DETA conference: Researchers discuss transformation of e-learning

The Distance Education and Teacher Training in Africa (DETA) Conference opened yesterday July 24, 2023 at Makerere University with a call to embrace distance and e-learnings and address the challenges associated with emerging Information and Communication Technologies. The 4-day conference will run until July 27, 2023.

Under the theme “A Paradigm Shift towards innovative, resilient and transformative teacher education” the conference is being attended by over 150 distance education scholars from across the globe.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof. Umar Kakumba said while it is important to revolutionize Distance Education, it is also important to address the issue of curriculum for it needs to be designed to address emerging issues in the environment. The curriculum he advised must address quality and inclusivity. Prof. Kakumba reminded the delegates that digital technologies have got deficits which out to be addressed.

The Acting Vice Chancellor said it was important for teachers to get the best training, arguing that the quality of a nation is dependent on its human capital.

He thanked the Institute of Distance and e-learning (IoDEL), led by Prof. Paul Muyinda Birevu, which is spear heading the mainstreaming of ODEL in all academic programs at Makerere University. Pointing to the Covid-19 outbreak which forced institutions of higher education into online learning, Prof. Kakumba said this was a learning point which left an indelible mark on all institutions.

The conference is organized by IoDEL in collaboration with the University of Pretoria and Busitema University. Speaking on behalf of the organizing committee of Makerere University, Prof. Muyinda thanked all the participants for making the time to travel to Kampala as well as submit papers for the conference. He thanked Dr. Harriet Najjemba, the chair of the Makerere Organizing committee for her commitment to the event.

Prof. Muyinda shared with participants the birth of Distance education in 1991, saying however, that it only became popular during the Covid-19 lockdown. “It has proved to be a sustainable mode of teaching and learning which will propel our countries to the attainment of SDG4,” he said.

SDG4 aims to Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. He called for synergies to help advance distance education.

The Vice chancellor of Busitema University Dr. Paul Waako cautioned on the quality of education offered in the course of distance education delivery. How do we harness the affordances given by the existing digital technologies such as AI?

He called for the consolidation of the achievements made during the pandemic because the pandemic showed the world the importance of distance education.

Food for thought

Prof. Anthony Muwagga Mugagga also challenged the participants to critically discuss the issue of AI especially with the emergency of robotics, which human qualities.  

“Can technology replace a good teacher? How can we interest the young generation into taking up distance education? Can we train people with special needs and animals using distance education? “he questioned.

He made a plea for the different universities attending the conference to share online resources such as libraries and journals such that they can share the knowledge they have.

Prof. Mathias Mulumba, the Dean of Education, who chaired the Pan African Deans Forum said the deans had formed a committee to discuss the quality of teacher education in Africa.

Teacher education defines the quality of education in any country and ultimately dictates the speed at which social and economic transformation takes place.

The knowledge, skills and values teachers receive and develop during training has far reaching implications on the teaching and learning process in the class room and the resultant competences acquired by the learners.

The conference it is hoped will help teacher trainers harness all opportunities in preparation of teachers. Distance education he said has enabled people get an education that they previously would not have got because of access. This has been facilitated by the affordances of Technology.

Prof. Sehoole Chika, the Dean Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria shared with the audience what the discussions of the 4 days will centre on.

He said the conversation will be around learner support in Distance Teacher Education as learner support plays an important role in the success of students in both contact and online delivery modes. “It ensures that the customer-satisfaction dimension of quality in the online learning delivery is clearly explored and well implemented,” he said.

Day 2 of the conference say researchers discuss and present papers on Curriculum development to fit modern learning, integrated learner support services such as Learner intake support, Information support, Academic advising, Technological support, Health and wellness as well as learner engagement.

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