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State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, Dr. Donald Rhodd has said that in the changing tide of globalization, it was imperative that the nation’s tertiary institutions lead the charge in adopting appropriate methodologies to remain relevant and competitive.
This was necessary, he said, as students must be prepared for the world of work and for competition regionally and internationally. “They must be prepared to be active citizens in our global community,” he said.
Dr. Rhodd said it was against this background that the Ministry endorsed the launch of the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) Distance Education and Global Learning Pilot Project.
“We see you (UCC) as an important partner as we forge ahead to provide greater access to relevant and quality education for our citizens here in Jamaica and the wider region,” he told the gathering at the launch, which was held at the UCC’s Worthington Avenue campus in Kingston, today (November 3).
The State Minister said that the programme was being presented at a time when Jamaica was committed to the establishment of a Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC). “The agreement was ushered in by the Commonwealth Education Ministers’ proposal for the establishment of a virtual university suited to their specific needs. In 2003, these Ministers endorsed this growing and exciting phenomenon of an institution without walls that aims to deliver courses and programmes primarily online, through the internet and other technologically enhanced media,” he said.
Dr. Rhodd said that 22 countries had already signed a letter of intent in which they had agreed in principle to co-operate in the establishment of the VUSSC.
“Within the overall framework of existing academic activities and in keeping with the overall objective of their ministries and government departments, member states have pledged to work on course development and supplementation, staff and systems development, research, and distance education management,” he said, adding that signatories had also agreed to ensure that appropriate policies and adequate resources were in place to provide an enabling environment for the VUSSC to operate.
“It is therefore quite appropriate for the UCC to introduce this mode of delivery when Jamaica has endorsed the VUSSC,” the State Minister added.
The Education Ministries and institutions will form a consortium to execute the plans, aims and objectives of the VUSSC, share resources, experience and expertise and provide quality education in a cost effective manner.
The Ministries have also agreed to provide resources to ensure a quality learning environment and provide or secure access to external expertise.
“In other words, we are committed to ensuring that education and higher education, in particular, remain accessible, relevant and equitable while maintaining high quality. As a country, we need to prepare our citizens for the opportunities of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). It is no secret that our counterparts are preparing their students to be competitive regionally and globally,” Dr. Rhodd said.
“This is why the Jamaican government is steadfast in its focus on expanding educational access. We are therefore not only providing access to education, but are also ensuring that all citizens are employable and are able to compete with any of the other 13 CARICOM member states,” he stressed.
As of March next year, students of the UCC will be able to access tertiary education in the comfort of their homes, offices or wherever there is a television set or internet access. This innovation in distance learning will make the UCC the first tertiary education institution in the island and the Caribbean to utilize a hybrid model in content delivery, which enables students to take courses via free-to-air television, wireless cable television and traditional classroom facilities.
A partnership among the UCC, CVM Television, and DC Digital, this pioneering project will bring the world to students.
“We believe that interactive distance learning can offer something different from traditional classroom education, something that will enhance the total learning experience. That view has led us to develop what we believe is a new paradigm in distance learning,” Director of Education and Global Learning at the UCC, Everton Pryce said in his address.
The Distance Education and Global Learning Pilot Project, which is being lauded as dynamic and trailblazing, offers an Associate of Science degree in Business Administration and the upper level of the Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration.
It has been designed in response to the growing number of adults who are eager to earn college degrees but who require more flexibility than traditional on-campus courses allow. It is an attractive alternative to adult learners as students will be able to schedule work course around jobs and family responsibilities; work independently and at their own pace; acquire new skills and knowledge to compete in the workplace; improve their skills through enriched learning experiences; and complete course work toward college degrees.
A 24-hour educational channel will be established to deliver UCC modules and degree programmes filmed on site at the College and co-ordinated for delivery through a wireless cable provider by way of live or delayed broadcasts at specific times. A schedule will be provided so that students can see re-broadcasts if they miss the original lecture. The college will offer a three-year distance education pilot programme delivered via DC Digital’s wireless satellite cable network, CVM TV’s free-to-air broadcast network and the UCC’s classroom facilities.
The cost of the Associate degree course is $180,000, while the cost of the Bachelor’s degree course is $250,000.