Universities Develop E-System to Supervise Research

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Following the construction of an electronic supervision portal and mobile app, the difficulties of postgraduate research delays, mismanagement, and plagiarism are nearing an end.

Overall winners of the mobile app development programme displaying their prize. Photo by New Vision

The system, created by students from leading public universities, will make it easier to plan, write, publish, submit, and supervise postgraduate research in higher education institutions.

Students from Makerere University, Makerere University Business School (MUBS), and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) presented their prototypes on Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day mobile app creation event at MUBS, Nakawa in Kampala.

This is part of a four-year initiative called ICT for master’s Research initiative (ICT-4MRPQ), which aims to improve institutions’ ability to use ICT in the master’s research management process. It will also develop policy reforms for relevant high-quality research outputs at Ugandan institutions.

The master supervision site, which is presently being tested at MUBS, has already been established as part of the project. The software will improve its utilization and accessibility by allowing users to use the system without using their devices.

Prof. David Katamba, the project coordinator, stated that the system will not only increase coordination between students and supervisors, but will also handle a variety of issues such as malpractice and plagiarism.

“We understand that students will hire mercenaries to do their work.” Others simply take an old study paper, make a few changes, and submit it as new. “This system will be integrated with various software, such as ‘Turnitin’ to track and ensure that the report submitted to the university is original,” he said.

Four teams worked with ICT and education specialists to create an e-supervision mobile app that will improve research convenience through real-time progress monitoring, reminders, notifications, and personalized milestones. They claimed that this was done to make the master’s trip more focused and efficient.

According to a 2014 study conducted by business professors at MUBS and released by Scientific Research Publishing Inc in Uganda, 86.2% of Master of Business Administration students do not complete their program on time.

The researchers ascribed the rise in part to what they called “ad hoc methods” such as spreadsheets. According to them, the difficulties involved result in increased student dropouts, extended program completion, and unhappiness among both students and supervisors.

Prof. Moses Muhwezi, acting principal of MUBS, stated that as Makerere University transitions to a more graduate, research-led institution, such an initiative will contribute to enhancing knowledge generation by lowering the dropout rate.

According to a study conducted by the university senate, 78% of postgraduate students lose contact with their supervisor during research.

Muhwezi urged the developers to devise a method of linking the new system with the universities’ other existing management systems.

“While we have payment and registration systems such as ACMIS and AIMMS, these systems are not integrated.” Many problems will be solved by integrating these systems within and across universities. For example, it enables institution administrators to determine whether a student has registered, paid, completed tests, or is ready to graduate,” he explained.

The winning team was led by Augustine Bilel and included five students from Mbarara University of Science and Technology and one from Makerere University Business School. They were given sh4m, certificates, and a contract to turn the prototype into a working program. The first runner-up received sh2 million, while the second runner-up received sh1 million.

According to Tom Tamale, a project assistant, the initiative’s long-term goal is to see the system develop from master’s level to cover levels.

“We are incorporating different ideas and also embedding it in other systems, so that it becomes part of the blueprint for academic supervision in universities,” he explained.

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