Learners were found to be unsatisfied with Blended learning pedagogy
Education is no longer just about putting pen to paper and memorizing facts. Today, innovative educators in higher education are improving learning through technology, as evidenced by the rapid adoption of technology-assisted teaching methods and blended learning (BL) models.
Blended learning integrates technology and digital media with traditional instructor-led classroom activities, giving students more flexibility to customize their learning experiences.
Although Blended learning has existed in Makerere University since 1991 in the Department of Open and Distance learning, this mode of teaching only recently became common place owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following the Covid-19 lockdown, which resulted in the closure of the education sector, Makerere University was forced to adopt emergency Online and Distance e-learning (ODeL). The university since 2019 has adopted blended learning across all disciplines in the university.
The power of blended learning methods, however, lies in their ability to improve the student experience. It is against this background that a team of researchers set out to evaluate blended learning at Makerere University. Led by Arthur Mugisha, the Principal Investigator, the team set out to study how students understood the blended learning pedagogy, how they used BL during the pandemic, how respondents found BL, peer’s opinions on BL excitement and how BL could be made more exciting.
The study conducted for from December 2021 until July 2022 showed that 66% of the students/ respondents claimed to have a clear understanding of BL pedagogy to be a mixture of face to face and online modes of teaching and learning.
However, only 36% of the respondents found BL to be exciting due to: the flexibility and convenience it brings in the learning, the opportunity to be exposed to new learning technologies like zoom, reduced transport-accommodation-meal costs and disease spread, self-paced learning through downloaded materials, act of bringing the University closer to the communities and competence-based learning leading to promotion at places of work and unfortunately the ability to cheat exams.
The other percentage of 64% was not excited about BL because of the challenges it posed such as; consumption of data, poor network connectivity, length of exams (more than 24 hours), absence of a clear timetable, system failures and technology illiteracy among other things.
The students made some suggestions which they hope will make BL more exciting. These include a zero-rated system, upgrading the MUELE system (Makerere University E-learning Environment) and training for lecturers and students among other things.
The research team also evaluated the readiness of learners for BL pedagogy as well as the forms of learner support received. Only about 42% reported to have received training on the use of online platforms while 19% reported having received financial assistance, data/Wi-Fi and study gadgets from friends and relatives.
Research also showed that 51% of the respondents were and are ready to take on BL for continuity while 49% were skeptical and critical making them reluctant to embrace BL
An evaluation of the use of MUELE showed that 82.5% of the respondents found it difficult to navigate the teaching platform. About 98.5% could not join a group on MUELE. The students reported that they did not find the platform user friendly. This, Mr Arthur Mugisha said, calls for some changes on the learning platform.
Learners were found to be unsatisfied with Blended learning pedagogy.
Over 90% of the students reported not to have received guidance from their lecturers while also feedback on coursework submitted was also slow. It was also noted that majority of the students that required practical/ clinical experiences never received them during the online learning. Results showed that about 80% of the students were disappointed with the online examination system.
Some of the challenges identified with Blended learning are listed in the table below.
|BL challenges during Covid-19||Frequency||Percentage|
|High cost of data||231||29.6%|
|No or little practical sessions||42||5.4%|
|Acquisition of learning devices and their functionality||41||5.2%|
|Other interruptions in environment||41||5.2%|
|Difficulty in accessing MUELE||40||5.1%|
|Limited screen sharing by lecturers||37||4.7%|
|Unreliable power/electricity supply||30||3.8%|
|Lack of a clear timetable to follow||21||2.7%|
|Unnecessary movements-staggered reporting with associated costs||10||1.3%|
|Disruptions from unmuted Microphones||8||1.0%|
|Virus leading to jamming and hanging||4||0.5%|
|Less time during exams/inconsistencies in timing||3||0.4%|
|Low motivation for online study||2||0.3%|
|Phishing or frequent adverts||1||0.1%|
The learners also identified some possible solutions to the challenges. These include;
|Potential solutions to BL challenges||Frequency||Percentage|
|Reduce data costs||166||31.9%|
|Go back to face-to-face||107||20.5%|
|Stabilise internet or network connectivity||69||13.2%|
|MUELE system improvement/upgrade||50||9.6%|
|Provide compliant learning gadgets||27||5.2%|
|Lecturers should fully be available online||24||4.6%|
|Improve learner support systems||22||4.2%|
|Provide more flexible time tabling||13||2.5%|
|BL is good except for practicals||12||2.3%|
|Explore other platforms beyond MUELE||6||1.2%|
|Create central information repositories||6||1.2%|
|Provide reliable alternative power sources||6||1.2%|
|Host should regulated unmuted microphones||4||0.8%|
|Consult students during decision making||4||0.8%|
|Provide more time to submit online exams||3||0.6%|
|Create BL regional centres of Excellence||2||0.4%|
The research study recommended BL must be practiced but also improved. Other recommendations include;
- Once practiced, BL should cut cross both academic and non-academic units of the University.
