Field Stories

Distance learning at Makerere University goes cellular

By Edris Kisambira, Uganda

The Department of Distance Learning at Makerere University has deployed an amazing mobile-telephone-based application to aid research supervision by students who learn and study long distance.

Not only have they addressed a teething issue of limited collaboration between the distance learner and the supervisor; the Department is also taking learning to a place it has never been before.

One wonders how the department has managed to pull off this inspiring innovation.

As a way of making the research process (a must before a degree is offered) an enjoyable and exciting experience on the part of the student and increase the supervisors’ availability, the Department encouraged supervisors to integrate readily accessible ICTs into the research supervision process.

As it is, the small gadget we have come to know as the mobile phone – owned by 97 percent of the students at the Distance Learning Department – stepped to the fore. The Department has named this eLearning tool “the Mobile Research Supervision Initiative (MRSI).”

Paul Birevu Muyinda, a PhD student at the University and a lecturer there says the application was meant to augment the limited face-to-face supervisor-student meetings with voice and text collaborations on the mobile phone. “Within the face-to-face meetings, we need strong support mechanisms, and that is why we are coming up with programmes like MRSI”, Muyinda said. At the Distance Learning Department, lecturers and supervisors use the short message service (SMS) platform to send instructions regarding both administrative and academic information to students scattered across the country.

High drop-out rates

Before the advent of MRSI, students were frustrated by the ‘non-availability’ of their supervisors when they came to meet them at the main campus. These and many other factors were blamed for the high failure rate of forty percent of distance learners at the University.

The long-distance department, which is currently charged with taking education outside the boundaries of Makerere University’s main campus, offers four programmes. They include the BA Commerce, BA Education, BA Science and the Commonwealth Youth Diploma and have a student population of 5,000 students.

Outside the main campus, the University tutors and supervises the long-distance learner at the eight regional centres in Jinja, Mbale, Lira, Fort Portal, Kabale Hoima, Arua and Gulu.

MRSI has helped the Department solve issues of fixing appointments between students and supervisors, helped guide the student when in the field gathering information, and has aided collaboration between and among students. Students have been forced to do things quicker and the application has created intimacy between the students and their supervisors. Muyinda believes that without these supervision components, throughput by the students was being affected. “Right now I have a list of students whose work is incomplete. In the past how would I have been able to get in touch with them?” Muyinda wonders. “But now I can.”

As far as intimacy between the student and their supervisor is concerned, students believe it creates ground for academic excellence.

While the department is yet to establish whether there has been substantial effect on throughput since MRSI was introduced in academic year 2005-06, the application has indeed made life easier.

At the moment though, the department has realised that the students who used their phones in collaboration for research have been able to finish their projects much earlier than their colleagues who have not used the MRSI.

“We have concluded there are other factors, and we need to investigate those intervening factors affecting throughput,” Muyinda said.

Costs are an issue

Uganda has among most expensive mobile phone fees, and that is a thorny issue in the back of both the supervisors’ and the students’ minds, since it means that the application is costly.

“When we asked students what the biggest challenge with MRSI was, what came across was the cost of communication”, Muyinda said. To try and get around the cost issue, Muyinda says the department has approached one of the telecommunication companies with a proposal for the latter to offer the department subsidised SMS rates, a toll-free line, as well as help in setting up call centres at the eight upcountry centres of the University.

The Department is also working on a software system that will aid in the distribution of the thousands of messages, especially in the form of feedback from the students.

The Department will also extend the SMS broadcast system to supervisors’ personal computers so that when a message is sent back by a student, it can be directed to the email address of that supervisor. “This means we are also trying to integrate the mobile phone with computers in a way”, Muyinda noted.

Students respond positively

So what have student perceptions of MRSI been? Some were gratified and felt very good, others felt a sense of care by their supervisors and the department, and almost all were encouraged and motivated to accomplish their research, and perceived a sense of responsibility on the part of the supervisor and the Department. Others said they were simply surprised because their professor was calling them.

“From these responses, we have concluded that the MRSI created a customer-care feeling among students”, Muyinda said. “You know, for us in distance learning, we look at students as our customers.”

After living the experience that the MRSI offers, students have made suggestions on how supervision can be enhanced. These include calls for encouraging the use of the Internet and email in research supervision, improving mobile/internet communication infrastructure, training students in the use of ICTs, and entrenching mobile phones in student-support services.

Students reckon the Department needs to partner with telecommunications service providers to help bring down the costs associated with MRSI.

The suggestions by the students, Muyinda said, “… tell us there is an extremely strong demand for mobile and online learning amongst the distance learners at Makerere University.”



Edris Kisambira is a staff reporter for East African Business Week, a weekly business and economics publication based in Kampala, Uganda, that covers East Africa. He is also a correspondent for the Highway Africa News Agency (HANA).



  1. Am omon James from South Sudan I would to know if makerere is offering long distance studies in Gender studies and development thanks

  2. Ronald Twarebireho

    I have a diploma in education and am currently working and wish to do BEd/external. Please tell me how that can be possible and i will be the next applicant.


