Research and Innovation

Category

A new Publication: “Effective Coaching Through Webinar Integrated Tools: A Research-Based Chapter for Promoting Active Learning in Online Environments,”

This is a publication by Dr. Stephen Kyakulumbye, a senior lecturer and scholar at the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Business. It makes the Chapter Ten (10) In Hunaiti Z (2021) Coaching Applications and Effectiveness in Higher Education, published by IGI Global, 2021.

ABSTRACT

Webinars are very powerful yet less used strategies for building the capacity of teachers to improve their pedagogical and andragogical practice, let alone to be used by teachers to offer education to their learners. The classroom learning environment has evolved to meet the needs of today and tomorrow by providing students with access to technology and online resources that support instruction especially during times when face-to-face interactions are impossible. This chapter offers research-based experience for the limitations and framework solution for effectively applying webinar through integrative tools as a framework for coaching educationists to promote active learning in blended environments. This chapter proposes an implementation framework based on a situation awareness model within empathetic participatory design principles. This model results in empowering and motivational outcomes for the instructors to extend the application of the use of the webinar tools among their fellow instructors.

Dr. Kyakulumbye holds a Master’s in Project Management and a Post-graduate diploma (both aligned to ICT) from the Uganda Management Institute. His bachelor’s degree, attained at Nkumba University in Uganda, was in computing education.

He is a registered Graduate Educator by Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports. A well-published scholar, Kyakulumbye chairs the UCU Research Ethics Committee, a body that plays the oversight of research involving humans as research participants in Uganda. 

Faculty of Agricultural Sciences wins 1.6 bn grant

The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences has won a grant worth 400,000 Euros (1.6 bn UGX). This was courtesy of a competitive project proposal titled Strengthening Agricultural Knowledge & Innovation Ecosystem for Inclusive Rural Transformation & Livelihoods in Eastern Africa.

The innovation platform will enhance the capacity of small-scale producers to access markets and meet the demand thereof. Additionally, the project will facilitate small-scale producers through Uganda National Farmers Federation using a management information system where specific information and linkages for vegetable businesses along the value chain can be met.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, commended the Faculty for its robust research initiatives. ” We are very proud of you (Prof. Elizabeth Kizito) and your team. I applaud your continued efforts to advance research and partnerships at UCU,” he said.

Objectives of the project:

  • Build capacity in contractual production (Seed and value-added products) as a business. 
  • Adapt and validate an inclusive management information system for enhanced market access. 
  • Enhance a competitive edge for small-scale producers in the AIV value chain.
  • Disseminate knowledge on the production of AIVs as a business.

UCU wins first virtual NCHE Exhibition

Uganda Christian University (UCU) has won the first virtual National Council for Higher Education Exhibition. This comes after a three-day online exhibition contest, held from 10-12 November 2021, which attracted over 50 exhibitors.

UCU emerged overall best among both public and private universities. The second runner up was Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), followed by United States International University. 

According to the panel of judges from the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), UCU showcased innovations and e-services that were relevant to the theme- Innovation for Current and Emerging Challenges and Opportunities under the COVID-19

“ UCU displayed a stall that resonated well with the theme of the virtual exhibition, said Denis Omvia, the lead judge, who also noted that the UCU booth was neat. “Their booth showed a high level of organization and preparation. The UCU booth, including video uploads, was easy to navigate and download for anyone who visited the site,” he added.

The panel in its criteria keenly considered the efficacy of Virtual systems for examination administration, technological innovation, management of examination malpractice, student identification, online learning, et cetera. 

Omvia urged institutions to invest heavily in research and innovation because the future of education is virtual and that “COVID-19 is still with us”. 

How UCU won:

UCU has won the exhibition contest twice, since 2018, before it went virtual. This marks the third consecutive win for the institution. 

The UCU Learning Management System (eLearning) and the online voting platform eChagua were key innovations that impressed the panel, earning the University first place in the interuniversity contest.  Through eLearning, students are able to attend online classes, access reading materials and write examinations. Likewise, lecturers are able to teach, upload course materials (video, audio and text) and also administer assessments effectively. 

