Universities develop electronic system to supervise students’ research

Aug 30, 2023

The project has already developed the master supervision portal, which is currently under testing at MUBS.

Overall winners of the mobile app development program posing with their prizes after being crowned winners./Photos by Denis Nsubuga

Denis Nsubuga
Journalist @New Vision

The challenges of delays, mismanagement, and plagiarism during postgraduate research, are entering their last days, following the development of an electronic supervision portal and mobile app.

The system, developed by students from top public universities, will ease the planning, writing, publishing, submission and supervision of postgraduate research in higher institutions of learning (HEIs).

The students in different study fields at Makerere University (MUK), Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), presented their prototypes at the closure of a two-day mobile app development hackathon at MUBS, Nakawa in Kampala on Tuesday.

Judges from various universities and National Council for Higher Education pose for a photo will the acting principal, Prof. Muhwezi.

Judges from various universities and National Council for Higher Education pose for a photo will the acting principal, Prof. Muhwezi.

This is under a four-year project dubbed ICT for Masters Research Project (ICT-4MRPQ) aimed at strengthening institutions’ capacity to use ICT in the masters’ research management process. It will also devise policy reforms for relevant high-quality research outputs at HEIs in Uganda.

The project has already developed the master supervision portal, which is currently under testing at MUBS. The App willis expected to enhance its usage and access by allowing users to access the system with their smartphones.

Project co-ordinator Prof. David Katamba said the system will not only improve co-ordination between students and supervision but also solve various problems including malpractice and plagiarism.

“We understand that students go out there and hire mercenaries to do their work. Others just get a past research paper, edit a few things, and submit it as new. This system will be integrated with various software such as ‘Turnitin’ to track and ensure that the report that is submitted to the university is original,” he said.

Improve knowledge generation

Four teams, with the aid of experts in the ICT and education sectors, sought to develop an e-supervision mobile app that will enhance research convenience through real-time progress monitoring, reminders, notifications and customised milestones. This, they said, was meant to create a more focused and efficient master’s journey.

According to a 2014 study by business academics at MUBS, published by Scientific Research Publishing Inc, in Uganda, 86.2% of students on Master of Business Administration do not complete their programme on time.

The researchers attributed the trend partly to what they termed as “ad-hoc methods” that include spreadsheets. The hitches involved, they said, lead to increased student dropouts, prolonged programme completion, and dissatisfaction among both students and supervisors.

The acting principal of MUBS, Prof. Moses Muhwezi, said as Makerere University moves towards a more graduate, research-led institution, such an initiative will contribute to improving knowledge generation by reducing the dropout rate.

He noted a study done by the university’s senate showed that 78% of the postgraduate students lose touch with their supervisor during research.

Muhwezi asked the developers to forge a way of integrating the new system with the other existing management systems at the universities.

“Much as we have systems for payment and registration like ACMIS and AIMMS, these systems are not integrated. Integrating these systems within and across the different universities will solve many challenges. For instance, it helps the administrators of the institutions to know whether the student has registered, paid, has done exams and is ready for graduation,” he said.

Implement the prototype

Led by Augustine Bilel, the team that emerged winners comprised five students from MUST and one from MUBS. They were awarded with shillings four million, certificates and a contract to implement the prototype to an actual app.

The first runners-up were awarded with shillings two million, the second and the third runners-up walked home with shillings one million and shillings 500,000, respectively.

Tom Tamale, a project assistant, said beyond the four years of the project, their sustainability goal is to see the system progress from Master's level to also cover undergraduate and other postgraduate 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 said.

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