Innovation

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Computing & Tech department holds new students’ meet-and-greet

By Andrew Bugembe

The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Department of Computing and Technology today held its first-ever meet-and-greet session between staff and postgraduate students.

About 40 students who have been accepted into three different master’s programs for the Academic Year 2023 attended the programme which took place inside the ICMI building, at the Main Campus. 

The purpose of the meeting was to allow students to meet their department heads, UCU staff from other departments including the Hamu Mukasa Library and fellow students in person, as all previous sessions had been conducted virtually.

The session, according to Dr. Innocent Ndibatya, the Head of the Department, was a success and provided a valuable opportunity for networking and relationship-building among students and department heads.

“Overall, it was a great chance for students to connect with the department, and gain insights into the programs they will be taking at the university,” Dr. Ndibatya said. 

Members present share a cup
Since a majority of the Postgraduate programmes at UCU have since the advent of COVID-19 gone virtual, such sessions offer new students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the university campus and also know the various university staff, whose help they may need during the course of their study.

” I have learnt how to model and assimilate systems, I have also learnt how to manage systems securely and this has come in really handy for me even at my workplace,” says Drake Tamale, one of the Masters of Information technology students, and also staff at the UCU Library.

“This meet-and-greet has helped put a face to the names of some of my classmates and lecturers, who I had never met since we started to study.”

Doreen Atukunda, the Coordinator of Postgrad programmes at the Department of Computing and Technology noted that such a meeting will in the long run bridge a gap that tends to exist between students and staff whose main interaction happens online. ” Such a session opens our students to the resources on campus and also affords them the opportunity to forge cordial relationships with their lecturers,” said Atukunda.

Emmanuel Isabirye, a first-year student of MSc in Data Science and Analytics noted that the session offered him an opportunity to hear from experts including a South Africa-based scholar named Dr. Jason A. Samuels.

Dr. Samuels was a guest presenter from the University of Stellenbosch. He presented a Data Science-oriented paper on Green Technology and Sustainability, which is part of a research project he is currently undertaking. This offered good inspiration to some of the students who have enrolled for Data Science, which is one of the fairly new courses in the Department.

Some of the Postgraduate programmes at the Department of Computing and Technology include:

  • Master of Science (MSc) in Data Science and Analytics,
  • MSc in Computer Science
  • Master of Information and Technology.

All these are available in the three main intakes of UCU, namely Easter (January), Trinity (May) and Advent (September).

NCC 2022: An insight into the role of Academia in digital transformation

By Mukalere Justine

Uganda Christian University (UCU) participated in the 7th National Conference on Communications (NCC2022) under the theme; “Inclusive Digital Transformation Through Innovation”, which happened between June, 21 -22, 2022.

The annual conference organized by; the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University in collaboration with the Uganda Communications Commission brought various ICT players on the same platform to discuss issues of inclusion through innovation in the digital era. Policymakers (Ministry of ICT, NITA-U), Academia (Institutions of learning), and the industry (RENU, HUAWEI, WUGNET, OUTBOX among others) graced the event.

With the discussions steered in the direction of digital inclusion through innovation, the need to bridge the gap between academia and the industry was very evident.

The question of how the academic institutions teach and train learners to equip them with skills to innovate and serve in the industry became too loud to ignore, requiring an urgent solution to the challenge of inadequate resources and skill gap amidst the various opportunities to light which can be utilized.

Inclusion, innovation, and skill gap is not a conversation to be exhausted in a two-day sitting; prompting the need for policymakers, industry and academia to come together in order to develop a practical, yet sustainable plan on how to support learners in both public and private institutions if the so needed digital transformation is to be realized.

A few proposed ways to encourage and support innovation:
  • Mindset change towards ICT and innovation
  • collaborations between and among academic institutions
  • involvement of the industry players in curricula development
  • development and operationalization of supporting policies
  • creation and equipping of accessible incubation hubs
Left to right; Mr. Kubanja Martin, Katumbire Bobm Kauta Marvin, Nandawula Maria, Akech Mary Francis, Wani Julius, Lukeera Micheal and Ms. Mukalere Justine (sitting)

UCU was physically represented by two lecturers (Ms. Mukalere Justine (Myself) and Mr. Kubanja Martin) and six students from the department of Computing and Technology, with another team of students attending the event online since the conference followed a blended approach (physical and online).

The author is a Lecturer at the UCU Department of Computing and Technology

Digital Praxis: Young innovators hold first boot camp

By Emmanuel Isabirye

10 student teams have undergone Phase one of the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Digital Innovation Praxis Challenge. The phase dubbed ‘Understanding the User’ Ideation Bootcamp took place at the Hamu Mukasa Library, UCU, on Saturday, June 18.

