thank His Excellency the President of Uganda, Ministry of Education and Sports, the Uganda Episcopal Conference, the National Council for Higher Education, the Alumni, current students and staff, parents, sponsors and all stakeholders for the support, guidance and cooperation extended to Uganda Martyrs University during this period. This is our opportunity to deliver a student-centered education to respond and be relevant to the digital era.

In Virtue and Wisdom, Lead the World. For God and my Country.