Academics from the University of Makerere, University of Agder and University of Rwanda who attended the five-days training workshop on Blended Learning Course Creation that was recently conducted in the University of Rwanda’s College of Education were taken through a mix of methods of technologies for teaching and learning for enhancing the move from traditional to modern teaching methodologies.
This training workshop was organized in attempt to respond to the pressing global need for higher education institutions to equip learners with adequate competence for solving today’s societal problems. To cope with these challenges, it is imperative for higher education to fully embrace technology enhanced teaching and learning.
Participants during the training workshop
The training workshop was organized under the Project “Enhancing Quality and Internationalization of Study Programme Through Mobile Transformative Pedagogy (EQIP)” funded by the Norwergian Government under the umbrella organization called DICOU; also known as NORPART. The project originates from a grant written and submitted by three experts from the University of Agder, University of Makerere and University of Rwanda, namely Associate Prof. Ghislain Maurice Norbert Isabwe, Associate Prof Paul Birevu Muyinda and Dr. Mathias Nduwingoma respectively. Therefore, the project works between the three partner institutions.
Associate Professor Muyinda is Distance and e-Learning Specialist and Consultant. He is also Deputy Principal, College of Education and External Studies at Makerere University (Uganda). We approached him and he willingly responded to our interview questions.
PRO ( Public Relations ): First and foremost, can you please tell us what Blended learning is ?
Professor PAUL: Blended learning is a mix of methods of technologies for teaching and learning, but the mix which actually results into a better learning experience. It’s like having a juice blend whereby you have oranges, pineapples, you have other fruits and you put them together and you get the best juice with the best aroma.
So we mix these methods; we mix traditional classroom teaching, we mix face-to-face teaching with technology support learning and have the learner get the best learning experience.
PRO : You have been here for a five-days Training Workshop. What were the training objectives?
Prof PAUL: ‘’We have been in the training for five days from Monday up to today Friday. This training was on transformative pedagogy and technology -enhanced learning in which we were enabling lecturers to be able to change the way they teach and the way the learners learn. We are emphasizing on the fact that today in modern pedagogy the learner is at the center stage. So, we want to design courses that put the learner at the center stage where the learners actually take control of their own learning.
Teacher-centered pedagogy is actually outdated, because there is a lot of information that learners are able to get and be able to learn and the work of the teacher is simply to facilitate the learning. So, we have been designing blended learning courses that render themselves to student- centered learning.
PRO: Do you think the training objectives were achieved?
Prof PAUL : Yaah! One of the objectives was for example that by the end of this training we were supposed to have blended learning courses. We have been able to achieve the blended learning courses. We have been able to demonstrate about 10 courses, but other trainees were not there today, but have also developed some courses. Those who were there were able to see about 13 courses developed or started to be developed.
They are not yet completely developed, because we did not have enough time, but when we get enough time the participants are promising actually to develop the courses to completion. We are also putting in place a mechanism of following up on those courses to see if they have been developed to completion.
PRO: What are the benefits of blended learning on teaching and learning?
Prof PAUL: Blended learning unlike traditional learning has a lot of advantages, because you cannot talk of blended learning without talking about instructional design. Whereas in classroom learning a teacher can just get his/her notes and go to class and teach. But, in blended learning the teacher or the lecturer must go through very well structured instructional design principles. These principles enable learning to be in the hands of the learner and enable him /her to be active, engaging and fulfilling.
So, with blended learning it is very easy for a lecturer or a teacher to be able to develop their course and that course can be improved even by the learners. As the learners learn they generate knowledge, they comment on the course and those comments form part of the content that the teacher can use to improve his/her course.
PRO: What main points did the training course focus on?
The training focused on the theories of learning- how people learn; planning a blended learning course, because plan is the most important thing; creating activities ( that are called e-tivities ) for the learners; creating study guides that use those e-tivities; putting the content online ( on-linesation). I found out that in University of Rwanda, you use Moodle as a learning management system. We were busy in the last days trying to get what we have planned onto the learning management system.
PRO: What best practices were learnt by participants from the training?
