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UCU helps Christian primary-secondary schools with e-learning

By Ian Asabo
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) e-learning candle is spreading its light to other institutions in the country. Among the recent beneficiaries is Greenhill Academy, a group of Christian-founded primary and secondary schools in Kampala. Leaders from the Academy met with UCU e-learning staff for a virtual learning seminar in December 2021.  

During the UCU visit, Greenhill Academy officials gained a better understanding of how UCU accommodated learners virtually during the Covid-19 lockdown when in-person learning was halted in the country. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, Uganda has had two lockdowns, with some classes remaining closed to in-person learning from March 2020 to December 2021. 

Greenhill Academy Rector Joy Veronica Maraka led the Academy’s staff who attended the seminar. The head of the UCU Online Distance Learning Department, the Rev. Jessica Hughes, provided insight into how classes are taught on the platforms, highlighting how the switch to online classes has improved her work. She said students prefer having small assessments, which makes it easier to track their progress during the semester. 

“Online classes have provided flexibility in the way lectures are conducted because they can evaluate students through small quizzes and assignments, which enables critical thinking,” she told the delegation from Greenhill Academy.

The Rev. Dr. Hughes proposed the evaluation of students on a “more regular basis through videos, quizzes and questions that allow for more critical thinking to eliminate the aspect of cramming.” 

During UCU’s 22nd graduation ceremony on October 22, 2021, Uganda’s First Lady and education minister, Mrs. Janet Museveni, said she was impressed by UCU’s “robust online education programme” and encouraged the university to share best practices with other institutions.

UCU’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, the Rev. Dr. John Kitayimbwa, who also attended the seminar, said the university was ready to partner with Greenhill Academy. 

“This is a great opportunity to find ways of changing the way teaching is conducted,” Kitayimbwa said, encouraging Greenhill Academy to take the lead and show other schools that online learning is the way to go and that with it, “the possibilities of learning are endless.”

Kitayimbwa said the university has invested a lot in the networking, IT department and library database, which work in unison to provide a seamless experience for students. The university has invested about sh1.4b ($395,000) on e-learning, management information systems and networking, Kitayimbwa said. 

Recently, UCU Partners donated $50,000 (about sh170m) to the university to help it expand the e-learning platform. Mark Bartels, UCU Partners executive director, said the organization contributed the funds following a call by the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, for external funders to support the eLearning infrastructure. 

Greenhill Academy Rector Joy Veronica Maraka thanked UCU for hosting them, stating that they will “pick ideas from the session and follow in the footsteps of UCU in evolving education in Uganda.” 

At a virtual dialogue held in August 2021 to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on education institutions in Uganda, Mushengyezi advised institutions to consider a rigorous shift towards online distance learning and service delivery, so that future lockdowns do not affect operations and learning.

UCU Partners donates $50,000 to UCU’s eLearning platform


By Yasiri J. Kasango
Efforts by Uganda Christian University (UCU) to upgrade its eLearning platforms have gained momentum after Good Samaritans donated funds to assist.

UCU Partners has donated $50,000 (over sh170m) to the university to expand the platform. Mark Bartels, UCU Partners executive director, said the organization contributed the funds following a call by the university’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, for external funders to support the eLearning infrastructure. 

“The idea to support eLearning came from UCU,” Bartels said. “In all of the support that UCU Partners offers to UCU, we seek to meet the most important needs of the university. When the Vice Chancellor communicated this need to us, we were glad that we had some funds available to donate to UCU towards achieving its goal.” 

Bartels added that given the restrictions in Uganda due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the significant increase in eLearning needs, it was a natural place for UCU Partners to make a contribution. 

“We know that these funds will make a difference for so many students, even after the Covid-19 restrictions are eased,” he said “We have been so impressed with the way UCU has led universities in Uganda in terms of eLearning.” 

“It is always exciting to support a project that has shown promise with fewer resources, knowing that additional resources will make a big difference,” Bartels added.

At a recent virtual dialogue to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on education institutions, Mushengyezi advised the government and schools to follow the online learning path that his institution has taken in order to reduce the effects of Covid-related lockdowns on studies.

In March 2020, when the government of Uganda imposed a total lockdown on academic institutions in the country as precaution to limit the spread of Covid-19, UCU embraced eLearning and it is one of the few universities in Uganda teaching during the lockdown.

“We have invested in infrastructure of electronic learning and have something to share with other institutions,” Mushengyezi said at the dialogue, adding that such a move will not only keep students from lagging behind because of the pandemic, but also enable them to continue studying on their own time.

UCU Partners is a US-based non-profit charitable organization committed to raising public awareness about UCU by seeking material and spiritual support for students and other projects in the university. 

The University ICT Services (UIS) technical manager, Rebecca Kangabe, said the contribution from UCU Partners will go a long way towards purchasing cooling equipment for the servers. “The funds will also go towards improving the internet service capacity of the university and the PS link from 1GB to 10GB,” she said.

The increase in the PS link is expected to boost the communication at UCU, making the internal emailing system faster and also simplifying the teaching on the Big Blue Button. 

Kangabe commended UCU Partners for the generous contribution.