The Ugandan government through the Education Ministry is set to mainstream the Open and Distance e-Learning(ODeL) also known as e-learning at all universities in the country.
“Through the education and sport sector strategic plan 2021-2024/25, the ministry intends to strengthen ODEL by having it mainstreamed in all institutions of higher learning as well as the strategies that will ensure increased access to higher education,” Education and Sports Minister, Janet Kataaha Museveni said on Wednesday.
“We want to take learning to people instead of bringing people to learning. We want to emphasize the need to make learning accessible to where people are.”
She was speaking during the opening of the fourth annual higher education conference at Hotel Africana in Kampala under the theme “Enhancement of teaching, learning and assessment with Open and Distance e-Learning (ODeL) in higher education”.
The Education Minister said it is high time e-learning is mainstreamed and so much focus is put on it due to its enormous advantages.
“ODeL increases enrollment of eligible learners, increases the teacher learner ratio, and provides solution to the emergencies in the education sector. It is flexible in terms of time and distance. It is not discriminative in terms of age, gender, religion or physical ability.
According to NCHE Executive Director, Prof. Mary Okwakol institutions of higher learning and universities ought to apply for accreditation of programs they want to teach remotely.
“Since we issued minimum standards(for e-learning) in August, 2019, we expect that all institutions that wish to continue with Open Distance e-Learning ( ODeL) to have developed programs which they should submit to National Council for Higher Education to accredit. Post Covid, programs that are not accredited to use the ODeL approach will not be accepted. This means the emergency guidelines for ODeL will not apply post covid. We have communicated this position to institutions both in writing and in various for a,” NCHE Executive Director, Prof. Mary Okwakol said on Wednesday.
She insisted that institutions ought to have developed programs that are specifically meant to be implemented using ODeL and submit them for accreditation or else the guidelines will cease to apply.
According to Prof. Okwakol, out of the 250 institutions regulated by NCHE, only 48(19.2%) have fulfilled requirements and were approved to implement the Open Distance e-Learning system.
“As we roll out ODeL, the NCHE remains committed to academic integrity , quality and standards which are non-negotiable and without which we will deliver inadequate knowledge and skills and yet these acre critical in contributing to development and solving the socio-economic and health challenges that are ever increasing. “
The chairperson of the National Council for Higher Education, Prof. Eli Katunguka said despite the many advantages, there are still challenges in implementing e-learning that he said need to be dealt with.
“There is still need for enhancement of digital skills for both teachers and learners whereas internet costs are still high .Some institutions and students lack the required ICT infrastructure like computers to be able to implement e-learning whereas some employers don’t accept degrees or diplomas got through e-learning,” Prof. Katunguka.
He noted that there is lack of concentration for students who are studying from home whereas some parents and teachers are not conversant with the concept of remote learning.
Prof.Katunguka however advised institutions of higher learning to make collaborations with the private sector to provide ICT infrastructure like computers and internet bandwidth to enable them implement e-learning.
The NCHE Executive Director, Prof. Mary Okwakol said the annual conference will see institutions and individuals share experience and innovation in the teaching, learning and assessment using e0learning .
“There is also need to strengthen continuous training and sensitization for both staff and learners on ODeL. Examination monitoring ought to be strengthened and the challenged faced by people with disabilities addressed,” Prof. Okwakol urged.