- Top Makerere University management needs to take interest in adequately financing and staffing the Institute of Open, Distance and eLearning
- On ensuring number 3 above, there is need to attach ODeL specialists (champions) to each of the University units with clear terms of reference.
- It is hoped that in the near future regional BL centres of excellence will be created and specialists attached to support off-campus BL activities.
- In regard to regional BL centres of excellence, subsidising players who provide alternatives to hydro power to ensure that the remotest of learners is able to participate in BL.
- Introduce a basic BL course for both lecturers and learners
- Promote the Bring-Your-Own-Device approach for sustainability. Communicate it to the students’ community, parents and/or sponsors
While speaking during the dissemination workshop, NCHE director of Quality Assurance, Dr Pius Achang who represented the Ed of NCHE, Prof. Mary Okwakol, called on Makerere University to extend support to other institutions of learning because “while NCHE rolled out e-learning, acceptability has been hard”. He hoped that the findings of the research will inform policy on blended learning.
On his part, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and administration) Prof. Henry Alinaitwe, who represented the VC called for continued training of both staff and students in an effort to improve BL uptake. He called on CEES to offer training to all staff inform of teacher training for many lecturers have no teacher training experience.
The Principal of CEES, Prof. Anthony Muwagga Mugagga, called on the government to fund the evaluation of blended learning across the country. The government called on the College of education to support e-learning during the lockdown so it is important that an evaluation of that mode of teaching be done. He thanked the government of Uganda for its continued support to research as the university moves towards becoming a research-led institution. Prof. Mugagga called on the Ministry of Education and Sports to support the collect with ICT equipment as well as support he IODEL centre so that it can offer training in BL across the country.
He called for uptake of digital technologies but also warned against its dangers such as spread of pornographic materials.
The Director of IODel, Prof. Paul Muyinda Birevu, noted that a similar evaluation among teaching staff had been done so it was important for the team to evaluate the students’ uptake and affordances of blended learning.
Dr. Stephen Wandera, from MakRIF congratulated the project team upon winning the grant and successfully disseminating the findings. He called on the improvement of MUELE to make it for interactive for both staff and students. He encouraged the PI to offer some policy guidance on Blended learning.
- Arthur Mugisha
- Prof. Paul Birevu Muyinda
- Dr. Joshua Bateeze _ KCCA
- Dr. Harriet Najjemba
- Dr. Robert Ayine- NCHE
- Prof. Jessica Norah Aguti – Busitema University
CEES, Jesuit Refugee Services Launch Scholarships for Refugees, Asylum Seekers & Vulnerable Women
Makerere University School of Education has partnered with Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), to offer scholarships to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable women.
28 candidates will benefit during the first year of this arrangement.
This development was actualized by the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the JRS leadership led by its Country Representative Ms. Christina Zetlemeisl and Mr. Yusuf Kiranda the Makerere University Secretary.
“As long as one falls in the above category, they will benefit, in all courses whether science or arts,” Zetlemeisl said.
The scholarship will cover tuition and functional fees.
