Uganda: Makerere gets Uganda’s first smart classroom

Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University, has commissioned Uganda’s first smart classroom. The CreateView classroom is located in Block A of the School of Computing and Information Science (CoCIS), Makerere.

Nawangwe and his project partners said it was the first in the country and the second in East Africa after the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Nawangwe said Makerere started the process of acquiring a smart classroom before Nairobi, but Covid-19 restrictions have prolonged Makerere’s delay.

A smart classroom provides advanced interactive teaching recording and broadcasting systems for institutions; it is equipped with a specialized learning management system and an interaction system that supports multi-camera recording and post-production. It is a combination of ICT and innovation in higher education.

CoCIS director Professor Tony Oyana said the facility was worth $100,000 (about 360 million shillings). The equipment – 50 high-quality stand-alone computers, an electronic (smart) blackboard, three supporting display screens and a robot – worth $50,000 was donated by three strategic Chinese university partners (Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), Shenzhen, China; International Center for Innovation in Higher Education under the auspices of Unesco (Unesco-Ichei), Shenzhen; and Guangzhou’s CreateView Educational Technology Co. Ltd.). Makerere paid the remaining $50,000 for shipping and installation.

He said this was the result of a partnership agreement to collaborate in research, teaching, ICT industry and community engagement activities signed in 2018 by CoCIS, CreateView Education Technology, Unesco-Ichei and Southern University of Science and Technology, China.

Oyana explained that the facility allows lecturers to engage with students, both physically on site and online. Second, the facility can be used as a recording and broadcast studio for classrooms all over the country. A teacher can record a lecture alone or as part of a lecture of students and the teaching speaker.

Therefore, it will be used to help and teach students from other universities and higher education institutions. He therefore called on educational establishments to make use of it.

Nawangwe added that anyone left behind in technology is doomed. “The future belongs to those who embrace the technology. It is time for us to wake up if Africa is not to be left behind again! This facility is for Makerere and the whole of Uganda. And Makerere will work hard to have more of these smart devices in classrooms in its colleges and other institutions for the benefit of Ugandans and Africa at large.

Oyana said the facility allows teachers to have full control and discipline over students, knowing what each student is doing with the computer. It also conducts assessments and can concretely show whether students are learning or not; it can also monitor exams and quizzes. It is also highly automated.

With the help of the robot, the school system is able to perform many functions such as class attendance registration, reading and concentration, language processing, voice recognition, taking photos and checking the ambient temperature, among others. The robot can also play music, dance and other entertainment to create a lively learning environment.

Professor Lyu Feng of Unesco-Ichei said the donation was made as part of a Unesco project for universities in developing countries, adding that 20 smart classrooms had been set up in Africa and Asia since 2020.

Hassan Adeel Shehzad, also from Unesco-Ichei, said the equipment was funded by Chinese taxpayers and education technology companies (the UNESCO International Center for Educational Innovation higher education (Ichei) and the Chinese International Institute of Online Education

Education) under the aegis of Unesco.

Shehzad is a program specialist and smart classroom system project manager sent to kick off the project in Makerere. He has formed the local team that will take care of it. He said that through the provision of the smart classroom, Unesco-Ichei and CreatView will work closely with Makerere University to encourage the development and integration of online courses into the curriculum of the University. university in order to address the challenges facing education in Uganda.

He said the facility will not only record lectures but also stream them live on conferencing tools such as Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.

“The target audience for this smart classroom project in Uganda is universities, teachers and students to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Once fully established, the rest of the country, including ministries, government departments and agencies, will use it for meetings, trainings and workshops.”

He added that the project helps share the experiences of China’s massification of higher education and the technological advantage of Shenzhen, China’s leading technology city.

The commissioning was dedicated to the centenary celebrations of Makerere University and the recognition of 60 years of diplomatic relations between Uganda and China.

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