    When is distance learning admission open for Makerere university intake 2022/2023

    • Ayiga Gaitano Benson

      I did rural development diploma in South Sudan in 2016 and now l need to do Early childhood development.

  4. Abraham Nhial Achol Chibhat

    I have a Bachelor of Development Studies and I would like to enquire if you have any Master’s program via distance learning.

  5. Ochira David

    I am successful completed my diploma in midwifery department in maridi health sciences institute from south Sudan, I worked for one year now in the field of midwifery

  6. monica yar mawuom maker

    I wanted to apply for distant learning in nutrition.

    • Annika Burgess

      Dear Monica, we suggest you get in touch with the Makerere University. They will be able to provide you with all the appropriate information.

  7. Boboya Joseph

    I have successfully completed diploma in Information Technology. and would wise to join MUK do bachelors of Information Technology long distance…. please if possible send me the admission form or the application link to my email. bream Briand

    • Annika Burgess

      Dear Joseph, we recommend you to contact the Makerere University directly, they will be able to assist you with this.

  8. Cathbert Natukunda

    I wish to study bachelors degree in any agriculture course on distance learning ,which agriculture courses are offered? thank you..

    • Annika Burgess

      We suggest you contact Makerere university directly, they will be able to respond to your demand.

      • Dear Kiyemba Sadat,

        Please contact Makerere University directly for information on their program. They will be able to answer your question.

  9. Am asking distance learning in MSC crop science. I work with the GOK Ministry of Agriculture Pastoral Economy and fisheries,so I request on job learning.
    Lochee Virgil Victor

  10. I am asking if Makerere University has distance learning or School based MSC programs especially in Integrated Watershed my, Applied Human Nutrition or Crop science. I am employee of Kenyan Government working in the ministry of Agriculture, Pastoral Economy an+ Fisheries. I want on-job learning/training.

    • Annika Burgess

      Dear Victor, thanks for your message, and your interest in Makerere University. We highly encourage you to contact directly Makerere University to learn about existing courses and all distance learning. They will be able to give you the full details.

  11. Just want to know if this University offer any masters degree of education online

    • Annika Burgess

      Dear William, please contact directly Makerere University to learn about existing courses, they will be able to answer to all your questions about online learning.

  12. Edson Kamagara

    is the University still accepting applications for PhD in Education/distance learning. is it also hosted by School of Higher Education Studies.

  13. Do you have MBA progs.for jinja campus/for the september intake?

    • Annika Burgess

      Dear Ndambu,
      eLearning Africa is an international Conference and Exhibition. We do not provide any course or elearning teaching, but we initiate every year a platform for all participants to exchange and to partner, to show and to learn about new technologies and best practices.

    • Gerald Musukuma

      Help me with your university distance learning programs & inbox the application form.i want to Join your varsity under laboratory courses ie cytology, biomedical sciences,lab tech … thank you

  14. james kaburia

    I would wish to join my master degree in information sciences though you distance learning please advice from Kenya

    • Annika Burgess

      Dear james kaburia, please be advised, we do not offer distance learning courses, eLearning Africa is a three-day Conference taking place each year in a different African country.

  15. Iam masalu jeremiah a Tanzanian man with a bachelor degree in Environmental studies. I wish to join for a masters degree in environment through online mode of learning. please send me the details on how to apply and eligibility.

    • Annika Burgess

      Dear Masalu, we do not provide any type of degree or course, I suggest you contact local elearning institutions or universities. Have a pleasant day

  16. Kir Puok Luak

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    My name is Kir Puok Luak. I am 31 years by age. South Sudanese by nationality. I live in South Sudan currently.

    I graduated with diploma in clinical medicine and public health from Maridi Health Science Institute, Republic of South Sudan. Currently, I am working for International Organization for Migration{IOM} in the capacity of Clinical Officer. I am interested to upgrade my diploma into Bachelor degree in Public Health or Human Nutrition by distance learning programme.

    Kindly, provide me with availability of the courses and the requirements to be enrolled in the programme.
    I am ready to join your programme in 2018.

    Best regards,


    • ICWE Social Media Team

      Dear Kir Puok Luak,

      You should address your query directly to the institution. Our page is dedicated to eLearning Africa Conference related activities and the related article is an interview / collaboration only.

      Good luck!

      eLA Conference Team

  17. Victor Mangok Ater

    Thanks MUK for the initiative of this distance learning program.Am a South Sudanese who have had long time dream of studying at Makerere University but has never made it and I want to study Human nutrition,I hold a Diploma in Clinical Medicine and Public Health.How do I go about this and secure online admission? Please help!!!!

    • ICWE Social Media Team

      Dear Victor Mangok,

      You should address your query directly to the institution. Our page is dedicated to eLearning Africa Conference related activities and the related article is an interview / collaboration only.