“We emphasize the need to extend education services to all people. Every child has a right to education as conveyed in the convention for Children’s rights and the Sustainable Development Goal 4, which calls for universal access to education,” she added.
Uganda is currently a home to 1.4 million refugees leaving in different camps and urban areas, according to the 2018 report of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The report further reveals that over 100,000 refugees are leaving in different urban areas of Kampala.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Mr. Kiranda expressed gratitude to JRS for the opportunity given to refugees and asylum seekers whose dreams tend to be shuttered because of instabilities and financial challenges.
“We all need to build broader reception for refugees because any of us is a potential refugee,” he said
Makerere University, he said is a public University which should offer services to the entire public, including PWDs, without discrimination on basis of sex, race, color or political affiliations.
“This initiative by JRS is good because it complements our goal and will help the under privileged women, refugees and asylum seekers access quality education. We are all what we are because of education. Many years back we used to do casual work to get our tuition but see how education has changed us. We want the same for our refugee community,” he said.
Prof. Antony Mugagga Muwagga, the Principal of the College of Education and External Studies said the initiative will help students who would like to access University education but are struggling in life.
“I want to implore our students to desist from abusing these scholarships. Use this time to work hard because the people who donate this money for your tuition make sacrifices,” he said.
John Mary Kisembo, the JRS Project Director said that selection criteria of the beneficiaries will be announced after the concerned team finalizing with it.
The Dean of the School of Education, Assoc. Prof. Mathias Mulumba Bwanika, appreciated JRS for the generosity and pledged the school’s commitment to implementing the MoU.
Prof. Nawangwe reiterates Makerere’s commitment on e-learning as the East African Teacher Education Symposium kicks off
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University has reiterated the University’s commitment towards the implementation of e-learning. The vice Chancellor was speaking at the opening of a 3-day symposium organized to discuss the “Pandemic’s effects on Education in East Africa”.
“Online teaching by Makerere University falls under core goals of the University that endeavours to market itself as a centre of research, teaching and Community outreach,” he said.
Upon the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, he said all private Universities nearly closed after they failed to pay their staff. Those that chose to teach online struggled because students lacked the necessary equipment.
Makerere University, he said upon learning this immediately constituted a special Committee led by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs which studied and rolled out e-learning and as well supported its staff in acquiring skills in the same.
“We embarked on the largest staff development program ever in the history of the University, when the institute trained more than 700 staff within one month. We also reactivated the MUELE and these initiatives maintained an online presence, with all students at Makerere also being advised to obtain a University email address thus teaching and learning went on,” he said.
“We were in a way responding to a theme of a conference which I attended in Beijing just before covid-19 broke out and we all didn’t know that it will be there,” he said
Prof. Nawangwe made these remarks during the launch of the 3 days East African Teacher Education Symposium 2022 (EATES 2022)
The East African Teacher Education Symposium was organized by the Capacity Building for Research-Based Teacher Education (CABUTE) project with funding from the Government of Norway.
“Uganda is home to over 40 registered private Universities and 11 public Universities. Almost all Universities in Uganda were Ill prepared for the covid-19 pandemic shock just like many in the world,” Nawangwe said.
“I thank the CABUTE project which aims at successful implementation of the National Teacher Policy through capacity building in English languages, education, foundation of education, mathematics education and Music education,” he said
Prof. Nawamgwe thanked the people and the government of Norway for the financial support to research and staff development and infrastructure development, saying it has been instrumental in making Makerere the great University that it is.
The Ambassador of Norway to Uganda, Her Excellency Elin Ostebo Johansen, said the project is a reflection program on career educational development.
Teachers, she said are the backbone of ensuring successful learning for everybody.
“A great teacher requires a great teacher education, excellence in functioning knowledge is necessary to excel as well. Quality education is a basis for growth and prosperity of people and this is import to all countries,” Ambassador Elin Ostebo Johansen said.
Paul Muyinda Birevu Country Coordinator of CABUTE Project said that the project is one of the signature activities of the Capacity building for research based teacher education project.
