eLearning and Studying Online at VUU

When Virtual University of Uganda was conceived in 2010, a lot of work lay ahead to prepare for the provision of education to graduate professionals who could not afford to leave work to gain a higher qualification. As the first online-only postgraduate university in Sub- Saharan Africa, VUU is built on the idea that tertiary education that is sourced globally and locally, and enhanced through appropriate technology, can provide solutions to the perennial problems of quality and access by transforming the educational experience for students and teachers alike.

This young university is a testimony to the fact that technology-supported learning can save human-power hours and cut costs; it can enhance content quality; it can bring the very best content to more students, and it can enhance the development of critical minds through the provision of education that is truly fit for purpose. But most of all, it can enable young professionals add to their skills and knowledge portfolio without sacrificing their salary. We build on the fact that students no longer need a desktop with a dial-up internet connection: cheap tablets and smart phones can connect to the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) via an app that enables students to study offline as well as online.

VUU Governance

Governing Council VUU: old and new teams

As a pioneering e-learning university, VUU delivers online education in a creative and challenging way to provide first-class education that can rival, and even surpass, the traditional full-time programme where one teacher stands in one classroom, teaching one class, for one timetable hour. In a world where multi-media is no longer a set of different technologies to be brought together in one learning package but is encompassed within the computer itself, stimulation is a major component of an online course. Given Uganda’s generally poor reading culture, engaging with online materials that include video and audio clips at the click of a mouse makes the learning experience much more pleasurable and satisfying for the self-regulated learner using a VLE.

Globally, online education is being used in a creative and challenging way to provide first-class education that can rival the traditional full-time programme. In a Sub-Saharan Africa context, despite the often-cited difficulties, VUU was successfully set up as a result of much creative thinking that compensated for limited financial resources. VUU uses the best Open Source Software (OSS), and was the first fully cloud-based university in Africa. Using the OSS Moodle as our VLE (All teaching materials are uploaded to the VLE which is hosted and backed-up in The Netherlands), and we make the most of Google Apps for education as shared work spaces to host our administration files, and our curriculum, while the documents for and minutes of our meetings are shared webpages (with security certification) with all documents stored in Google Drive. VUU has no servers on site and uses Google Apps for mail, chats, documents, hangouts, sites, and a number of other apps that enhance our internal networking and our student communication. In order to deliver quality online content, we pioneered an IT architecture that is made up of many parts, all of which work together to deliver what we need in a very cost effective way. This approach obviates the need to re-invent the wheel and lets the experts at Moodle and Google do what they do best.

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At VUU, we believe the university teacher who is on his/her toes is more like a curator than a repository of knowledge. In searching the Internet for content, VUU lecturers compile course materials that are a mixture of their own notes, online lectures from world-renowned authorities, videos from the YouTube education channel, scholarly articles, and podcasts from universities worldwide. As “virtual” teachers the quality of the learning materials our online students receive are much better than the materials we could deliver in a traditional classroom. Putting the content online for students to read as “homework” and then discussing the materials in the live classroom (the flipped classroom approach) constitutes a satisfying learning experience.

And while online learning programmes are still relatively new in Africa, we at VUU are convinced that it is only a matter of time before they are recognized as being equal to, if not better than, conventionally-taught university courses. Rethinking the traditional idea of the university and its practices will take time. In today’s world a university does not necessarily need physical classrooms, lecturers’ offices, and student hostels, but it does need investment in appropriate technology as a key priority in setting up programmes for tomorrow’s student. A slim physical infrastructure means that more can be spent on sourcing the best materials and tutors. In this way, servers (whether local or in the cloud) become the centre of the university.

Through our Moodle platform, our students can access learning materials, post assignments, enter discussions with their peers and teachers, search, download, and read in our e-library, and keep in constant contact with their course tutors. Our e-library is an extensive collection of resources that can be accessed by staff and students 24/7. The tutors for the courses are drawn from highly-skilled, well-qualified educationalists and professionals from Uganda, the region, and globally. Their wide range of skills, competencies, and strengths will ensure that all students are exposed to a variety of viewpoints and knowledge in the pursuit of knowledge enrichment.

Students login to their classroom for eight hours each week. This means 64 hours online for the duration of each course. Our student care service monitors student activity on the platform closely. For self-regulated learners (as in distance learning), the course materials are carefully designed to facilitate students learn at their own pace and in their own place. Group discussions are built into the course and all students must participate. Again, this is monitored by the Registry and is participatory on the part of the tutor. Wikis are also part of the learning experience and students are encouraged to participate in these shared learning spaces. One hour per week is dedicated to a Live Classroom. This software works in a similar way to video conferencing but is adapted to simulate a classroom. Here, students discuss the various topics they have been introduced to, and tutors have an opportunity to answer questions and throw more light on some difficult topics. Individual course libraries with required and recommended textbooks and articles are available 24/7 online and can be downloaded to read offline.

