JIS News

The Management Institute for National Development (MIND), will launch its fully on-line Associate of Science degree in Management Studies on Wednesday, February 11.
This will be the first fully on-line degree to be launched by a Jamaican management training organization, and is the result of collaboration between MIND and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
It is expected that the official launch will be done by Prime Minister P. J. Patterson at the campus on Old Hope Road.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MIND, Maria Jones explained to JIS News that internet learning was definitely the next logical step for the institution.
The CEO said that the administration had been planning as far back as five years ago, to deliver distance learning, but with the development in technology, on-line training eclipsed the traditional distance training being discussed.
Mrs. Jones explained that the process toward the introduction of the on-line associate degree, got a kick-start 4 years ago, when three members of the administration visited the American Society of Training and Development.
Realizing they would need assistance, both in funding and expertise, they approached the New Economy Project (NEP), which is a project funded by the USAID. “They were very kind, but essentially they told us that we needed to do a more substantial project document, and we decided to go for it. So we put together a project team, and week after week we sat down.and almost a year after. we were back at NEP again, and this time, they thought we had a viable project and so they decided to work with us,” said Mrs. Jones.
One essential needed to make the dream a reality, was appropriate learning software. The CEO explained how MIND was able to gain the use of one of the most highly regarded software for this purpose: “In searching for options for course management systems to buy, we discovered Jones Knowledge, which is free, with certain conditions,” she said.
Jones Knowledge, she told JIS News, was an on-line university in the United States, which ran the Jones E-Education Software System (JESS) – a course management system.
Subsequently, MIND acquired a 5-year licence in the first instance, to use this software. “According to our consultant who worked with us from Ball State University, Jones E-Education compares with any of the best course management systems in the world,” the CEO added.
The MIND website designers and architects of the links to Jones software, Techvision, a local web designing company, confirmed that Jones software was very user friendly and did not require expert computer knowledge to manipulate.
“From what I’ve tested, it seems to be a very excellent piece of software. we haven’t actually received any complaints, everybody has found it to be easy to use. It has been a very intuitive interface, clearly marked, clearly outlined, so each student will know exactly where to go,” Director of Techvision, Jonathan Kelly said.
Another important segment in the programme’s development, was the creation of a prototype, to test the product. “We needed to test it – very many components of it, very many aspects of it,” the CEO explained. The decision was therefore taken to use two courses from the associate degree and launch them as a prototype course.
Delivered to participants free of cost, the prototype course carried the following conditionalities – if the participant successfully completed the programme, he or she would be certified and would also get credits toward the associate degree – but the participant must give MIND feedback, through the submission of questionnaires conducted every other week.
The prototype course, which ran for two months last year, beginning in November 2003, provided a wealth of useful information, which was used to greatly enhance the programme.
Converting the present face-to-face Associate Degree in Management Studies to a web based format, easily digestible and ideal for tertiary students, was another hurdle to overcome.
Divisional Manager of Leadership and Professional Development, Stephen Wallder and Senior Facilitator and Consultant, J. Ann-marie Jarrett led the efforts, which transformed a classroom course into a distance learning 20-course, two-year web-based associate degree.
Mr. Wallder assured that the course would be just as substantial and even moreso, than traditional face-to-face classes. “They’ll go through the same sort of things that they would in a classroom situation. it’s probably more diverse as a course, because you get the opportunity to link to more than just a facilitator, which is more than you would normally get in a classroom situation,” he added.
The associate degree, he said, would cover the range of management subjects, including the theory of management, the development of management as a science, human resource management, accounting, leadership, planning, and practical application to real life situations.
Miss Jarrett made special reference to the facilities for students to have tutorials with their trainers and to discuss assignments. “There is an area, similar to a chat room, where they can work together. This will facilitate group work,” she noted.
Delores Black was one of several participants in the prototype on-line course, designed to test the system. The Executive Assistant explained that the course, for her, had truly delivered.
“It was very good, very informative,” she said, adding that she found the lecturers to be accessible and helpful. Assignments, she said, always came back with comments on the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the paper.
And was using the software difficult? Not at all, she noted emphatically. “After the first week, everything was a breeze,” she said.
For this Executive Assistant, a significant advantage in doing the course on-line, was the incredible convenience. “Definitely, you save a lot of time by not going to classes, and fighting the traffic, and you have your own time, you have your own schedule. You can set your time in the morning, in the afternoon or whenever you find it possible. If you’re out of town, you can always get a lap top, have your internet connections there and you’re on. Very, very convenient,” she said.
This new development has now expanded MIND’s offerings beyond its Kingston and Mandeville campuses. Not only have the learning opportunities been extended to every corner of the island, but in fact every corner of the world.

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