Makerere University students will be expected to report to campus for examinations, save for the fact that the university is still closed for full operations.
The university says that this is part of blended learning, and was cleared by the National Council for Higher Education. However, we are yet to ascertain whether by blended learning the Council anticipated this scenario.
Blended learning (also known as hybrid learning) is when traditional classroom teaching is combined with online learning and independent study, allowing the student to have more control over the time, pace, and style of their learning.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba told New Vision on Monday that much as continuing students are studying online, “The National Council for Higher Education cleared us to set and administer examinations, in a controlled manner at the university.”
“Students will spend about six weeks doing end of semester examinations. We will ensure that there is no congestion and the SOPs are adhered to,” he explained.
He also noted that by the time the continuing students start their examinations, “The finalists will have completed their own examinations to give them more room,” he explained.
Makerere University has already released the timetable for the end of Semester Two examinations for the finalists. The timetable is for the Academic Year 2019/2020.
The University officials in a tweet explained, “Please note that examinations for finalists will commence on Monday, November 16, 2020; while those for Continuing Students will commence on Monday, November 30, 2020.”
Much as some private universities are set to conduct end of semester online examinations, public ones say this will not be possible and students may have to wait for COVID-19 to get contained.
All universities (as it was with schools) were closed in March and seven months later, they have been re-opened for candidates and finalists. The Government allowed universities to offer online lectures and 50% of the 51 universities, according to the National Council for Higher Education, have made the switch.
The online examination system is a digital platform that relays exams to students, which are later marked and scored by lecturers. In certain cases, the system scores the students. In this case, students, from wherever they are, are expected to sit for examinations on their laptops, with software-controlled applications.
Eventually, with online lecturing becoming the new normal in Uganda’s universities, protecting the integrity of exam and exam data are becoming key areas of concern too. But experts and educationists say there is a way out.
Five private universities of the 25 total universities cleared to conduct online lecturers, have already had online assessment systems. However, most public universities say that online assessments are expensive, takings long to be accurate and credible and that most of their students do not have the required gadgets like laptops, to effectively have all of them on these online assessment systems.
Makerere’s Director of quality assurance, Dr Vincent A Ssembatya last month told New Vision, “Such online assessment systems are not easy to install for a big number of students due to costs, but also the concerns about the integrity of examinations.
He explained, “When you have a massive number of students like the ones we have. It also requires massive investment to be able to build such systems and considering the time we have, we may not assess students online.”
Asked whether this meant that they will only lecture but not do the final examinations for all the continuing and new students, he said, “We will not assess students online.”
However, Ssembatya noted that continuous assessment like the coursework can be done online, but not the end of semester examinations, which take the largest share of the scores in the assessment of learners. He hopes that by then, universities will be allowed to re-open, or examinations will be postponed.