This approach to higher education represents a golden opportunity to make a clean break from the “Yellow Notes” paradigm of the past, as it challenges teachers to search for innovative ways to enhance student learning. It is in this way that VUU is trying to provide creative, reality-rooted education that takes learning today to the level of tomorrow. At VUU we are convinced that online learning initiatives are a creative and challenging response to providing tertiary education in a world that is becoming increasingly smaller as a result of information technologies. We look forward to better and better academic practices in the future as we continue to embrace recent and newly-emerging software and technologies to the benefit of the entire higher education sector.

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Next Intake

Our next intake is 15 May for all programmes except Public Health. After that, we have another intake in August 2017. Please apply HERE.

Our free course Project Management also opens 15 May. There is a small administration fee applicable, otherwise it is free and fully online. You can apply  through our Corporate Academy.

We welcome you to join our international academic community.

Team VUU

 

2016 in retrospect

2016 was, overall, a good year for Virtual University of Uganda. Our student numbers are creeping slowly up, and we are confident we will be able to reach our targets this year and be sustainable for the future thereafter. Not only are our student numbers rising, we are also adding to our administrative staff.

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Mrs Maria Renee Rada joined us as Programme Leader in ICT4D and as IT Consultant. Her contributions to our young university are most appreciated.

One significant event occurred towards the end of the year: on 9 December, VUU turned 5.This is still a small figure but it is a sign that we are moving on and gaining strength and acclaim. Our international body of teaching staff continues to provide us with premier services from England, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, Tanzania, Bolivia, Malaysia, and, of course, Uganda.

We are currently working on new programmes in the management area (human resource and organizational behaviour) and are hoping to recruit students for these programmes for the August intake. We continue adding courses to our Corporate Academy, this year Spanish and Excel (and we continue to offer Moodle training and courses for librarians).

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Our Vice Chancellor Prof. Lejeune was busy this year with his work as Chairman of the Board of Directors of RENU (Research and Education Network) and as Chair of the Uganda Vice Chancellors’ Forum. Both organizations are happy to gain from his many years of experience in higher education in Africa.

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Professor Carabine was in demand on the conference circuit this year. In May she spoke at Education Innovation Africa in Nairobi; in December she gave the keynote address at the UbuntuNet Alliance conference in Kampala, and she participated in a panel discussion at the Times Higher Education Summit on BRICS and Emerging Economies in Johannesburg, also in December.

Our coverage in the Times Higher Education sparked a number of engagements ), not least of which was a podcast for The Academic Citizen on virtual learning in Uganda which came out in October. And an article about the first five years of VUU will appear in an upcoming issue of World University News.

On the social front, we enjoyed our Drop-in Day in May, and many students and well-wishers came to chat and exchange experiences.

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Our second graduation, presided over by Chancellor Lady Justice Flavia Senoga Anglin, was held in July where our first honorary award (M.Phil) was given to Mr Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed Bholim for services to accountancy in East Africa.

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It has been a busy year indeed and we look forward to an even more exciting 2017. With new programmes and new staff, we hope to forge even deeper alliances with sister universities across the globe. Wish us well as we pioneer online learning in Sub-Saharan Africa!

Education Innovation Africa

Professor Deirdre Carabine attended the Education Innovation Africa Conference in Nairobi last week. She was a panelist speaking about the future of mobile learning on the African continent. It was an exciting topic and generated a lot of discussion from the attendees (around 120 experts in the delivery of education at all levels). Her main point was that while the future of mobile learning is certainly clear, stakeholders are coming to appreciate its benefits rather slowly. All panelists spoke convincingly about the need to sensitize more people about the benefits of learning online rather than in the traditional brick and motor institution that is becoming increasingly expensive. You can visit the conference website at: http://www.educationinnovationafrica.com/.

 

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Here at Virtual University of Uganda, we think we are finally beginning to make inroads into the market for mobile learning as more professionals are coming to appreciate its benefits. A very powerful example of the flexibility of mobile learning: three weeks ago one of our Kenyan students had to leave the Live Classroom halfway through the discussion because he had to catch a flight from Nairobi to Mombassa. Ten minutes later he was back “in class” in the taxi to the airport via his smart phone!

