Evaluating the Proficiency of Science Educators in Developing and Executing Online Instruction: A Case Study of Secondary Schools in Uganda
Kanyesigye Stella Teddy*, Abdul Rahim, Tukur Muhammad, Ruteraho H. Agatha and Atuhairwe Godiriva
Kampala International University Western Campus, P.O Box, 71 Bushenyi – Uganda
Corresponding author: Kanyesigye Stella Teddy, email@example.com
This research delved into the assessment of the proficiency of science educators in formulating and executing online lessons within secondary schools in Uganda. Employing a quantitative methodology with a cross-sectional survey design, the study developed a questionnaire to evaluate the online teaching competencies of secondary school science teachers. The questionnaire was disseminated electronically, resulting in 50 respondents within a one-month timeframe. Data analysis encompassed the use of descriptive statistics and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). The research findings disclosed that while science teachers exhibited competence in online teaching, course design, digital communication, and basic computer skills, they displayed some limitations in advanced computer skills and the utilization of Learning Management Systems. Furthermore, the study identified factors such as school location and the academic qualifications of teachers as overarching influences on the competency of science teachers in designing and implementing online lessons. In light of these findings, the study recommends the organization of professional development courses to enhance teachers’ readiness for conducting online classes. Additionally, it underscores the importance of electrifying and equipping schools, especially those in rural areas, with the requisite infrastructure and resources.
Keywords: science, teachers, competency, designing, implementing, online lessons
Since the break out of covid-19 at the end of 2019, online learning has become a common means of instruction to sustain the teaching learning process not only in Uganda but across the whole globe . Online learning makes use of information technology (IT) devices such as virtual classes, whiteboards, net meetings among others . Online learning has been found by previous researchers including  to build a comprehensive and interactive communication thinking pattern for students, teachers and all academicians and thus an appropriate alternative learning method that is quite effective and efficient in terms of implementation and evaluation of learning. Online environments help in solving the problem of lack of space as the small groups traditionally would need to interact face-to-face and of which these interactions are usually carried out at the same time . In addition, this method of instruction is also convenient especially if the group members stay in different places and would probably find it challenging to travel to meet in the same place  as it makes possible for such students to access content and instruction from whichever place they are in and at any time . It also improves on both students’ and teachers’ experiences as they not only become more able to plan and pass on the content in a cost-effect way but are also able to handle big numbers of students effectively . When online instruction is correctly carried out, it becomes more beneficial than if done in the traditional face-to-face classroom .
According to , online teaching/learning facilities if available can reliably support one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many test, audio and audio-visual interactions. With inclusion of multimedia search engines and databases, online frameworks provide viable tools necessary to realize the goal and objectives of the present educational curriculum in Uganda which is active-learning-based in a more realistic way since the relatively small classroom groups do not impose a high demand on network speed allowing high quality synchronous online communication possible; and that online classes reduces the possible anxiety associated with face-to-face discussion in traditional ones . Despite the vast advantages of online instruction, very few studies have documented details about teaching/learning in online environments among secondary schools, and basically the few have been in the medical or engineering section and in higher institution of learning. In addition, no studies have investigated how different factors affect competencies teachers possess in order to effectively conduct online lessons. Therefore, this study sought to fill this gap by investigating factors secondary school science teachers’ competencies in planning and implementing online lessons.
Previously, teacher-learning process has always be conducted in physical classrooms/face-to-face environments. However, due to the global invasion of covid-19 which led to closure of physical classrooms across the entire world, the education process was interfered with. The desire to have learners continue their studies amidst measures to combat the spread of the virus led to a paradigm shift from face-to-face to online learning. Despite this innovation, a number of teachers and students have not fully picked up as far as online instruction is concerned, and this may hinder students’ academic progress during and after covid-19 era. Previous researchers mostly focused on: using internet to search for content , direct online teaching using PowerPoint , using ICT to enhance students’ critical thinking, among others. However, little has been done on teachers’ knowledge of management systems and how their competencies vary in relation to either gender, school type, school location, among others. Therefore, this study came out to fill such gaps by answering the following questions:
- How competent are Ugandan Secondary School Science Teachers in Designing and implementing online lessons?
- What factors influence Secondary School Science Teachers’ Competencies in Designing and implementing online lessons?
Teachers’ Competency in Designing and Implementing Online Lessons
Online learning initially was used as a way to enhance student participation and increase flexibility . However, its employment became a perquisite during covid-19 outbreak era, bringing about accelerated changes in the education system. Thus, teachers’ competencies in being able to design and deliver learning materials in this online environment has a great impact on the students’ academic success .  define ‘competence’ as a state of being well qualified to perform an activity, task or job function. Spector and la Teja further say that when a person has the competency to do something, he/she is said to have attained a state of competence that is recognizable and verifiable to a particular community of practitioners. During planning and implementation of online lessons, a teacher is expected to possess the following competencies as given by : pedagogical (using discussive resource in facilitating learning), social (rewarding the human relations among group members), managerial (being able to put in place measures about the discussion and development of activities), and technical skills (technological transparency for adequate relation between the system, the software and the selected interface).