“We conceived this project after realizing the need to support the government in fast tracking capacity development of higher teacher trainers in primary teacher colleges and National Teacher colleges. These institutions are by policy required to transform into degree awarding institutions,” he said
He said that the CABUTE project therefore is intended to support this initiative and it is starting to pay off.
The project has awarded over 10 scholarships for Masters and PhD studies, at Makerere University. The awardees are drawn from National Teacher Colleges and Primary Teacher colleges across the country.
“Our work with building capacity in Ugandan teacher
education is finally in full swing. In the coming years, EATES will present
the results of this work, and the work of the CABUTE candidates’ will be
of particular interest. We already look forward to accompanying them
on their journey toward a degree,” the Principal Investigator, Prof. Steinar Sætre said.
Academicians call for equity in education delivery
Academicians at Makerere University have called for equity in education delivery, saying the Covid-19 pandemic exposed our education systems as one that favours the elite/urban students and disadvantages the rural poor students.
The call was made by Prof. Anthony Muwagga Mugagga while delivering a key note address on “Blended Pedagogical Approaches and their Impact on Learning Cultures During and After Covid – 19 pandemic.”, at the opening of a symposium on Teacher Education under the theme “Pandemic’s effects on Education in East Africa”.
The country, upon the outbreak of the pandemic the government adopted certain Pedagogical interventions which included, home learning packages/materials,mainly distributed through newspapers, which cost between Shs1000 and UShs 2000.
Prof. Mugagga argued that the poor, who on average earn between 0 and UShs 1000, could not afford this.
The government also used Radio and Television programmes for the candidate classes, which were presented during the day. Prof. Mugagga, however says this still left out the rural students who were in the gardens during the delivery of these classes.
Another method of blended learning adopted during the pandemic was the Home Parental assistance and guidance. This would imply that all parents with children at school irrespective of level of formal schooling were supposed to provide some degree of pedagogical assistance to their children. “Unfortunately, approximately 50% of the rural people in Uganda are illiterate or Semi illiterate , but even those who are fairly schooled cannot cope with the dynamic school curriculum reigning today,” Prof. Mugagga said during his keynote address.
Using WhatsApp messages to communicate between schools and students and emails was only a preserve of the urban elite, the professor said.
“The Covid-19 pandemic exposed our education house. It showed that indeed our education system and its planers are skewed towards the elite and the urban rich,” Prof. Mugagga said.
Prof. Mugagga recommended certain changes if the education system is to have meaningful blended pedagogical interventions.
- Functional state structures
- Governance and political as well as social accountability for all rich , middle and poor .
- Parity and equity in educational opportunities for all
- Meritocracy versus favoritism in access to good educational opportunities: The best are selected and not those who are most favored by the system.
- Strong leadership and administration which makes state institutions functional and powerful
- A Strong sense of entrepreneurship on part of all education stakeholders
- Strong civil society
- An overall sense of professionalism by all
- Strong vocational and technical education
- Pedagogical innovativeness by all
- Plan but in cognizant of our affluent-poverty education access divide.
- Train both the in-service and pre-service teachers in use of Emerging Technologies(ETs ) such as Mobile phones, Televisions and Radio among others.
- Create inclusive Education technology implementation frameworks from Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) to university levels but tailored to the Ugandan context.
The symposium, which was also attended by Ministry of Education Official, was organized by Capacity Building for Research-Based Teacher Education (CABUTE) project.
Commissioner Jonathan Kamwana, called on the university to train teachers in preparation for crisis. “We need to prepare out teachers to handle refugee students and those from war tone areas.” “We also need to teach them soft stills, values that are conducive for the environment,” Mr. Kamwaka said.
The ministry he said has got a teacher training framework which has competence profiles for all teachers at all levels.
The ministry he said has done studies and has the teacher policy which is hoped will guide training of teachers and better the quality of the teacher sent out into the schools.
CABUTE is a 6 years project (2021-2026) for research-based capacity building in Ugandan teacher education under the NORAD-financed NORHED-II-programme.
It has so far issued 16 masters scholarships and 4 PhD scholarships to teachers of NTCs and PTCs.
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