Visit our website to find out more about us and what we do; and read about our approach to online learning at our Open Access Publications site.

eLearning in Africa

Although Virtual University of Uganda will not be attending this year’s eLearning Africa Conference, we are making sure to keep up with all the latest news and innovations on the elearning scene. We know we are at the cutting edge of online teaching and learning on the continent, and we are proud to be spear-heading this development. We have just completed our Strategic Plan for the next 5 years and are pleased to announce that we will be adding two new specializations to the Executive MBA programme: Tourism and Hospitality Management and Health Services Management. These are in addition to our already-existing Oil and Gas specialization. Indeed we have come a long way from chalk and talk to click and learn!

You can keep up with all the recent news at: http://ela-newsportal.com/

study online at VUU

Behind the scenes at Virtual University of Uganda

P1090476our campus in Kampala

Virtual University of Uganda (VUU) was granted a licence from the Uganda National Council for Higher Education in 2011, and we have been growing steadily since. We are proud to be pioneering elearning in Uganda and the region, and we are gradually becoming more well known even outside the continent. We had our first graduation in July and it was a colourful and happy occasion presided over by our Chancellor Lady Justice Flavia Senoga Anglin. Our friends on Facebook number almost 27,000, and we are also very visible on Twitter and Google+.

Our students come from, among other places, Uganda, the Philippines, the UK, Belgium, Tanzania, Malawi, South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Burundi, and Kenya, including a number of Ugandan professionals living abroad). Our staff are sourced globally, regionally, and nationally and represent Belgium, Ireland, The Netherlands, England, Scotland, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameron, Italy, and Bolivia. We are a hard-working group and undertake all our tasks with professionalism and integrity.

Our Vice Chancellor is the veteran Belgian educationalist Professor Dr Michel Lejeune. He studied in Belgium, Oxford, and Canada, and holds two PhD degrees from Louvain. Having been a high court judge in Belgium, he was the founder Vice Chancellor at Uganda Martyrs University, and later the Deputy Executive Director at the Uganda National Council for Higher Education.  Those of you who know him, will remember that he is uncompromising about quality in higher education.

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Second in command is Professor Dr Deirdre Carabine, Director of Programmes (Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs). She studied in Belfast, Paris, Munich, and Dublin, and is also the holder of two PhDs. She came to Uganda in 1993 to work at Uganda Martyrs University, and by the time she left, she was Deputy Vice Chancellor (AA), having also headed the Institute of Ethics and Development Studies and set up the School of Postgraduate Studies. She then founded International Health Sciences University before moving on to become founder Vice Chancellor at Virtual University of Uganda. She is passionate about online learning and has overall responsibility to ensure that all teaching and learning materials are of the best possible quality. She is also chief editor for the VUU Open Access Resources Series.

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The Chairman of our Board of Trustees is Professor Dr Charles Olweny, senior oncologist and educationalist, and previously VC at Uganda Martyrs University; the Chairman of our University Governing Council is Professor Dr Patrick Mangheni, formerly CEO of RENU, the Research and Education Network of Uganda. The other members of our full-time staff include Ms Lindo Victoria Ndagire, University Secretary in the Registry, and Mr Vincent Oloya in the Finance Office. All other staff members are contracted to teach courses in their areas of expertise. Our current programme leaders are Dr Ashis Brahma (Holland), Professor Adalbertus Kamanzi (Tanzania), Drs Arjan de Jaeger (The Netherlands), and Drs Jimmy Opoka (Uganda). I think you will agree that we are a diverse but well-qualified team.

It is because we have a very sleek physical infrastructure that we can concentrate on quality multi-media materials that make the student learning experience more enjoyable. This is what our Learning Platform looks like:

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You simply log on, go to your classroom, and learn! Simple. And we are always on hand to help you. We are proud of the fact that we offer premier student support both within and outside traditional office hours. So you do not have to travel to the university EVER: except perhaps if you wish to attend graduation! All registration, learning, Live Classes, and examinations are done online. All you need is a reliable internet connection. No more traffic jams as you struggle to reach the university at 6.00pm four evenings a week! Learn while you earn, as we say, and, most conveniently, learn at your own pace and in your own place!

If you would like to be part of this revolution in learning, visit our website to find out more about us. Currently, we offer Master’s degrees in Public Health, ICT4Development, Executive MBA (with Oil and Gas specialization and Hospitality Management coming soon), and MA International Development. We also offer a number of free online course each year (called LOOCs — Little Open Online Courses). These lead to postgraduate certification. We also offer training programmes for university staff who wish to learn how to be an online lecturer or how to manage an eLearning Platform.

