Ugandan, South African and Norwegian universities are collaborating to build capacity in the Ugandan media sector by strengthening research and training. High capacity and affordable Internet connectivity, provided by the Ugandan research and education network RENU, is clearing the way.
“We are offering PhD and Master in Journalism and Media Studies programmes to students, delivered mostly online,” says Associate Prof. Monica Chibita, Head of the Mass Communication Department at the Ugandan Christian University, UCU.
“These programmes could turn into a nightmare without a reliable Internet connection.”
The programmes have been developed in collaboration between UCU, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa and the NLA University College in Norway.
Over 90% of the lectures are based in Norway and in South Africa and all assignments are sent and evaluated online. Some of the courses under the MA program require a considerable amount of bandwidth to execute and often involve the transfer of heavy audio-visual files.
With regards to the PhD students, they only live at UKZN for the first year but spend a considerable amount of the rest of the years in Uganda but still maintain contact with their supervisors.
“That is why our biggest concern in the planning phase has been, whether the existing Internet capacity would be sufficient to sustain the teaching and supervision components of the programmes. But once connected to RENU, we didn’t have to worry about bandwidth,” says Prof. Chibita.
Brian Semujju, one of the PhD students, says receiving, sending and accessing learning materials has been very smooth.
“High capacity and affordable Internet connectivity like the one we are using at the moment is very crucial for me as a PhD student. It is very useful for my own dissertation writing but also important when am writing a paper for publication,” he says.
According to Head of Department Monica Chibita, the department now has two cohorts of MA students, and four out of five PhD fellows are making steady progress towards completing their studies this year.
In addition, UCU is planning to introduce an e-Learning component to the MA programme with support from capacity from RENU.
RENU CEO Eng. Isaac Kasana hopes, that other Ugandan research and education institutions will be inspired by how UCU has utilised its connection to RENUNet.
“This kind of NREN-service utilisation is very gratifying, and we are very delighted to provide a service that meets a vital collaboration need of a very committed member institution.
“I would like to call on other research and education institutions connected to RENUNet to make the most of the network by collaborating with their research and education partners within and outside Uganda,” he says.
The PhD and Master in Journalism and Media Studies programmes are part of an agreement between UCU and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation’s (NORAD) through The Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education for Research and Development (NORHED).