In March of 2020, just a few weeks into first term, all schools were abruptly ordered to close as the Covid-19 pandemic started hitting Uganda. What we thought would take a few weeks turned into months and before we knew it, the year came to a close with no sign of sanity returning to the education sector.
2021 was no different. While schools were confused on how they could engage learners, some schools quickly started out experimenting with elearning. And as the future remains bleak, more and more schools are opting to try out elearning in order to remain relevant in the education sector.
What is E-learning?
E-learning is a form of teaching and learning where we use electronic resources. An e-learning program can consist of elements such as live or pre-recorded lesson content, video, quizzes, simulations, games, activities, and other interactive elements.
What Should an E-learning Approach Include?
It should be emphasized that e-learning should not be simply a solution to the Covid-19 pandemic. The classroom of the 21st century is far different from that of the yesteryears and the teaching and learning landscape is changing so fast. Currently, schools are using only some of these and in a scattered manner. In the ensuing paragraphs, I will give what I think a school should employ in order to have a comprehensive e-learning experience.
A School Website
A website must be the center of all the school’s e-learning solution. On the website, you will find the e-learning landing page, notifications of new lessons and articles describing how to go about the remote lessons. For example, when showing students how to navigate the e-learning pages, a comprehensive article giving step by step guides will be posted on the website for the students and parents.
Some of the top schools with e-learning integrated into their school websites are URDT Girls’ School Kagadi, Trinity College Nabbingo, Nabisunga Girls School, Busoga College Mwiri and St. Mary’s College Kisubi.
Some schools may however opt to start with a simple document repository where class notes, assignments and other resources are posted to an e-library. Some of the schools with e-libraries on their websites are, St. Joseph of Nazareth High School Katende, Jinja College School, Kampala High School and Gayaza High School.
So, in any school’s effort to integrate remote teaching and learning, a website is one thing that should be top on the list.
A YouTube Channel
In e-learning, the use of videos is very important. So, when a school thinks of remote teaching, creating videos for their lessons must be on the agenda and there is no better way to make them available than by use of a YouTube channel. A YouTube channels helps organise your content in playlists and can be accessed at any time from anywhere with an internet connection.
Some of the schools that are doing a good job on YouTube are Global Junior School Mukono, Standard High School Zana and Trinity College Nabbingo. There are offcourse many others out there doing a good job on YouTube but these 3 stand out.
A Video Conferencing Solution (Zoom, Meet, Jitsi, etc)
While YouTube may offer the visual aspect for learners to view lessons again and again, it is also important to have live sessions with their teachers. In these sessions, students can ask questions and get instant feedback. Video conferencing also helps the teacher stay in touch with learners and also know who is attending, who is not and who could be finding trouble getting along.
Many schools have opted for this but one example where this has been taken to a high level is the Edify Uganda funded eClass project where lessons for Nursery to S.5 are being conducted on Zoom. This project involves hundreds of schools that fall under the Christian School Owners Association and run by the ICT Teachers Association of Uganda.
Instant Messaging Apps (WhatsApp, Telegram, etc)
To complement a school’s e-learning efforts, the use of instant messaging apps comes in handy. Apps like WhatsApp and Telegram help a school to group students according to class or subject. These groups are created so that only matters related to that particular group are discussed.
A teacher could get feedback from students, post the class time table or make any urgent announcement in a class WhatsApp group. It is also important that there are other alternatives like Telegram.
A Lesson Management System is the center of any school’s e-learning efforts. A Lesson Management System will help you organise your learning material according to class, subject and level while giving you the ability to follow learners’ progress.
A good LMS will have an assessment module where learners can do assignments online even in the absence of a teacher. The Nabisunsa e-learning platform runs on Moodle, a very popular LMS while Trinity College Nabbingo’s runs on TutorLMS which is easier to tweak for all levels of users i.e. administrators, teachers and learners.
While thinking of e-learning for your school, the right gadgets need to be given consideration. Teachers will create videos using their laptops, phones or tablets. You will also need a microphone and a good webcam to capture audio and video respectively.
Because a lot of the learning material is posted online, an internet source from a router or Mi-Fi is necessary. Sometimes, a whiteboard may come in handy in the event that a teacher prefers to deliver their lesson like they do it in the traditional class.
Google classroom is one popular solution for remote learning. It is free as long as you have a Gmail account. It helps educators efficiently manage and assess progress, while enhancing connections with learners from school, from home, or on the go.
How All These Tools Work Together
Perhaps the easiest way to start is by creating class/school WhatsApp groups. The WhatsApp groups are used to communicate how and when the remote learning project will commence. Meanwhile, the school’s blog page will be used to write comprehensive articles about the project and step by step guides on how learners can use the different tools. The advantage with adding how-to guides on a school website is that the articles can be referred to at any time they are needed.
On the school website, a robust Learning Management System (LMS) will be deployed and used to add learning material in chronological form. Resources could feature videos, audio files, notes and even assignments. An LMS helps in registering and easily following a specific student’s performance.
Because your school website may not be able to host the lesson videos, it would be a good idea to create a YouTube channel. YouTube video links are then used to embed the lessons in the school’s LMS thereby relieving the website of stress. Videos on the school YouTube channel are arranged in playlists of class or subject for easy identification.
Learning makes full sense when there is some form of interaction between teachers and learners. That is where video conferencing solutions like Zoom, Jitsi and Google Meet come in. Lessons are scheduled and teachers take on the opportunity of interacting with learners. Zoom is by far the most popular approach by many schools. Where the budget doesn’t’ allow, free alternatives like Jitsi come in handy.
The timetable and useful links can easily be shared on WhatsApp. Instant messaging apps are an easy way to get instant feedback on the progress of the project. Since Google Classroom works with class codes, it is easier to share the class codes in the respective WhatsApp groups. Here, they are easy to retrieve in case they are required for enrollment.
Meanwhile classes need to be created in Google Classroom which allows you to follow students’ progress, give assignments and even grade them. Although any LMS is able to do this, Google Classroom is a perfect free alternative.
Can We Help Your School to Run a Smooth E-learning Experience?
While many schools would wish to go digital in their teaching and learning, there are many hurdles in their way. The budget and the expertise to have a seamless e-learning experience are the biggest issues. But these shouldn’t worry a progressive school. The ITAU EdTech team was created to guide and support schools in their journey to transform from traditional methods of teaching to the current trend of blended teaching.
Visit the ITAU EdTech website where you can get the help you need to transform to modern approaches to teaching and learning.
Dumba Stephen is a teacher of ICT, veteran computer repair technician and creative web designer. He is the Director E-zone School of Computing and Director – Business Development at E-zone Web Services. Steve is also the Team lead of the ITAU EdTech Project. He is a regular speaker and facilitator at tech and ICT events.
+256 772 111 223 , +256 752 111 223 , [email protected]