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 digitalising the Library and Information Science (LIS) curriculum in East Africa. The workshop ran from 7th to 9th October 2019, with the workshop theme “Digitalising the curriculum: Towards an Education Programme for Digital Information Science in East Africa”. It attracted a total of 37 participants from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria, including many academics and practitioners in the field, as well as representatives from industry. The outcomes of this workshop will inform the activities of Isooko’s Work Package 7 Education and Training, and in particular the project’s efforts towards developing curricula and learning materials that are adapted to the local context and meet local needs.
In her introduction, the workshop coordinator Sarah Kaddu highlighted the aims of the workshop which included to: ensure participants developed a conception of a digitalised curriculum for the 21st century, identify the key components of such a digital curriculum, come up with requirements for a digitalised curriculum, and to draft an outline curriculum for an information science programme as they saw fit.
In his welcoming remarks, the Dean of EASLIS Professor Constant Okello-Obura noted that there was a need for information professionals to reflect on the current trends, to discover what is new in the world, and to understand the skills and competencies required for the changing times. He also emphasised 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 approaches, and to discover methods to make information responsive to the demands from the situation out there in the world.
In attendance was the Principal of the 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 structured, semi-structured and unstructured data. In terms of disseminating information, Prof. Oyana pointed out that there are different types of consumers of information, for example, children, different genders, older people, and that there is a need to cater for all this audience.
On issues concerning the level of detail that is required (content), Oyana noted that there are behavioural components determined by the different audiences, such as issues of costs as well as standards. He advised all 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 stakeholders that digitalising 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, both in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector and more broadly in industry; resources and strategies for successful implementation of a 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 these activities are outsourced. It was also noted that in most cases, records managers are not part of the team that designs archive and records management 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 one of the roles of the librarians/information professionals is to connect users to the information they need. It was also noted that presently, there is no curriculum that prepares LIS learners to be digital experts; it only stops at the elementary level. Therefore, Library and Information Science schools should introduce options in the curriculum so that students can have more time and have hands-on experience 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 digitalised curriculum.