To contact us, visit the website,  phone Victoria on +256 312 202137 or +256 772 202137, or mail Victoria at infovuu@virtualuni.ac.ug. You can also call in to our campus at 425 Zzimwe (Church) Road, Muyenga, Kampala (opposite Tankhill Parade).

We look forward to welcoming you as our student!

Drop in Day

Our first drop in day last month was a great success. We were especially pleased to welcome those students and staff who flew in from neighbouring countries. We had a very fruitful time together and hope to make it a bi-annual event.

Our next big event is graduation which takes place on Saturday 18 July 2015. Our Chancellor, Lady Justice Anglin Flavia Senoga will award certificates and confer degrees on our pioneer students.

Our next intake starts on 10 August. There is still time to apply online at: www.virtualuni.ac.ug. We are ready to welcome you to the revolution in higher education!

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Virtual Classrooms

Visit us today online to find out more about the postgraduate programmes we offer and how you could study online wherever you are in the world.

A virtual classroom for the 21st century.

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Virtual University of Uganda: Collaborations

VUU is currently collaborating with Mbarara University of Science and Technology (Uganda) and University of Africa (South Africa / Zambia)

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With MUST, we are sharing our Information and Communications Technology for Development programme, and with UoA our Executive MBA programme. In this way, we hope to strengthen partnerships and raise the benchmark for the quality of our learning materials.

To learn more about us, visit our website at: http://www.virtualuni.ac.ug

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Virtual University of Uganda and Mbarara University of Science and Technology

VUU and MUST are pleased to announce the new programme: Ict4D

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PG Diploma and MSc Icts for Development (ICT4D)

ICT (information and communications technology – or technologies) is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application,
encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network
hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the
various services and applications associated with them, such as
videoconferencing and distance learning.1

Rationale
It is a well-known fact that KNOWLEDGE = power, health, and, oftentimes, wealth. In this age of super-fast global communication and the vast resources available on the world-wide-web, ICTs are changing the way we do business, learn, and communicate, and there are few excuses for those in “developed” countries not to equip themselves with empowering knowledge. And while information itself is important, we must know where to get it, how to get it, and what to do with it.

While it is true that the majority of the world’s peoples are cut off from access to knowledge and information – and there are many reasons for this North-South divide – recent years have seen a huge increase in the number of people in the “developing” world becoming connected and accessing knowledge. As of May 2014, Uganda’s population was recorded in excess of 36.3 million of which around 20% had internet access.2 While this represents only a small percentage of the country’s population and is small in relation to the more than 2 billion internet users worldwide, nevertheless it is a laudable statistic that is slowly being reflected in changing ideas and raising expectations. Interestingly, more than 50% of the population possesses a mobile phone!

Until relatively recently, ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) were generally seen as specialized and often mysterious. For example, in the not-so-distant past, the computers in an organization were controlled by an ICT Manager or Systems Administrator who had absolute power in terms of how and access. With more and more people owning and setting up a laptop without the need for a Systems Administrator, the introduction of more friendly user interfaces, social networking, and cloud computing, much of the mystery has been taken out of ICTs for the average computer user.

Information and Communication Technologies are used either directly by the target groups (the population) or indirectly to assist organizations such as NGOs to improve socio-economic conditions in developing countries. For organizations such as NGOs, ICTs provide a useful tool for sustainable development and an absolute need in emergency situations. However, there is a lack of capacity in developing countries to develop, maintain, and utilize the ICT resources. This has been noted as a significant cause for failure of ICT projects.

But ICTs comprise much more than computers and how to use them. At the individual level, mobile phones, tablets, digital radios… are knowledge access points, while mobile money eases financial transactions. At the national level, the use of ICTs includes mHealth systems, eTaxation systems, eBanking, eGovernance …

As organizations such as: infoDev and ICT4Dev demonstrate, ICTs have many roles to play in almost every area of life: democracy, banking, retailing, education, marketing, gender, business, public health, human rights, environment, governance, agriculture, the media, health …. Innovative solutions to some development problems are emerging at a very fast rate, for example, the introduction of the mobile money networks made the fast transfer of cash relatively simple, while at the same time saving travel money and eliminating the need for difficult paperwork in a bank. The text services for rural farmers (while still suffering from a number of drawbacks) ideally makes it easier for farmers to stay up-to-date with current market prices, and the same service used in health service provision in rural areas has certainly seen an increase in those accessing health care (mHealth). However, many ICT4Dev projects fail because of poor management or collapse once donor funding has been withdrawn. A gap in this area is clearly seen.

