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.