The future of Makerere University e-learning still uncertain as students prepare to report.

The current future of Makerere University e-learning hangs in the balance following the publication by the University of the official academic year calendar, which showed significant dates, including the orientation for new students, to be held at the campus on 30th January 2021.

However, Makerere University is known for abruptly changing programs causing a lot of confusion. The University released a letter informing first year students that the planned orientation that was slated for 30th January this week is tentative. If the orientation is postponed this could affect a number of activities including the online classes that are supposed to start soon.

The recent internet shutdown is already generating a lot of speculation about the future of the Internet. Despite being restored on 18th January, some applications in particular social media sites are still down. After the internet was partly restored, consumers complained of Internet speeds that were slower than normal, leaving many questioning if the internet outage will be returning anytime soon.

Such situations leave too many concerns about online classes that are supposed to happen on the Internet.

Some higher education institutions have expressed readiness to reopen for all students that are continuing and first-year students. Due to COVID restrictions, universities and schools were asked to close indefinitely as per the President’s directive on 18th March 2020.

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Several school activities were halted for some time as universities devised alternatives to continue teaching. Online studying was the only option for most students until the Ministry of Education granted permission to universities and schools to open for finalists and candidates respectively.

Makerere University released the new academic year calendar on 20th January informing students that the semester will start on 6th February 2021 with first-year students reporting on 30th January 2021.

However, there seems to be some sort of confusion for many after National Council for Higher Education released a statement informing the public that as much as universities have expressed readiness to reopen for all students, the directive can only come from the President.

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Prof. Kakumba of Makerere University said in his statement, “The calendar we have produced is subject to the government’s decision on school reopening. All we are doing is preparing for all possibilities such that in all circumstances we keep engaging our learners.”

Laptops have been made a necessary requirement for the fresh students this year to ease the Makerere University e-learning process.

Prof. Kakumba further explained, “A laptop is a mandatory equipment for all learners per their admission forms. And the good thing is that the first-course units are not so much practical, they can be handled on ODeL (Open Distance E-Learning) or blended. That might be the new normal but if the physical classes are allowed, well and good.”

By the look of things, online studying might still be the norm for many of the universities. Following recent addresses by the President, there has been no mention of reopening for all students yet. The National Council for Higher Education explained that such a directive needs to come from the President himself and advised institutions of higher learning to proceed with online teaching for now.

Saul Waigolo a public relations officer in the National Council for Higher Education further explained saying, “Currently, universities can only teach using ODeL for fresh and continuing students. This system has been approved by the council. Anything outside that arrangement must be effected by official declaration or guidelines from the central government as advised.”

Makerere University e-learning platform.

Makerere University e-learning began on the MUELE digital platform (Makerere University E-Learning Environment). The website set up before the pandemic by the e-learning department of the College of Education and External Studies to enable lecturers to carry out online lessons and exams has now become a viable choice for more colleges in the university to carry out online teaching.

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