The student teams were trained by digital innovation experts from the UCU Department of Computing and Technology in what is technically called the “structured and human-centered approach”, which involves quick and iterative building and refining of a product/service that would suit the needs of an end consumer.

Emmanuel Isabirye guides one of the student-innovators, Jacqueline Ainabyoona . Photo/ courtesy

During the training, Emmanuel Isabirye, the Co-Team Lead of the UCU Digital Praxis emphasized that “Designing innovations without understanding the user can be socially harmful, time-consuming and cost-inefficient,” he said.

Jacqueline Ainabyoona a third-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT), who is doing a project in Digital Agriculture says she learned the value of empathy; putting herself in the shoes of the user in crafting her “My farm” solution, which embraces crowd-farming to enable those who cannot afford to set up farms to rear cattle on a shared basis.

Hereafter, the teams will then be guided to do research, analysis & further rethink their innovations. At the end of the first phase, every student team shall have a well-researched problem, a theoretical solution that meets the user’s needs, and a visual sketch of the solution.

Student-innovators learning during the boot camp. Photo/ Courtesy.

Phase two will consist of prototyping and testing, where the teams shall develop a working prototype that innovatively solves the identified problem. The prototype shall be the proof-of-concept from the teams. Hereafter, the teams will advance to stage 3.

In phase three, a widely-publicized event shall be organized for the student teams to pitch their innovative solutions to the identified problems. The three best teams shall be selected and awarded cash gifts to further improve their projects.

The final (fourth) phase will consist of marketing the student’s innovations to attract potential funders for possible scaling up of the innovations.

An illustration chat.

UCU Directorate for Research, Partnerships and Innovation: The Vision

By Jimmy Siyasa

At the end of 2021, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Council sat and carefully contemplated a way to fortify the UCU aspects of Research, Partnerships, Innovation, Postgraduate studies. Among the results of the meeting was the evolution of what was once the School of Research and Postgraduate Studies, headed by the Assoc. Prof Elizabeth Kukunda Bacwayo, as Dean.

The School has since evolved into two Directorates; one for Postgraduate Studies and the other for Research, Partnerships and Innovation. The former is headed by the Assoc. Prof Bacwayo and the latter by Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito, both serving as Directors.

This evolution centralizes the two entities to their forte, in accordance with the University’s Strategic Plan 2019/2023. The Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovations (DPRI) will now henceforth- as its nomenclature suggests- focus strictly on grants, partnerships and innovation aspects of the University.

Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito is the Director of DPRI at UCU.

Recently it rolled out a strategic plan on research with a commitment to “promote rigorous, focused research that leads to improved understanding as well as innovations to solve specific challenges in Uganda and abroad,” according to the document, as presented by the Director, Assoc. Prof. Kizito.

She notes that research is integral for university ranking world over, and therefore ought to be a prime focus area for investment. “Higher institutions are increasingly subject to comparisons and rankings, and those deemed to be the best in these rankings of research universities will continue to be considered the best in the world,” she noted.

In her presentation, she further argues that for universities to maintain and improve their global competitiveness, “there is need among others to build a niche focus, internalization, apply innovative teaching and research systems and a well-formulated and strategic plan.”

Background

A committee was instituted by Senate in October 2020 to assess UCU’s research and innovation environment and productivity and to make recommendations to enable the creation of a more robust research infrastructure and environment.

Several aspects of the institution’s day-to-day operations were scrutinized by the committee, including “policies and plans, structure and management of research and innovation, funding for research and grants management, research outputs and dissemination, quality assurance and ethics, M&E and partnerships,” according to the DPRI director’s presentation.

Recommendations

Upon evaluation of the status, the committee made many recommendations which were captured in the Vice-Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi’s report on Research, Partnership and Innovations. The recommendations included:

Defining of structures and responsibilities to faculty and department level

Consultations on developing an inclusive and mission-aligned University research agenda

Identify our niche, building of school/ faculty research teams

Mapping of specialties of academic staff to align with new RPI strategy

Building the capacity of research managers and teams

Mobilizing resources for appropriate infrastructure, and more.

Prof. MUshengyezi (Right) and Prof. Maxine Ankrah pose after signing the lease agreement.

Just this year alone, the institution has signed Memoranda of Understanding and sealed agreements with at least three institutions, notably Tokyo Christian University, Hanze University in the Netherlands, and Ankrah Foundation Limited.

Therefore, it is not uneasy to see the UCU vision- A Centre for excellence in the heart of Africa- manifest sooner than, otherwise expected.

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

By Jimmy Siyasa

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.