Early this year, Uganda announced the end to its 22-month school closure and a full transition back to in-person learning. Trinity Schools, a leading private K-12 institution in Uganda, adopted ClassIn-supported online learning during the pandemic. Now, the school moves forward by continuing to leverage EdTech tools for successful holiday programs and more innovations ahead.
We had the privilege to speak again with Areebabyona Kanyonyore, Administrator of Trinity Schools, to explore the school’s latest developments. What are the long-term benefits of online learning the school has witnessed? How does Trinity arrange its holiday programs, incorporating online as well as hybrid instruction? How does the learning community–students, teachers, and parents–evaluate the new program?
Uninterrupted Learning amid Covid Policy Changes
After nearly two years of school closure in Uganda, returning to the classroom is full of challenges. Kanyonyore described a rather hectic move to in-person learning with short notice. Many schools experienced staffing problems as most teachers have changed professions, and some students have opted for international schools that are not subject to the limitations of local curriculums.
While learning came to a halt for many pupils in the country, Trinity Schools kept students and teachers on track during the lockdown. “The good thing is that because we have this e-learning program running, we were able to maintain our teachers…We were also able to promote our children because when they got into the ClassIn program, we kept teaching them and promoting them during the two years they were stuck at home,” Kanyonyore said.
“So by the time school reopened…we also received quite some new students who were transferring from other schools because of the program and innovations we put in on ClassIn,” he recalled.
“So by the time school reopened…we also received quite some new students who were transferring from other schools because of the program and innovations we put in on ClassIn.”---Areebabyona Kanyonyore, Administrator of Trinity Schools
However, getting every student with different learning backgrounds up to speed is not an easy task. Kanyonyore explained that “The main challenge is that the majority of them had online programs, but they weren’t as engaging as ours was. They were run on Zoom, Teams, Class or Google Chat…You can’t have post-class follow-up. You can’t have statistics on how long the class is and how they are performing in the program.”
With the intention of bridging learning gaps for students, the holiday program kicked in.
An Innovative Business Model with the Holiday Program
Introducing current learning habits and landscape in the country, Kanyonyore explained why the holiday program is rooted in local demands.
“In Uganda, what most parents do during the holiday is that they get a private tutor to come and take the children through their school work, but the challenge with that is that most tutors are masters of only one subject. However, with an online program, we have teachers who are masters in different subjects, so this is a better option for them because children get more teachers to come and assist them at a fairly cheaper cost,” he said.
With rather urgent and long-term learning needs at hand, Trinity Schools know the right tool to deliver the best results. “ClassIn has those extra tools that teachers need when they are teaching,” Kanyonyore told us, highlighting functions like roster, homework, screen sharing, learning reports and analytics. “This is the one most teachers are accustomed to, and most students also know how to go about it. It’s very user-friendly.”
“ClassIn has those extra tools that teachers need when they are teaching...This is the one most teachers are accustomed to, and most students also know how to go about it. It’s very user-friendly.”---Areebabyona Kanyonyore, Administrator of Trinity Schools
“We told the parents about the program we wanted to run during the holiday. At first, we had 50 students in the first three days, which went up to 160 by the end of the first week,” he recalled.
How do you set up an all-subject holiday learning program for 160 students across different grades? Kanyonyore patiently introduced the arrangements for kids at various levels.
For classes P1 to P3, students were having two online lessons from 8am till mid-day.
For classes P4 to P6, students were having four online lessons from 8am to 2pm.
For P7, students had Online-Merge-Offline classes the entire day.
As Kanyonyore explained, P7 is a candidate class where students are preparing for the national exam in November to move from primary to secondary level. “We created a special class for them, and they remained in school,” Kanyonyore was excited to introduce the school’s trial with the Online-Merge-Offline (OMO) model. “There were parents who were not able to bring the children in school…so what would happen is that during the physical classes, we switch on the camera, facing the blackboard, and start the lesson. And teachers would teach while attending to the children in the classroom and those logged in online.”
Looking at three term breaks in a school year, Kanyonyore is encouraged to keep conducting and expanding the holiday program after getting positive feedback all around.
“When I sat with the students, they definitely love the program. They explored so many features [of ClassIn] better than any of us. The parents love the program because the accountability factor. Parents have the log-in to the students’ account, and they can quickly see if the child attended the class. They can see how long the child was in class. They can see any assessments that have not been submitted,” Kanyonyore told us.
The holiday program was applauded by teachers as well. “One thing they keep saying is that teaching online is way better than teaching in class for various reasons,” Kanyonyore reported, highlighting how teachers enjoyed a quick onboarding process and being able to project learning materials and finish marking assessments in the virtual classroom.
Future Growth: The OMO Model and Adult Education
In addition to delivering great learning improvements, the holiday program was a successful first step for Trinity Schools to explore the Online-Merge-Offline model, an emerging hybrid approach with open educational practices for a seamless and flexible learning experience.
“We are considering projecting the screen instead of having the camera face the blackboard for better picture quality for students,” Kanyonyore proposed adjustments to better apply the model. “I’ll be glad to see how the OMO model turns out because it’s something we are looking at going into and seeing how it benefits education even beyond.”
“I’ll be glad to see how the OMO model turns out because it’s something we are looking at going into and seeing how it benefits education even beyond.”---Areebabyona Kanyonyore, Administrator of Trinity Schools
Besides equipping the campuses with more advanced technologies, Kanyonyore expected to extend learning opportunities to more in Uganda. “So one of the things we are looking at coming up is a distance learning program for adults,” he shared. “There are so many citizens of Uganda out there who would not have education degrees and certifications…We schedule classes for them after 5 when they are done at work. From wherever they are in the country, they will be able to log in and attend classes and get assessments. At the end of the year, they will have the opportunity to sit for the national examinations to get a certificate.”
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