In Uganda, open and distance learners have been supported mainly through print media. In developed countries, print media has long been substituted with online learner support. In many African countries, pure online learner support is not possible because PC-based Internet permeation is still low. On the contrary, permeation of mobile phones in Africa has beaten industry analyst predictions. The ever increasing demand for higher education and support for open and distance learners under the current brick-and-mortar’ infrastructure in universities in Uganda is becoming insufficient to accommodate all qualifying students.
It is against this background that the Department of Open and Distance Learning at Makerere University with funding support from the Uganda Communications Commission and Makerere University is undertaking research aimed at developing applications employing the pervasive mobile phones to support the great student numbers wishing to pursue university education. ICTs play three canonical roles in education, namely: 1) communication/information; 2) support; and 3) access to study materials. Already, the Department of Open and Distance Learning has implemented a mobile broadcast system which provides one way asynchronous communication. According to the Head of this Department, Dr. Paul Birevu Muyinda, the Department has a mega plan to establish an integrated mobile application system that encampuses various functionalities. At the moment, the Uganda Communications Commission is funding a mLearning project at the Department aimed at enhancing communication and collaborative and cooperative learning amongst distance learners. The UCC funded project is to develop three mLearning components, namely: – a virtual mobile learning notice board (VmNoB), collaborative virtual mobile learning (Colla VmLearn) and cooperative virtual mobile learning (Coop VmLearn). More financial resources are being sought from Makerere University to support a postdoc research aimed at implementing a component for accessing and utilizing learning objects on mobile phones, procuring mLearning equipment and training at least one masters student in the area of mLearning applications development. The integrated mLearning applications will be implemented across the Department’s four programmes namely; Bachelor of Education External (BED), Bachelor of Science External (BSX), Bachelor of Commerce External (BCOX) and the Commonwealth Youth in Development Work Diploma Programme (CYP).
For more information about mobile distance learning initiatives at the Department of Open and Distance Learning please contact
Dr. Paul Birevu Muyinda on 0772406919 or firstname.lastname@example.org