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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).

Virtual Counseling Room: A possible boost to mental health in Uganda

The Dotcom era

The ongoing digital revolution which started with the internet around 1980, has impacted the way of life and activities in all sectors. As the pace of digital transformation accelerates, the birth of a very connected yet lonely society has become a real threat to mental health. The digital society has seen both the old and young replace human company with the company of digital devices.

Just recently, my 21-year-old “jolly” friend broke into tears after I made a considerably usual statement; “Hey Ian (not real name), you seem very happy these days!”. I said when I had noticed his “over-excitement”, every time we happened to meet. Our conversation revealed to me the depth of prolonged depression and brokenness he was struggling with. “Why hadn’t Ian sought counseling all this while?” I wondered.

Of sad, but happy-looking people

In Uganda, you will often hear the statements; “Guma nga omusajja” or “Guma makazi”, which is literally translated as, “Be strong like a man” or “be strong like a woman”. Just like Ian, many opt to “act” strong and happy instead of seeking counseling due to the fear of being judged among other fears. Thoughts like; “people will see me”, “people will think I am weak”, “I am a leader in society”, and “I am a prominent person”, among others, are killing more people than we realize.

Some reports have indicated that about 7 out of every 10 people with a mental disorder do not seek treatment! So, what can be done?

Here are a few digital solutions to be considered:
  • Develop software, and integrate it with social media platforms and other interactive technologies that would bring together professional counselors and people in need of counseling services without requiring patients/clients to reveal their identities.
  • Create virtual counseling rooms that have invisible counselors and hold virtual counseling sessions to encourage people to seek help anonymously until they are ready for physical interaction.
  • Create a follow-up mechanism for persons that have sought counseling services to monitor the healing process.
  • Leave an avenue for people ready for physical interaction to access them

The health sector, companies/organizations, institutions of learning, and the church, can co-opt some of these suggestions into their existing digital platforms or create them in a situation where they do not exist. Not all happy-looking people are okay. Not all unwell people are getting help! Therefore, We need to create digital platforms to ease access to help. A healthy mind is a healthy person, a healthy person is a healthy society.

Image: Mukalere Justine

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

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.