BSU Centre of Excellence in ICT and Learning to take Gulu University to New Heights

BSU Centre of Excellence in ICT and Learning to take Gulu University to New Heights

It is one thing to have access to ICT tools, it is another thing to use them!

For example, if you have a mobile phone, the main question that arises is: What do you use it for? If on that phone you have installed WhatsApp, what do you use it for? Do you use it for exchanging jokes, sharing videos, audios, or do you also use it for exchanging study notes, sharing technical documents and holding meetings with your teams?

Gulu University on May 17, 2022, launched a centre whose focus is on the use of ICT in teaching, learning and research processes. The BSU Centre of Excellence in ICT and Learning will explore different ways and tools through which teaching, learning and research can be made more effective by the use of ICT. The launch of the centre follows three years of research in that area.

“We are enhancing technology supported research and learning. We have to keep up with new technologies in ICT and learning. We need to harness what comes with the 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Dr. Geoffrey Tabo, a lecturer of Computer Science and IT, Gulu University, in his keynote address. The 4th Industrial Revolution is “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres,” according to Klaus Schwab, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Participants during the launch event at the BSU offices in Gulu. Some participated online

In the drive for ICT enhanced teaching, learning and research, Gulu is collaborating with other universities including Aalborg University (Denmark), the State University of Zanzibar (Tanzania) and Maseno University (Kenya). The centre has also received support from other projects including the Digital Learning Initiatives (DLI).

“We are in the 21st Century where you can’t separate ICT, Learning and Research. With this centre we have seen a lot of improvement in the university research. It has enabled researchers to acquire new methodology in research, teaching and learning,” said Dr. Agatha Alidri, the Coordinator, BSU.

Adoption of ICT in Uganda’s education has been hugely accelerated by the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government closed schools for nearly two years from March 2020 and this limited learning through physical interactions, paving the way for more use of digital tools and platforms in education.

 “COVID [-19] taught us very big lessons to the extent that the term ‘new normal’ stretched throughout the whole world. We found ourselves not prepared in using ICT for learning. The few trainings sponsored by BSU about online learning were not much appreciated until Covid came. We even resisted, thinking that Covid would take a short time. It stayed. We had to go through regulations to allow us get on. We got ourselves into online learning. As I talk now we are ahead of some big universities in Uganda. With this centre we are going to move a lot further,” said Assoc. Prof. David Okello Owiny, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academic affairs, Gulu University, while launching the centre.

The centre will work to develop human capacity in research and use of ICT in learning, extending the benefits from universities further down to secondary schools, primary schools, and other levels of teaching and learning.

“To sustain the centre we need teachers who are committed and ready to break new grounds in ICT in research and learning. We need dissemination and public engagement. The products from the centre must be used by people at the end of the day,” said Tabo.

Some participants pause for a group photo with the Guest of Honour Assoc. Prof. Owiny (front row in suit)

Uganda’s situation, however, is still very challenging when it comes to use of ICT in research, teaching and learning. Among the bottlenecks are high internet access costs, low internet speeds, unstable electricity in many places as well as attitudes towards ICT in learning especially on the part of some teachers who are used to the conventional style of face to face interactions. But, like Prof Lone Dirckinck- Holmfeld, Professor of Information and Communication Technology and Learning (ICT and Learning), Aalborg University, Denmark, and one of the promoters of the centre noted in an earlier interview, Gulu University cannot afford to sit and wait. The current situation demands integration of ICT in teaching, learning and research. The university and its collaborators in this initiative have to design a way of working around the challenges they face.

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Building Stronger Universities (BSU)-Gulu is a multifaceted programme aimed at strengthening research capacity at Gulu University in northern Uganda

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