The Impact of Online Classes on Students’ Attendance of Classes and Examinations
By Mollan Joyce and Vanitah Kajumba
Conrad Asiimwe is a second year student pursuing a Bachelors’ Degree in Journalism and Communication and just like many other students, he was affected by the online learning/classes system. With close to no experience with gadgets, he was thrown into the world of technology as the university resorted to using online study platforms.
Traditionally, the learning process within the university consisted of face-to-face learning interface between the students and the lecturers. When the country was hit by the covid-19 pandemic, schools were forced into a tight lockdown where education was on a halt for some time. As a way of keeping up with the academic progress, the university devised the online learning system for students to keep at par with the learning process.
Some students have come to believe that this learning process is indeed conducive since the normal learning system does not give them the opportunity to keep up with their instructors especially in situations when the class is big.
According to Rawlings Grace Ogenyi, a third year student at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, doing a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering, online classes helped with the issue of attending big classes with many students as he said;
“In a class like mine where we are over 90 students, sometimes when you sit at the back of the class, you miss out on what is being presented at the front because then, you don’t hear what is being presented and you can’t see what is being written on the chalkboard while for online classes, you can see and hear what is being presented.”
Additionally, a number of students agreed with the fact that online classes are
convenient since they can easily be attended from anywhere as Conrad Asiimwe said;
“I really found it convenient because for those of us who have been traveling long distances to come to Makerere. The fact that you can set up your gadget from home and attend a lecture, it is really convenient.” To counter this argument, third year student pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Works and Social Sciences, Maureen Amuduka explained her opinion as she said,
“Well, on the positive side, it (online classes) is a very convenient method because then you can attend classes from anywhere at any part of the country as long as you have access to the internet.” However, despite providing a perfect opportunity for students to study while the country is under a lockdown, a great part of the student’s fraternity has complained about challenges that emerge during the learning process on online platforms.
“On the downside, in a university like Makerere, where they expect us to pay tuition to the full and then as well as afford our own data, it becomes a little more expensive for the student so there should be a way of subsidizing the access to the online classes and then also there’s a big problem with network sometimes when the network is breaking and the communication is cut off so you miss out on important information,” Ogenyi said.
He went on to explain challenges affiliated to the university online learning platform as he said, “For a practical course like Civil Engineering, online classes denies us a chance of attaining hands on skills in the lab or in the field, while for exams, when you are trying to submit and then the network is really slow, it becomes a very big disadvantage on the side of the students because sometimes, some lecturers don’t
understand if they have set a deadline and you submit past the deadline, you lose marks. MUELE as a system only allows files which are two megabytes big so sometimes our solution files were more than two megabytes therefore, we had challenges submitting online.”
Similarly Conrad Asiimwe also said, “We found these online exams really challenging, since the MUELE platform would sometimes be unstable then when it comes to sending things via email, not all of us are conversant with technology so you might find like you are trying to send your work to the lecturer and you make a mistake in your email then the work doesn’t go and at the end you miss a grade not
because you were reluctant but maybe u made a small mistake in the email.”
Such grievances are characteristic of the student’s body as many of them complained of network related issues as well as issues surrounding the fact that they don’t have the right gadgets to participate in the online learning system. This has affected their turn up for classes. As we spoke to one of the staff members William Musamba of Makerere University who is the Assistant lecturer at the College of Education and External Studies, he said;
“The attendance has not been all that good, you realize that sometimes we are teaching even less than 50% of the class. But of course we know the reason as to why that is happening for example the Inaccessibility to digital infrastructure and inability to use the available digital resources. However, we have to continue teaching those who are there, since we are obliged to teach whatever number that turns up.”
In his endorsement, he thinks it would be wise to equip students with skills that pertain the online learning system since “the students were never sufficiently trained given the general status of digital infrastructure in the country, even those who were trained, they could hardly access the system for example those in the rural areas.
This forced some students to drop out not only to lack of tuition but also to missing a number of classes. Resulting from such situations, lecturers have been left with only a certain percentage of the total number of students they had by the time the country was put under mandatory lockdown and the university took on the online learning system.
Adding to this, even the parents seem to decry the impacts of the online learning system as they claim it has created holes in their pockets since they are no longer earning like they used to. According to Mariet Ngabirano, the mother to Brenda Mbabazi a third year student doing a Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Development Economics at Makerere University, paying tuition while constantly buying data for her daughter has greatly impacted on her finances especially during the covid-19 times.
“Initially, I was only required to pay tuition for my daughter and all her academic related finances would be taken care of, however, now I have to buy for her data bundles so that she keeps up with her classmates and also gets to do her examinations.
However there are those times when my hand are tied and all I can afford is buying daily bundles even when know that Mbabazi needs more than that to fully be part of the class” she said.
In her opinion, it would be wise for the university to either reduce on the amount of money parents pay per semester since students are attending classes from home or at least provide data for students while they are attending online classes in place of the amount that would be spent on university utilities.
Another parent Patrick Wabwire who also has a daughter studying Law in her third year at Makerere University, said the entire arrangement is hectic because he has other children that are using the same learning mechanism so he ends up sending lump sum amount of money.
Therefore he is also in a quest that the university should at least reduce on tuition during the covid-19 period as a way of showing compensation to the parents. With the ongoing virtual learning process most parents feel overwhelmed with incurring more money on the already lots of money they pay.
Basing on one of the students, Rawlings Grace Ogenyi, the university should use the hybrid learning system so that students doing practical classes can have an opportunity to have a hand-on session.
Meanwhile, Mr. Musamba suggests that students should try to adjust to the new normal as they adopt to the online learning system so that they can fully attain academic knowledge as the online learning system is here to stay since normalcy won’t be attained any time soon.
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