After spending years promoting a multi-million dollar distance education programme aimed at increasing employment of both genders, the University of the West Indies Open Campus took time out last night to honour the workers behind the project.
The Strengthening Distance Education in the Caribbean (SDEC) Project, which began in 2013, is a US$24 million collaborative effort among Open Campus, the Canadian Government, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Universal Service Fund of Jamaica.
It seeks to strengthen the Open Campus to make high-quality education available to previously under-served communities across the Caribbean and build the ICT-driven institutional capacity of the Open Campus to sustain increased enrolment in the 17 Caribbean states it serves.
And after staging a showcase to highlight the project’s achievements at the Hilton yesterday, Open Campus management dined staff and gave recognition to their work that has taken the project to its current success, and on which they will build.
“All the persons who are being recognised have been an integral part of the success of this project over the last years,” said Open Campus Principal. Dr Luz Longsworth.
“So, these are just very small tokens of appreciation,” she said, adding that “the project has touched, and is still touching every single life within the Open Campus,” which is unusual for organisations like the UWI, where projects are reserved to particular departments or divisions.
Also unusual is that in applying distance education techniques gleaned from the programme, the Open Campus staff prepared to participate in UWI’s campus games as a coordinated unit though they are spread across the region.
“They learned to play football together online. That is a result of the project,” Longsworth said.
She singled out retired staffer, Patricia Pyle, for being foremost among those “who made it possible for us to get to where we could actually write a concept note and say this is what we wanted to do with the Open Campus. And there are hundreds of people like that in the Open Campus”.
As was demonstrated in its showcase of achievements, the SDEC project has positioned the Open Campus to reach a more diversified student population.
Among its achievements – improvements in student and employee support services and a “strengthening of the regional labour force by offering a wider range of academic and continuing education and professional (CPE) development programmes”.
A range of new and renewed programmes and courses that were developed, the gender-sensitive marketing strategies used and ICT-driven structures and process to support the programme were also highlighted.
Also featured were concept designs for the future physical and ICT needs of the Open Campus at four locations, where Centres of Excellence will be established. These will be at the Belize, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago (Gordon Street) sites.