Echagua: This is the UCU online Electoral Commission platform through which students can register and vote.

Virtual Graduation: UCU continued to teach and assess students, even amidst the COVID-19 lockdowns, and managed to hold two virtual graduations i.e. December 2020 and October 2021.

Other innovations that secured UCU victory include the Law Moots, Online Pre-entry exams for UCU School of Dentistry, Medicine and the Faculty of Law. 

The Annual Higher Education Exhibition is one of the key dissemination activities of the NCHE and a premier event in the National Higher Education Calendar. It brings together various institutions from around the country to exhibit technological innovations. 

A Research Project by UCU Centre for Computational Biology: A study about employing phylogenetic tree shape statistics to resolve the underlying host population structure

A team of Researchers from the Uganda Christian University Center for Computational Biology recently concluded and published a study on ” employing phylogenetic tree shape statistics to resolve the underlying host population structure”.

The key researchers include the UCU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Rev. Dr. John Kitayimbwa, the Executive Director of Uganda Virus Research Institute Dr. Pontiano Kaleebu among others.

Below is an outline of the study:

Abstract
Background: Host population structure is a key determinant of pathogen and infectious disease transmission patterns. Pathogen phylogenetic trees are useful tools
to reveal the population structure underlying an epidemic. Determining whether a
population is structured or not is useful in informing the type of phylogenetic methods
to be used in a given study. We employ tree statistics derived from phylogenetic trees
and machine learning classifcation techniques to reveal an underlying population
structure.


Results: In this paper, we simulate phylogenetic trees from both structured and nonstructured host populations. We compute eight statistics for the simulated trees, which
are: the number of cherries; Sackin, Colless and total cophenetic indices; ladder length;
maximum depth; maximum width, and width-to-depth ratio. Based on the estimated
tree statistics, we classify the simulated trees as from either a non-structured or a structured population using the decision tree (DT), K-nearest neighbor (KNN) and support
vector machine (SVM). We incorporate the basic reproductive number (R0) in our tree
simulation procedure. Sensitivity analysis is done to investigate whether the classifers
are robust to different choice of model parameters and to size of trees. Cross-validated
results for area under the curve (AUC) for receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves
yield mean values of over 0.9 for most of the classifcation models.


Conclusions: Our classification procedure distinguishes well between trees from
structured and non-structured populations using the classifers, the two-sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov, Cucconi and Podgor-Gastwirth tests and the box plots. SVM models
were more robust to changes in model parameters and tree size compared to KNN
and DT classifers. Our classification procedure was applied to real -world data and the
structured population was revealed with high accuracy of 92.3% using SVM-polynomial
classifier.

Researchers: Hassan W. Kayondo, Alfred Ssekagiri, Grace Nabakooza, Nicholas Bbosa, Deogratius Ssemwanga, Pontiano Kaleebu, Samuel Mwalili , John M. Mango , Andrew J. Leigh Brown , Roberto A. Saenz, Ronald Galiwango and John M. Kitayimbwa

UCU acquires new ‘wheels’

The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Vice Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi has commissioned four cars and five motorbikes to facilitate and strengthen research and preaching of the gospel. The fleet include: a van, three double cabin pickups and five motorbikes.

The departments to benefit are: The School of Research and Postgraduate Studies, Chaplaincy, Church Relations and Facilities and Capital Projects. This is a major investment by the University, considering the economic crisis that has hit many universities.

“It is important for us to prioritise Chaplaincy and Church Relations because we are a Church founded institution. Whatever we do at UCU is ministry to the people of God and this country. This was the intention of the church when it established its University,” said Prof. Mushengyezi.

The Vice chancellor Prof. Mushengyezi makes a demonstration on one of the new motorbikes. Photo/ Siyasa

He added that the van will not only aid in building relationships but it will enhance outreach programs targeting the church and other partnerships.

“Not many institutions can think of something like this because they are waiting for normality. This is a testimony that where the LORD is present, blessings flow,” said David Mugawe, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration.

The cars will facilitate the Church Relations Department in strengthening relationship between the University and its founding body (The Church of Uganda).

