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Students in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI) can now access electronic medical texts at a fraction of the cost for the printed material, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

The move has been facilitated through partnership between the Mona campus and local technology company, JL Mobile, makers of the SmartTab.

For a one-time fee of US$200, the students will receive the tablet and have access to all their required texts for an additional US$200 per year. The one-time charge covers a seven-month warranty and technical support for the duration of the course.

Vice President for Technical Services at JL Mobile, Lloyd Laing, who briefed Minister for Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson on the initiative at the UWI on November 13, said the project is the only one of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean and has been getting positive feedback.

There are approximately 350 students currently benefitting from the programme, through which they can access all their required texts. “We are also working on tablets for e-reader for the primary school and high school system as well as a reader for the disabled, primarily blind persons, which should roll out early next year,” he stated.

Addressing the briefing, Acting Dean in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Professor Horace Fletcher, said that “this innovation was probably one of the most brilliant ideas to have come to the (UWI) campus”.

He explained that the medical books are very costly and the students have been trying to cope in a variety of ways such as photocopying and using the library. He said that first and second year students are now be able to access 18 books at the same cost for one book from the UWI bookshop.

Professor Fletcher said the faculty is also planning to put all the course material on the SmartTab, including actual procedures.

Mr. Robinson, in lauding the project, said that not only it is significant in terms of the cost benefit to students, but also the opportunity “to enhance the experience of a student here, the opportunity for there to be greater communication, collaboration, between lecturers, between students. For us as government this is where we want to go.”

“I think it is going to be an example for the other institutions to follow and I am sure they will, very shortly, and it is demonstrating leadership, which this university has always done and which I think is critical not only in Jamaica but the wider region,” the State Minister added.

He noted that the Government is looking to provide tablets for primary schools as the way forward.  He said that it currently costs approximately US$1, 200 per computer under the e-learning project inclusive of hardware, software, licenses and they only last on average three years. “I can get the tablets at a fraction of that cost…we really want to go towards tablets and allow the students to have the experience of the tablet from that age,” he said.

Deputy Principal at the UWI, Prof. Archibald McDaniel, informed that the Medical Faculty has increased its student enrollment and has been using technology to enhance the learning experience.

He said that each lecturer will receive a SmartTab as will the associate lecturers, noting that the tablet will also have teaching aids.