In preparation for online participation in the CCTI, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) engaged SchoolNet South Africa (SNSA) to conduct an orientation workshop for approximately 100 participants in Kampala, Uganda, on October 24, 2014.
SchoolNet engaged Gerald Roos and Senzo Ngcobo to travel to Kampala and facilitate the workshop. The Ministry of Education and Sport of Uganda (MoES) appointed Harriet Kagezi to coordinate the programme in Uganda. She was assisted by Gilbert Engorot. 100 names were submitted 54 of which were not accompanied by email addresses. Kumari in the SchoolNet SA office then phoned the individual Ugandan school contact persons and acquired the missing data.
The workshop was hosted by the Shimoni Core Primary Teachers College near Kitari, 38 km from central Kampala.
The facilitators travelled to the venue on 23 October to establish whether the facilities had been prepared as per separate contract between Shimoni PTC and CoL. SchoolNet’s request had been for there to be at least 34 operational computers with Internet access as this was orientation to an online course. So they were very disappointed to find that the College had 8 functional computers, of which only 4 were connected to the Internet. The venue was also not large enough to house 100 persons. Under the circumstances and after discussion with the MoES and College representatives the decision was taken that the workshop should be moved to a multi-purpose hall and that time would be allowed for participants to access the Internet for the most basic purpose, logging in and joining their groups.
On the morning of the workshop 101 participants registered and a number of other delegates attended the workshop. These included the principal of Shimoni PTC who welcomed the participants on behalf of the Principal Secretary and then other Ministry of Education and Sport delegates. In addition to these registered participants, four MoES representatives requested to be able to fully participate in the course. There are therefore 105 participants registered and SchoolNet has four tutors ready to manage their online participation.
After the welcoming messages the workshop began and was based around the workshop presentation (Appendix A). The projection screen space was inadequate in size, being restricted by bordering windows and considering the width of the arranged chairs and distance from the screen.
It must therefore be stated that in addition to the expected communication difficulties of the presenters’ South African accents, there was a real challenge in the way that the media could support the presenters, and as a result a large question mark about the effectiveness of the presentation in achieving the original objectives.
In the session before lunch the participants met in their five groups and discussed what it would take for them to be successful in this course. Their discussion was serious and lengthy which was encouraging to see. Their feedback was captured on the presentation screen. The participants identified the need to plan their time, to be supported by their schools and the MoEs, to communicate and support each other within and between schools. They suggested creating social media support groups (which they were to discover was already catered for in the learning management system). They recognized the need to show commitment and be accountable to their group colleagues.
After lunch the participants with laptops were asked to connect to the Wi-Fi network that was set up by the MoE’s technician, Gilbert Engorot. As a result approximately 25 connection points were made available and although the connection was relatively slow, all participants had the opportunity to log in to www.cctionline.org and join their groups. This was not 100% successful because it later transpired that 20 participants had not succeeded in joining groups, but at least the participants were able to have a small amount of hands-on exposure to the LMS.
The lack of all-day connectivity for 100 participants was a serious constraint. Despite the positive attitude of the participants and their willingness to commit to the programme, it was already becoming clear that the startup momentum required from such an orientation workshop was lacking.
The workshop concluded with the completion of a workshop evaluation/commitment form. 96 out of 100 forms were returned and each was signed to indicate commitment to the programme.