Thursday, October 24, 2019

EASLIS, CoCIS host Workshop on Digitalising LIS Curriculum.

The East African School of Library and Information Sciences (EASLIS), College of Computing & Information Sciences (CoCIS), Makerere University in partnership with King’s College London (KCL) recently hosted a workshop on digitalizing the curriculum from 7th to 9th:, October 2019. The workshop theme was: “Towards an Education Programme for Digital Information Science in East Africa”, attracted a total of 37 participants from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria, many of whom were academics and practitioners. In her introductory remarks, the workshop coordinator, Dr. Sarah Kaddu highlighted the aims of the workshop as to:  ensure that participants gain a plan of digitalised curriculum in 20th century, identify the key components of the digital curriculum, come up with the requirements of the digitalised curriculum, and, also draft an outlie curriculum an information science programme as they saw it fit.

In his welcome remarks, the Dean of EASLIS Professor Constant Okello -Obura noted that there was need for information professionals to reflect on the current trends, discover what is new in the world, and understand the skills and competencies required for the changing times. He also emphasized the need for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4th IR) skills and competencies which appreciates the new technologies used currently. Professor Obura also highlighted the need to develop smart ways, and to discover methods to make information responsive to the demand for the situation out there in the world.

In attendance, was the Principal College of Computing and Information Sciences (COCIS) Prof. Tonny Oyana who also represented the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academics. In his remarks, Professor Oyana noted that digitalising the curriculum is at the forefront of the College of Computing and Information Sciences. He specified that a lot needs to be done in terms of considering the structured, semi structured and unstructured data.  In terms of disseminating information, Prof. Oyana pointed out that there are different types of consumers for example, children, gender component, old age, and the need to cater for all this audience.

Participants of the Workshop
On issues concerning the level of detail that is required (content), Oyana noted that there are behavioral components determined by the different audiences, such as issues of costs and as well as standards. He advised all the information professionals to be aware of all the laws, polices and standards within the country and beyond. He gave an example of the recent Uganda Data Protection Act that was passed earlier this year. He reminded all the stakeholders that digitalizing the curriculum requires hardware, software and human resources. 

Some of the topics covered during the three day workshop included: The Job Market for Digital Information Experts, the (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums- GLAM),  Resources and Strategies for successful implementation of digital information science education curriculum, practice and research in East Africa, research data management, Computational Archival Science – Computational Methods and Digital Archives and Information Ethics in Digital Archiving among other. Among the facilitators were Mark Hedges and David Jordan from King’s College London. 

The workshop was a huge success and of immense benefit to all the participants. Participants noted that the job market for digital archivists exists; but currently, they are out sourced. It was also noted that in most cases, the records managers are not part of the team that designs the systems and yet they are expected to run these systems. It was agreed that there is a crucial need for LIS professionals to work together with IT professionals. It was evident that there is a huge importance to look at IT as a tool and not as replacing Librarians and or Information Professionals since the role of the librarians/Information professionals is to connect users to the information they need. 
Workshop participants in a group discussion
It was also noted that presently, there is no curriculum that prepares learners to be digital experts; it only stops at the elementary. Therefore Library and Information Science schools should introduce options in the curriculum so that students can have more time and have hands-on with the digital aspects. On the role of the students, much emphasis was put on changing the mindset of students in order to explore the opportunities for becoming digital experts. Furthermore, some participants felt the need to conduct tracer studies for the digital aspects and the employers’ needs. 

In his closing remarks, Prof Constant Okello Obura noted that LIS schools needed the advice of employers, urging the employers who were present to keep in touch with LIS schools so that they can get the right graduates. He also advised the Uganda Library and Information Association to take up the initiative and support the implementation of this digitalized curriculum.