The UCSC Recognized At The UNESCO ICT In Education Innovation Awards 2007-2008
Winners of Awards and certificates were short listed based on their responses to the questions “Do you use ICT in your teaching or in your education work?” and “Are you using it in an innovative way?” .
An International Panel of eminent judges used the following comprehensive evaluation criteria for the purpose of evaluating the UNESCO ICT in Education Innovation Awards:
The UCSC was chosen for this award owing to its innovative use of ICT to scale the output of ICT Professionals much needed by the industry. Admission to ICT programmes in the Sri Lankan Universities is extremely limited, even though the country’s need for qualified IT professionals is great. The University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) realizing this national need well in advance, launched the unique, first of its kind external degree programme, the Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT), back in the year 2000 to expand the opportunities available for those interested in pursuing an IT career to obtain an IT degree of quality and thus contribute towards meeting Sri Lanka’s IT workforce requirement. This project that has become an acclaimed success was the brainchild of the late Professor V K Samatanayake, who is considered the father of IT in Sri Lanka.
The BIT was designed to optimize the use of ICT for communication, registration, delivery of the curricular content, and examination through its website and associated Virtual Learning Environment accessible at http://www.bit.lk. Today, it has become the student portal through which one learns on-line, seeks assistance from facilitators, and communicates with peers in addition to obtaining examination support material and retrieving results. For this reason, the BIT programme has become the premier ‘open’ and affordable IT degree programme in Sri Lanka.
The UCSC does not have the capacity to teach the nearly 1500 students per intake it admits to the BIT programme; thus self-learning is an important part of the BIT programme. However, many students failed or dropped out after the first year in the past. To address this problem, commencing in 2006, the UCSC launched the e-BIT programme through which online learning content and e-testing are provided. This e-learning framework has converted the BIT into a high qualityonline IT degree programme for less privileged and low income students, irrespective of their geographical location.
The success of the e-BIT can be attributed to the efforts of the e-Learning Centre of the UCSC through its research and development (R&D) activities. The curriculum was completely revamped taking into account a new online pedagogy based on a user-centric but collaborative learning model and the constructive alignment paradigm of learning. R&D work in setting up an appropriate Virtual Learning Environment resulted in the adoption and adaptation of the open source Moodle framework which was customized and localized to form Vidupiyasa – UCSC’s ‘Virtual Campus’ (http://lms.bit.lk). SCORM compatible online learning lessons were developed based on the redesigned curriculum, with Video lectures distributed using a local TV channel, CDs and the online portal. An e-Assessment system for formative as well as somesummative testing has also been developed and deployed.
Already the pass rate of first year (Diploma of IT) courses has increased three fold, with many students obtaining good grades. These facts speaks for themselves and validate the paradigm shift to the new learner-centric online learning model which earned UNESCO’s special commendation.