Effective April 27, the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) deployed an online Learning Management System (LMS) to facilitate the delivery of knowledge products to students, in line with a revised academic calendar that has set aside April 27 to June 27 for the University to complete the semester using the new system.
The University was already on track to develop a robust online learning system, according to Emmanuel Obeng-Adjei, Chief Information Technology Officer; but faced with the abrupt closure of all educational institutions on 16 March due to COVID-19, the ICT Directorate acquired Moodle, an open-source Course Management System and assembled a core ICT team to fast-track the development, installation, configuration and customization of that software for UHAS. CITO said this new tool is useful “not only for off-campus use but could also be useful in reducing actual contact hours even when students are on campus.”
The team also developed a series of video tutorials for students, and another for lecturers, which have garnered more than 4065 views to date. Within the first two weeks of training (between March 31 and April 16), ICT sent logo-in credentials to all students and trained 135 lecturers on how to access and upload course content to the platform. 3265 users successfully logged on during this timeframe and sent feedback to the ICT team, who answered all questions and incorporated feedback into updating the platform before the 27 April launch date.
As of 4 May, ICT has recorded 3742 active users on LMS, comprising 3467 students and 267 lecturers, with six support staff. Of that number, nearly 96% (3582) have successfully accessed the system to date.
Feedback from students and lecturers has been very positive. The SRC President, Abraham Norman Nortey, commended ICT and UHAS leadership for this initiative to enable students and lecturers complete academic work amidst the pandemic. He said, “Now that we have this compendium of intellectual information, we need to do our best to make the it work.”
ICT is working on granting access to other necessary users besides students and lecturers, and is also drafting an e-learning policy to regulate the use of this tool to facilitate its mainstreaming into teaching and learning processes at UHAS.
According to CITO, since developing this platform, his outfit has already identified several areas where efficiency in teaching and learning could be improved with e-learning. For instance, some courses currently being taught by different lecturers in different classes could be harmonized to eliminate duplication; many of the non-practical based courses could be delivered through e-learning; and several modules of the Access and Sandwich programmes could be migrated online.
ICT closely tracked all devices by user during the pre-launch phase, recording about 80% mobile phone usage. Three companies — Garnet, MTN and Vodafone — provide Internet service to the UHAS campuses. The Main Campus at Sokode has recently been beset with unstable access, which would be improved once the outdated radio links are upgraded to fiber. UHAS has contacted Vodafone, and the company is working on upgrading its technology; MTN has also been contacted to work on a similar solution.
In the meantime, MTN and Vodaphone have zero-rated access to several educational web sites to facilitate continued learning during the pandemic; other providers are also expected to offer their customers similar packages. UHAS is working on being included on all these lists.
The University has also contacted the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) and Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) —which are mandated by the Government of Ghana to provide free Internet service to tertiary institutions — to activate a fiber link between some of the UHAS campuses, which would increase the University’s bandwidth from 155 MB per second to 1GB per second.