Innovation

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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.