The University Chaplain, Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa, expressed gratitude to management’s support towards the work of God and said that they will improve coordination with chaplaincy offices in regional colleges and other UCU campuses.

Prof. Mushengyezi poses with staff of the UCU Chaplaincy and Church Relations office. Photo/Siyasa

The Church Relations Manager, Rev. Jasper Tumuhimbise, said that they are delighted to receive the van and it will enable them reach out to all dioceses in Uganda and equip the church.

The Dean of the School of Research and Post Graduate Studies, Prof. Elizabeth Kukunda Bacwayo, said that this will improve their activities which include: reaching out to UCU partners and building connections with the private sector, mother church, government and other universities in the field of research.

The rest of the cars and motorbikes were assigned to the Facilities and Capital Projects Directorate to aid in support services.

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Prof. Kisaalita brings engineering solutions to UCU

Bespectacled. Loose-fitting, sky blue shirt. Sage-green cotton trousers. Black sneakers coated with dust likely gathered from strolling down the dirt roads of Mukono. His casual countenance belies his unsullied academic pedigree. He is an ordinary, grey-haired folk until you do one of three things: Type the name William S. Kisaalita into Google Chrome, ask him to tell you a bit about engineering and, thirdly, show him a major socio-economic problem in your community. Then shall you know the 67-year-old scholar for ‘who he truly is’.

Kisaalita is a Distinguished Professor of Engineering and a former Graduate Coordinator, at the University of Georgia, USA. Additionally, he is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Uganda National Academy of Science, and a Fulbright Scholar.

Early this year, 2021, he got an adjunct appointment at UCU and consequently touched base in Mukono in March. He received the offer with two hands for many reasons, though chiefly because of his keen interest and world-class expertize in “internationalizing undergraduate students engineering learning experiences”, as the Journal of Community engagement and scholarship writes of him.

Kisaalita came to teach mainly two course units: Foundations of Engineering Research and Development Engineering and Sustainability. He awaits approval of the course units by internal authorities who handle University curricular, before he can embark on lecturing. He has published literature in the same fields and beyond. His major books are two: Development Engineering and 3D Cell-based Biosensors in Drug Discovery Programs. Both are available on amazon.com. But this is only a pipsqueak of his scholarly portfolio. Kisaalita has published research and done more projects than space allows me to detail.

I met him somewhere on the green of Uganda Christian University (UCU). Typical of a Ugandan that has lived long enough in the West to master the on-time culture, he was just in time for our appointment. “It is exciting to be back home, you know, after so many years of being away” he remarks, with an American English accent. He has lived in the Diaspora since 1779. He makes his home in Georgia State, USA. Though they are empty nesters, Kisaalita and his wife Rose Mayanja, have four children.

Kisaalita’s name is tied to several research projects and innovations that continue to make inter-continental impact. His lean slightly stooping stature is proof for decades spent searching for and solving hard problems using simple engineering solutions, mostly in developing African economies.

He is the mind behind the Evakulaa a milk preserver powered by biogas derived from cow dung. Courtesy of a grant from the National Science Foundation, Kisaalita came to Uganda, in 2002, with a team of Undergraduate engineering students from UGA with whom he built the milk cooler. He would later secure another grant from World Bank to commercialize the cooling system, which had taken him many years and additional funding from USAID to develop. The invention has since revolutionized the milk market in Uganda, enabling small holder farmers who cannot afford refrigerators to keep milk fresh overnight.

In 2005, together with a colleague from UGA Kisaalita travelled to Morocco to develop a system that could help Moroccan women crack nuts much faster and efficiently. Nut-cracking was a laborious task that the women undertook to earn a living. Oil-exporting companies would hire them to crack shells of argan nuts in order to harvest the seeds, from which, then, oil would be extracted. The women had to crack the seeds between two stones, a process that sometimes mangled their fingers.

It usually lasted nearly 24 hours to produce a litre of oil. Incommensurate to the labour. No sooner had he tried to crack one himself than Kisaalita assigned his students to forge a nutcracker. The result of the heuristic Professor and his student’s development was a crank shaft hand tool that cracks nuts thrice faster…

Unlike scientists whose science closes out God and Godliness, Kisaalita’s empathy for the poor that is almost palpable when he speaks about their problems, is evidently inspired by his Christian convictions, which he argues must be an undergirding force if one is to think beyond their stomach, but of what they can do for their community.

