JIS News

The government’s e-learning project will get underway this September in 31 institutions across the island. The one-year pilot will be implemented in 28 high schools at the grades 10 and 11 levels, and three teachers colleges.
After the test phase, the project will be rolled out to all of the nation’s 150 high schools from grades seven to 11, says Avrill Crawford, Chief Executive Officer and Project Manager of e-Learning Jamaica Company Limited, the organisation formed by government to manage the project.
She tells JIS News that the pilot phase is aimed at testing all the planned procedures and methodologies of the project, identifying best practices and determining the support systems that must be in place for successful project implementation.
“We are starting the pilot programme in September and schools will begin to get equipment. We have already started the orientation of teachers and we should be starting the actual training in ICT (information communication technology) and how to use ICT beginning in November,” Mrs. Crawford informs.
The 28 high schools selected for the pilot are located in Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Thomas and St. Catherine, while the three teachers colleges are Church in Manchester; and Shortwood and Mico in Kingston.
A programme of the Ministries of Education and Youth and Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, the e-Learning Project is an innovative educational project utilizing ICT in the delivery of subjects.
Launched in February 2006, the project is targeted at high school students and utilizes both informal and formal methods of teaching. The objectives are to improve the quality of education, enhance the learning experience and ensure high levels of passes in the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) tests.
“The main goal is to improve the passes at the CXC level,” says Mrs. Crawford, “because it is felt that a more educated populace will stir up demand for internet and data-related services”.
Explaining how the project will work, she outlines that ICT-based instruction material, for teachers and students, will be put into the schools to help with the teaching and learning of 11 subjects that have been chosen by the Education Ministry. The 11 subjects are English Language, Mathematics, Social Studies, Integrated Science, Spanish, Geography, Chemistry, Biology Information Technology, Building Technology and Physics, but only English, Mathematics, Information Technology, Biology and Chemistry, will be used in the pilot phase.
The schools will be provided with DVD-packaged lectures, with master teachers delivering high quality instruction on each subject. The lectures, which will include accompanying laboratory experiments, will be done by topic and structured according to the curriculum. The lecture series, Mrs. Crawford says, will also be broadcast over cable channels and “we are currently looking at the radio part, but we have not developed that too much as yet”.
In addition, she informs, the schools will be provided with educational software and access to “an extensive bank of multiple choice, open-ended and essay-type questions, complete with answers and explanations”.
The database, she explains, “was developed by teachers across the island on a lesson basis for each subject and at each grade”.
She notes that the schools are being equipped with the technologies that will allow them to access and to use the material and these include computers, desktops and laptops, multimedia projectors, documents and cameras.
The equipment being provided, she says, “will allow them not only to be able to access the materials from a central database, but will allow teachers to use the technology in the classrooms and in the laboratories”.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Crawford informs that since the launch of the project on February 16, the company has tendered documents for the equipment and this will go to Cabinet for approval.
“We have also been staffing the organisation (e-Learning Jamaica Company Limited) and bringing in several different consultants that we need to assist us with the project, because we are keeping our staffing very small and we are bringing in the services when we need them,” she informs.
“We are looking at getting persons in to help with managing and developing instructional materials, we have gone out for tenders for persons to develop the video-taped lecture series; those are the kind of things we have been doing, getting people in to do the work,” she adds.
Mrs. Crawford says that US$50 million from the Universal Access Fund has been set aside for the project. The fund is financed from the levy charged on incoming international calls.
She is confident that students would enjoy using the facilities provided through the e-Learning project. “Without a doubt.children take to the technology and anything that is infused by technology, they are going to enjoy it more. So, we know they are looking forward to the project, we know that there are some students, who will be drawn to do some studies, whereas they would not be before,” notes Mrs. Crawford.

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