PeerLearn Offline e-Learning Content Distribution Platform
The School of Computing and Informatics Technology (SCIT), College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS), Makerere University organized a dissemination seminar for a research project titled PeerLearn. This research involved the design and development of an application called PeerLearn – an online/offline Peer-to-Peer mobile application to enhance eLearning under unpredictable Internet access environments.
In his welcoming remarks during the dissemination seminar Assoc. Prof. Engineer Bainomugisha (Chair, Dept Computer Science, SCIT) welcomed all the participants and thanked them for honoring the invitation to the dissemination seminar. He also recognized the presence of Prof. Tonny Oyana (Principal, CoCIS) and Dr. Phoebe Lutaaya Kamya (Representative, Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund). He congratulated the team for reaching this milestone of disseminate their research finding and wished them good luck during the deliberations.
Introducing the research project was Alex Mwotil (Principal Investigator, PeerLearn) who commented about the motivation and problem of the project. He noted that in Uganda statistics indicated that at least 65% of students and 100% of teachers in higher institutions of learning have access to a smart mobile device. When you add on the mobile nature of devices coupled with uneven and costly Internet coverage in the country further exacerbates the access dilemma. This he mentioned has had a detrimental effect on the wide option of eLearning in higher institutions of learning despite infrastructural investments in this blended learning discipline. Therefore, motivated by the extensive adoption of smart mobile devices and Internet constraints, him and his team came up with PeerLearn (provides desirable portability of eLearning activities to mobile platforms and allows sharing of content regardless of Internet access).
The research project which is funded by the Government of Uganda through the Research and Innovations Fund, Makerere University according to Alex Mwotil specifically, allows two/more nearby students of an enrolled course to share eLearning resources (files) from a server such as Moodle over an arbitrary network without consistent need for Internet connectivity. All that is required is that one of the students has the most recent/updated content and the rest of the peers (students) can connect to it and download this content.
Dr. Joab Agaba (team member, PeerLearn) further shared that this research also has potential to significantly reduce live load on the eLearning servers. He noted that there is an ongoing computing transition from traditional eLearning platforms that require access to learner material is done via standard personal computing devices such as desktops and laptops (with consistent Internet connectivity) to low powered mobile devices.
Speaking on behalf of the project team Alvin AineMigisha did a live demonstration of how the PeerLearn App works (refer to the screenshots below).
During the Question-and-Answer session participants appreciated the research done by the team. Some of the questions addressed to the team; Participants wanted to know if a user’s content (files, folders) would be safe during the peer share sessions? Whether the team had addressed the issues of copyright infringement? What are the future plans of the project?
Representing the sponsors of the project the Government of Uganda through the Research and Innovations Fund at Makerere University, Dr. Phoebe Lutaaya Kamya thanked the team for the beautiful, innovative project. She noted that the project will have a big impact and improve on the learning and growth of Uganda as nation. She appreciated the fact that the project also embraced the core values of Makerere University e.g., innovation, knowledge transfer, research etc. She encouraged them to look for additional funding so as to add value to the PeerLearn App and it gets accessed nationally (schools, universities, rural areas etc.).
In closing Prof. Tonny Oyana (Principal, CoCIS) who also shared the same sentiments as Dr. Kamya thanked participants for honoring the invitation from the project team. He thanked and congratulated the team for the visually articulate presentation and research on behalf of the College of Computing and IS. He also thanked the Government of Uganda through the Research and Innovation Fund, Makerere University for funding the research. Finally, he encouraged the team to embrace synergy by teaming up with other similar MakRIF projects to put that added value to their project and officially launched PeerLearn.