JIS News

The launch of a fully online Associate Degree in Management Studies by the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), has been hailed as a visionary step that will facilitate the achievement of government’s policy on education and training, by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
Mr. Patterson said that the MIND Online programme would expand the reach of the best instructors. “As an administration, we will not allow the hopes of our people to be stifled by snobbery and elitism that some would want to advocate for our educational system. Everyone can learn and everyone must,” he said in a message read by Minister of Education, Maxine Henry-Wilson on February 12 at the launch.
This historic advancement in Jamaica’s educational system is the result of a collaborative effort with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which provided US$109,000 or approximately J$6.64 million for the implementation of the programme.The online Associate degree, the Prime Minister noted, would achieve three primary objectives, that of reducing costs; improving quality; and increasing access to high quality training and tertiary education.
He also pointed out that the online degree was of great importance to Jamaicans living in rural areas, as well as single mothers and members of the disabled community.
In recognizing USAID’s contribution, the Prime Minister mentioned other projects that had received support from the funding agency, and expressed his gratitude for its involvement in the New Horizons Primary School Project, the Uplifting Adolescents Project, and the Caribbean Centre of Education for Teacher Training.
Mr. Patterson also signalled his intention to “engage our funding partners in a dialogue to bring all funding agencies together under one umbrella, to create one vision, and one goal for Jamaica’s education”.
Minister Henry-Wilson used the opportunity to appeal to MIND to forge links with the Combined Disabilities Association. “Please try and form an alliance with the Combined Disabilities Association and the Ministry of Labour to target the disabled population,” she urged, stressing that they were thirsty and hungry for knowledge.
The Minister congratulated the institution on being a “stellar” Executive Agency, as annual revenue levels have increased from $8 million in 1999 to approximately $50 million at present.
Deputy Mission Director of the USAID, Dr. Kevin Rushing said that MIND was keeping pace with international trends in e-learning. Worldwide, he said, online learning was one of the fastest growing segments in the educational marketplace.
“In 2001, more than three million people were enrolled in online classes in the United States, and by 2006, it is estimated that more than six million will be enrolled in online classes. Today more than 81 per cent of all higher educational institutions in the US offer at least one online course. Thirty-four per cent of these institutions offer one or more complete online degree programmes,” he pointed out.
He added that a comprehensive survey released this month by Babson College and the Sloan Consortium, concluded that online learning was at historically high levels and would continue to grow at a rate of nearly 20 per cent.
Dr. Rushing pointed out that USAID’s financial assistance to MIND Online was part of its overall efforts to support broad-based economic growth in Jamaica, by implementing a variety of activities aimed at improving the overall business environment.
The New Economy Project (NEP), under which MIND received assistance from the USAID, has assisted more than 30 companies and agencies to improve their overall business environment, Dr. Rushing explained. These include the banking sector, the National Land Agency and the Jamaica Cluster Competitiveness Programme.
Chief Executive Officer of MIND, Maria Jones, said the next step would be the first online Caribbean course in 2005.
She explained that the development of the MIND Online programme had its early beginnings in a proposal to NEP. In addition, MIND staff members received exposure at a conference at the American Society of Training and Development.
Development of a prototype to test and evaluate the course was also a crucial component in the final delivery, as was sourcing an online course management system, the CEO pointed out.

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