We had a time /a slot where we were sharing courses different institutions have developed. We shared our blended learning courses from Makerere University. We also had a share of blended learning courses from the University of Agder and we had a share of blended learning courses from the University of Rwanda. In each of these, we were able to critic ourselves and learn from each other. So, we were able to see best practices from Makerere, best practices from the University of Rwanda and best practices from the University of Agder and be able to incorporate those best practices in our blended learning course designs.
PRO: What was your role in this training? Were you there as a facilitator or as a trainee?
Prof PAUL : Well! You know, learning is lifelong. I was here as a facilitator, but I also learnt a lot of things from the different facilitators. As I was researching to be able to train I learnt many aspects that I did not have.
PRO: What new things have you learnt?
Prof PAUL : I learnt how to develop a video. I went to the Multimedia Studio and was able to learn a lot from there. I was able to learn about a multimedia studio set up, because I wanted to set up a multimedia room in our University, but I did not know where to get the requirements for setting up a multimedia studio. But, I was able to get these requirements from the University of Rwanda Multimedia Studio. So, I really learnt from that. I was also able to learn many other things in course design when we shared with the University of Agder and with the University of Rwanda.
PRO: What are the most important terms of reference of partnership between Makerere University, University of Agder and the University of Rwanda?
Prof PAUL: As academics and researchers we are encouraged to do collaborative work. We collaborate in research, in grants and in teaching so that we can have a bigger experience from each other. We, the three of us, Maurice, Mathias and myself Paul, met in different conferences and decided that we should work on something together. When a call was put up by DICOU/NOPART, we said we can work on a project together that can help us to enhance our teaching and learning practices in our different universities.
So we wrote a grant under the project which we call ‘’EQIP’’ for enhancing academic programs and mobility of students. The paper of this project was to ensure that we have mobility of students from from one university to another: from Makerere University to University Rwanda and from University of Rwanda to Makerere, from University of Rwanda and Makerere to University of Agder and also from University of Agder to our universities. We also have staff exchange.
By just coming here actually it is staff exchange. We have had five faculty actually from Makerere University coming to University of Rwanda participating in this training. We expect to get faculty from University of Rwanda coming to Makerere and also faculty from these two universities going to University of Agder and University of Agder coming here so that we can do joint research, joint teaching, so we can have a rich learning experience for our students.
PRO: What is the way forward to this training?
Prof PAUL: The way forward to this training is;
- Follow up the courses that we started developing
- Do joint research for each other, do action research on these activities that we are doing
- Have students mobility –students going from one university to another
- Have staff exchanges and attend conferences, participate in seminars, and
- Improve curricula for programs: at Makerere University, review program in Masters in Instructional Technologies; at University of Rwanda there is Masters in Curricula Studies and Masters in Information Systems, and at University of Agder there is Masters in Multimedia Technology. We are going to review these curricula and have offered in a transformative way.
In addition to this, next year there is a session that is supposed to be in Makerere University and we expect to have lecturers come to Makerere for other trainings. There is also a local team led by Mathias that will organize trainings for other lecturers to be able to participate. Furthermore, those trained are urged to train other lecturers.
PRO: Are there any recommendations to the participants?
Prof PAUL: I recommend the participants not to sit back. They should develop their courses to full completion now that they are equipped with necessary skills to be able to develop these courses and use them in the teaching of the learners.
PRO: Thank you!
Prof PAUL: Thank you too!
The closing ceremony of the training was marked by presentations on the new knowledge gained by the participants and messages of appreciation towards the EQIP Funding agency as well as the organizers. The ceremony was also made colorful by awards of Certificates of Attendance presided over by the Coordinator of EQIP Project, Associate Prof. Ghislain Maurice Norbert ISABWE, from the Faculty of Engineering and Science, Department of Information and Communication Technology, University of Agder.
In his closing remarks, Associate Prof. Maurice commended the participants for their active participation, discipline and teamwork that made the training a success. He called upon them to use new knowledge gained to produce quality e-learning resources.
Public Relations and Community Engagement Officer
University of Rwanda-College of Education