“I feel like my job is to do things that lifts  people further up, from where they are, on the economic pyramid and there is no way of getting to know what they need other than stepping in their shoes or listening to them complain.”

Prof. Kisaalita

A penchant to solve social problems in his community has always inspired Professor William Kisaalita, a social entrepreneur, researcher, teacher, writer and parent. He believes that to understand challenges of the people one seeks or claims to serve, the latter must walk in their shoes; lest they come up with irrelevant inventions. Hence, he does not know, let alone like, to sit up in air conditioned study rooms or libraries, perusing tomes to read up on problems people are facing, then research. His methods are ethnographic.

Over the six months he has lived in Uganda, since March, Professor Kisaalita decided to embark on a project whose intended fruit, he says, is high-efficiency briquette-making machine(s) and green charcoal making. These he believes, will ease burden of unnecessary manual labour on local briquette makers in Uganda, some of whom he has interacted with during his six months stay in the country, ever since arrival.

A casual chat with a young woman whom he met selling briquettes somewhere around Mukono inspired the idea. On hearing-firsthand- about the rudimentary production processes, the Professor who began to think- Solution. He has been thinking, designing concepts and writing grant proposals. Now he has a briquette-development and green charcoal project underway in which he hopes to incorporate Engineering students when they are back on campus for in-person learning.

Moreover, he is working towards developing a center in UCU called the “Sustainable Development Center”, with goal of “strengthening graduate education”.  “I would like to produce a student who thinks at a high level to tackle problems in their community,” says Kisaalita. This would be a UCU- version of his annual program for freshmen, called the First Year Odyssey Seminar.

The Professor’s affiliation with UCU-no doubt- brings premium value to the University’s Faculty of Engineering, Design and Technology, not only because of his heavy scholarly profile but also because he eagerly seeks to link UCU to his world-wide web of networks. “I will try and use my networks. I hope to invite some of my colleagues from my University, here, to teach and interact with the students for periods as short as three weeks,” he says. “And soon some of them will even like the experience enough to travel on their own, he adds with a grin.

Background

Professor Kisaalita attended from Bishop Senior School in Mukono, 1968-1971. He later joined Kings College Buddo in 1972 from where he acquired his High School Certificate. In 1974, he joined Makerere University and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1978. Four years later, he acquired a Master’s in Bio-resource engineering from the University of Vancouver, BC, Canada.

In 1981 he came back to Uganda to start a teaching career at Makerere University, but barely spent a year there because “life was incredibly hard. It was impossible to live decently”. He was earning a meagre wage of 600 shillings despite the economic inflation at the time. “The economy was in tatters, money had lost value due to inflation, but our salaries were not adjusted. On many occasions his parents delivered food to his apartment.

After seven months in Uganda, he decided that life at Makerere, at the time, was unsustainable. He hang his boots in August 1981 and left for Canada a few months later, in 1982. He enrolled for a Doctorate in Chemical engineering, in 1987, at the University where he had acquired a Master’s.

In 1991 he joined the University of Georgia, where he is still serving as Professor. This was shortly after pursuing a Post-Doctorate at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Professor Kisaalita has garnered strings of awards over and secured Postdoctoral Fellowships at prestigious institutions around the world, during his scholarly career that has spanned over 40 years.

When he was nine, ‘little’ Kisaalita paid his debut visit at a workshop. In company of his father, who was a government mechanic at the Ministry of Works. At the workshop he saw giant machine slamming and neatly flattening other huge pieces of metal. His jaws dropped. As thought stricken by divine conviction, he said to himself, “I want to be able to do something like this.” Over fifty years later, he has become a polished innovator who niches in simple engineering solutions for problems of the proletariat.

Wandamix, a housefly larva-based protein concentrate for poultry feed formulation, is another of his innovations. This he developed to soothe the predicament of poultry farmers in Burkina Faso.

Hopefully his next popular project will come from UCU.

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