In order for the Virtual University of Uganda to remain relevant to the practical development needs of the country (and indeed the region), and as a university offering online education, it is logical that one of our programmes is ICT related. When we set up the programme (which is accredited by the National Council for Higher Education – 17 July 2012) we received many suggestions from prospective students to offer traditional ICT courses; however, we believe that other universities have sufficient coverage of that area.We thought it was time to offer a specific tailor-made postgraduate programme in ICT4Dev. Our programme, offers not only courses on programming, computer languages, hardware and software, we also concentrate on the latest interventions and innovations that impact significantly on development encouraging our students to think outside the traditional ICT box while embedding ICTs in the whole area of development theory and praxis.

We are the only university on Sub-Saharan Africa offering the programme (with the exception of South Africa).3 This means that we are at the cutting edge of academic developments in the field.

Aims and Objectives
It is precisely because many innovative ICT4Dev projects fail outright, are not sustainable nor contextualized, that the region needs experts who have both the knowledge and the skills necessary to implement and manage ICT4Dev projects successfully. The programme will, therefore, aim to train innovators with “technical competencies” and “contextual competencies” to fulfill this function.

On completion of the programme, students will:
understand the contextual frameworks of development in all aspects
understand how ICTs impact on development
be enabled to link development theory with ICT practice
have the knowledge to engage critically with the role of ICTs in development
be familiar with the key debates in ICT4dev
have a thorough understanding of the basic concepts of ICT
have thorough insight in the technical skills of GIS, visual representation,
have a thorough insight in the application of ICT in one of the following sectors: education, health, finance
possess the competences to enable them to handle practical aspects of ICT4D projects such as sound project management, stakeholder
analysis
have the skills to keep themselves up-to-date in the field of ICT
have the skills to adapt new upcoming ICT technologies to local conditions.

Programme Structure4

PGDID 101: World development today 3 CU**

PGDICT 101: Introduction to ICT4D 3 CU

PGDID 103: Development projects: planning and management 3 CU

PGDICT 102: Hardware and networking for development 3 CU

PGDICT 103: Software and databases for development 3 CU

PGDICT 104: New internet based paradigms – moving to the cloud 3 CU

PGDICT 105: Information systems design and implementation 3 CU

PGDICT 106: ICT policy and regulation 3 CU

PGDVUU 102: Ethics and integrity in technology 3 CU

PGDVUU 101: Research Methodology 3 CU

Total Credit Units: Postgraduate Diploma: 33 CU

* These courses may also be taken as stand-alone certificate courses as part of Continuous Professional Development.

** Lecturing hours, practical hours and others are not included in this structure because these are not applicable to online courses. However, it is expected that students spend at least 8 hours per week on the learning platform; this includes 1 Live Classroom (1 hour per week) and 2 Chat sessions (2 hours per week).

Continuation to Master’s Dissertation

On successful completion of the eleven courses leading to a PG Diploma, having gained a CGPA of at least 3.0 in the taught courses, candidates may be qualified to register as Master’s candidates and proceed to work on the dissertation which will be supervised by a regional / international expert in the field of study chosen.

MSCPH 201 Dissertation (MSc) 7 CU

Total Credit Units Master of Science: 40 CU

Programme Duration

The programme takes two calendar years to complete the PDG in Information and Communications Technology for Development. The dissertation takes a further six months to complete.

Programme Leader:

Dr Arjan de Jager, BSc, MSc, Ph.D, Information Manager at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and previously Senior advisor at The Center of Expertise, Programme & Country Manager Uganda at IICD, and Lecturer / Coordinator at Hogeschool van Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Programme Manager:

Professor Dr Deirdre Carabine, BA, MA, PhD (QUB), PhD (NUI), Director of Programmes, VUU

Programme Administrator:
Mrs Victoria Lindo Ndagire, BA, MA (MUK), University Secretary, VUU

1 http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/ICT-information-and-communications-technology-or-technologies; accessed 15 January 2015.

2 State of Internet Freedoms in Uganda 2014, accessed at: http://opennetafrica.org/wpcontent/uploads/researchandpubs/State%20of%20Internet%20Freedoms%20in%20Uganda%202014.pdf; accessed 15 January 2015.

3 http://www.cs.uct.ac.za/about-us/newsletters/fd.pdf; accessed 15 January 2015.

4 In order to remain relevant, all courses are revised after being on the learning platform for two calendar years.