Particular teachers’ competencies specifically applicable to online environments include: being able to use technology; having skills in designing and implementing subject content; moderation, organization and archiving asynchronous discussions; establishment of ground rules, guiding and animating synchronous discussions; integration of different teaching and learning styles to the subject content; actively interacting with students and giving the timely feedback; making students aware of cultural differences among members of the group, internet ethics, among others . To be able to achieve the pedagogical goals in a more effective, innovative and creative way when using online environments, the respective teachers should have the competency to transfer curricular content to the web which is adjusted to fit the media. In addition, these online teachers are advised to always be slow in speech while explaining in detail the different terminologies and also provide a short but detailed summary at the end of every lesson as this helps the students to better understand the content .
A teacher planning to work online needs to also deeply understand the nature and philosophy of distance education. In traditional teaching, the learning process is centered on the teacher who tries to transfer his/her own knowledge to the students. However, in online classes, the teaching is focused on the relationship between the teacher, the student, and the knowledge passed on. This therefore calls for the teacher to find educational practices that stimulate this type of online learning .  point out that teachers ought to be well prepared before engaging in online instruction. Chao, Tsai and Lin recommended an online learning environment period-dependent specifically for implementing a digital problem-based learning curriculum (Table 1).
Table 1: Preparations recommended prior to, during, and after he implementation of digital PBL curricula
|Before||1. Be sure to assign a moderator to streamline each course|
|2. Be sure to allocate themes/questions to avoid speaker crowding|
|3. Be sure to ask students to adapt their presentation style|
|4. Be sure to introduce and train digital etiquette|
|5. Be sure to arrange a preliminary check-up of software/hardware/location/connection|
|During||1. Try to encourage students’ participation; for example, designate a dedicated questioner(s)|
|2. Try to rotate speaker orders to encourage interactions|
|3. Try to and encourage the provision of feedback, preferably instantaneously|
|4. Try to turn off curricula-irrelevant applications, except adjunct communication modules|
|5. Consider adopting role playing to encourage participation (optional)|
|6. Consider adopting intermittent real-time polling (optional)|
|7. Consider monitoring the speed of feedback of the entire group (Optional)|
|After||1. Be sure to provide content summarization after each digital PBL session|
|2. Be sure to address any unfinished issues following each session|
An effective online lesson calls for initial serious planning of the proposed objectives of the subject content and careful studying of the profile, characteristics and needs of the students. As the teachers reflects upon these objectives, they can then be able to design and implement the target activities integrating appropriate ICT tools . Therefore, in online environment, teacher takes up the role of a guider by helping students to form groups and accomplish given tasks, searching for, selecting and organizing the information, managing time and constructing knowledge in the online learning environment . This study was based on the theory of cooperative learning where students work together in small groups to achieve the common goal. In this theory, each and every group member is required to learn the given material and make sure all others do the same . Cooperative learning makes it possible to teach specific content, ensure active cognitive processing information during lessons, and provides a long-term support and assistance for students’ academic progress . This theory is very much applicable in this study since the goals and objectives to be achieved by each group in a joint manner are already spelt out and each group member has a role and contribution to make. As students discuss their points of view, it builds and increases in them the spirit of autonomy and collective interaction .
Factors that Influence Teachers’ Competency in Designing and Implementing Online Lessons
As the education system is struggling to mingle online methodologies of instruction with face-to-face classes, previous studies identified factors that may hinder teachers and studies effectives in adopting to online teaching and learning. These factors include lack of proficiency in technology and cost of data , inability to use technological tools , lack of: technical support, ICT policies and infrastructure like computers . These challenges render teachers unprepared to construct their lessons to online teaching. Additionally, individual characteristics were also found to influence teachers’ competency in conducting online lessons. These characteristics include age, gender, personality, and values . Attitude and beliefs influence one’s decision to use or not to use ICT in the classroom . Teachers may not be able to implement online approaches to teaching due to lack of self-confidence .
In order to sustain student learning even when schools were closed due to Covid-19 outbreak, online learning become the immediate means to address this challenge. So, the competencies possessed by teachers to be able to design for and implement online lessons are crucial. This study revealed that generally, teachers were competent in areas of learning and course design, digital communication skills, and basic computer skills. However, they to some extent lacked competencies in advanced computer, and in Using Learning Management Systems. The findings further indicated that science teachers’ competency in designing and implementing online lessons were generally influenced by location of the school and teachers’ highest academic qualification – with those in urban areas and those with higher qualifications being more competent. The findings of this study give great insights related to teachers’ online competencies which can be a reference point for higher education officials and school administrators to support these teachers for better realization of online educational goals.
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CITE AS: Kanyesigye Stella Teddy, Abdul Rahim, Tukur Muhammad, Ruteraho H. Agatha and Atuhairwe Godiriva (2023). Evaluating the Proficiency of Science Educators in Developing and Executing Online Instruction: A Case Study of Secondary Schools in Uganda. IDOSR JOURNAL OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 8(2):85-108. https://doi.org/10.59298/IDOSRJHSS/2023/12.1.5701