I am writing to briefly respond to the issues you raised in your article published in TND News titled, “Uganda’s online learning is a white elephant for practical subjects and courses.”
First and foremost, elearning should be part of learning. This means it should be embedded into the normal learning routine in schools, especially secondary schools, and universities.
In this case, learning is done within the framework (environment) of the school, managed and supervised by teachers.
This is a method that is most agreeable and widely used world over. It means teachers or lecturers continue normal teaching in class, but supplement it using elearning, e.g. giving online assignments, viewing simulations etc.
The other way is purely online learning, as it is being done now in Uganda, with students & teachers far apart. In this case, teachers dump material into the elearning platform and students receive and complete activities. In this situation, I agree with you that it is not fit for science (STEM) & largely practical subjects or courses.
As Centre for Skills and Innovations, we support the first framework – elearning within the school environment, using school or university resources.
The problems with elearning in Uganda are anchored in 3 main areas namely, access to devices (computers, laptops & tablets), access to internet, and access to electricity.
Our elearning project, Participatory E-learning for Student Outcomes (PESO) is designed using this approach and will be rolled out 10 secondary schools in Lira. E-learning done within the framework of school/university works well, because students & teachers will use school/university resources (computers, internet, electricity). However, if students are at home, it becomes complicated.
Statistics from UCC (and CIPESA) indicate that only 28 per cent of Ugandan between 18 to 28 years have a smartphone. Yet, it is this age group that is at populates universities.
When it comes to power, Uganda’s electricity access stands at nearly 60% in urban areas, while in rural areas it is 16%. This figures make impossible to successfully implement any elearning in rural areas.
The other issues are inadequate digital skills and lack of interest in upgrading learning facilities. I will give my personal experience here. I studied my IT degree without ever using an elearning system, much as the lecturers were teaching it theoretically. There are a lot of inconsistencies in our education system, and there is a general preference for theory than practical. It happens in many areas, not only IT.