      Good luck!

      eLA Conference Team

  18. Charles Loboka

    l wish to enroll for a Bachelor Degree in Public Administration. l am a South Sudanese and holder of Diploma(3) years in Public Administration. Please help – what are requirements and registration date

    • ICWE Social Media Team

      Hello Charles,

      It is much better that you contact the institution directly. We are organising the conference and highlighing their practice but we are not really aware about their procedures.

      Best regards,

      The Editorial Team

  19. Charles Loboka

    l wish to enroll Bachelor in Public Administration. l am a holder of Diploma(3) years in Public Administration. Please help me.

  20. I am a Tanzania wishing to know procedures to follow in order to join Phd Education online

    • ICWE Social Media Team

      Hello Charles,

      It is much better that you contact the institution directly. We are organising the conference and highlighing their practice but we are not really aware about their procedures.

      Best regards,

      The Editorial Team


    kindly email me the admission procedures for a bachelors in social sciences

    • ICWE Social Media Team

      Hello Charles,

      It is much better that you contact the institution directly. We are organising the conference and highlighing their practice but we are not really aware about their procedures.

      Best regards,

      The Editorial Team

  22. Kindly let me know if I can enroll for Bachelors of Monitoring and Evaluation as a distant/weekend program. I hold diploma in clinical medicine and community health. Thanks.

  23. Paul Madut Pasquale Jadia

    Dear Sir/Madam ,

    I would like to take course in your school. Kindly help on how I can get enrolled. Am high school leaver from Sudan. I sat for Sudan school certificate in March 2009.I have 12 years of work experience with UN Mission in South Sudan.


  24. Elimu Kandonga


    I am in Tanzania, I want to know if it is possible to take MA in Linguistics online/long distance learning.Thank you!

  25. Tusabe Tadeo

    I have a Diploma in entrepreneurship development from Nsamizi trainning institute of social development 2013. I tried appling in 2016 for BCOM long distance at program and i was not admited.Can i be do B.COM on entrepreneurship development ori need to do business Administration. Do you also offer it on long distance? If not what is the best course i can do at long distance that matches with entrepreneurship development.

  26. Zechariah wahn

    Dear Sir/madam
    I would like to know if possible for some one who have sudan school certificate can join you in distance learning. i have interest for public health.

  27. Kanyunyuzi diana

    Can one be enrolled on long distance programme in records and information management want to apply immediately .pliz help

  28. I want to joint the university, please guide me, i need instruction

  29. Otim Patrick

    Dear Sir/ Madam,
    I would like to know if weekend or long distance program are also available for Agricultural student?

  30. Hi MKU ,can i do an online french language from Kenya at your University?Kindly help please and thank you

  31. Zacharia yusuph Zacharia

    Dear Sir/madam
    I would like to know if I can do muster program online/distance learning, i am in Tanzania.

  32. Beingana tadeo Byarugaba

    I would like to know whether its possible to do courses like a Degree in Computer science or Biomedical engineering under distance learnig.

  33. am honestly to find out , whether your administration will admit a student who sat his examination for A-level in 2009 for long distance learning program. in case of qualification, I got 8 points including subsidiary pass in economic and zero on maths. my combination was meg/Entrepreneur. regards JJ

  34. Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am just a new Graduate from Cambridge International College. Obtained a Bachelor Degree in Business Management and Administration. I am still willing to go for a further study in the same field{to study Master’s Degree programme}. Kindly advise on what procedures to be followed. I would also like to receive a list of the core subjects to be covered during study of the Master programmes. The period it takes, 18 months or more.
    looking forwards to ear the details of this programme from you shortly.

    Best regards,

    Joseph Magei Galuak

  35. Distance learning is the best thanks MUK. i would like to join can i get contacts that will help me get in touch with the administration of the long distance program.


  36. Rose Irene Akun

    Hello Muk,

    Please do you have distance learning intake 2015/2016, degree in Public Health,or development studies how much is the fee per semester?

  37. I will be very glad if your University accept my admission for 2015 -2016 admission year for distance learning program ,in collage of Business Administration DBA program , thanks

  38. chenda m'tonga

    how are you. am kindly asking you if you have MA in economics or MSc in economics. am a zambian male holding a BCOM-economics from mulungushi university. i will be greatful if you have distance programms. regards.
    joseph sianyaka.


    pliz thank for for the good job MUK i want to enroll for a Bachelors in Devt Studies.this year can you send me the details and how much it will cost per semester?

  40. Mohamed Farah Adan

    Dear Madam or Sir,

    I am very appreciated to Join with Makarerer university in Uganda.

    I would also have liked to get a distance learning on Monitoring and Evaluation. I would have liked I get this as soon as possible.

    Mohamed Farah

  41. Mary Joseph

    Thanks Makerere University for the great initiative and effort to bring Education closer the people.

  42. Gatduel Goh Garang

    It is very fantastic idea to take education out of campus. That will help people who can not have access to classroom becuase of one reason or another. thanks for wonderful initiative made a life.

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